A mental health perspective by Mel Blackwood
I often say that roller skating is a journey. What I mean is it's a journey to learning more about yourself in a deeper way, should you choose to do the work. Self discovery sounds self indulgent and fun, but it really is some of the hardest work I've ever done. Facing yourself and learning that ways you've acted, even if well-intentioned, have been harmful is truly dreadful. The good thing is, humans are forgiving. Roller skating alone is something I needed to overcome around 7 years ago, when I was going through a separation and divorce and the free time I had available, was often not the same free time as anyone else in my friendship group. My choice was: roller skate alone, or not roller skate much at all. Clearly, I chose the former one. Yes, in the beginning, it was a bit lonely. I did cry at the thought of missing out. But through doing The Work on myself and realising it's just a phase, our free time at some point will sync (and it did), I learned to enjoy it. Now, I *need* to have some solo skate time, otherwise I get a bit cranky!
There are times when I am happy to share my downtime with others - meet ups and roll outs are those times. There are also times when I am not. x
Why do some of us have so much anxiety when it comes to roller skating outdoors?
Anxiety stems from fear, and as Brene Brown says "I can be scary when I'm scared."
Maybe we are worried about looking foolish in front of others?
Maybe we are worried about hurting ourselves and no-one will ever know or help?
Whatever the reason, here are my tips for moving through anxiety whilst acknowledging it.
Check out your skate spots in advance. Take a look at different times of day to see how busy a particular space is. Walk around the space and work out the practical things. Where will you leave your shoes? Will you take a big bag and a smaller one for valuables? Are there facilities or are you taking a bottle of water and heading for a bush if nature calls? Knowledge is power.
Take it little by little. There is no need to plan a mega session of two hours. The first time you go there to skate, don't plan to do anything other than put your skates on and be there. Some people respond well to a goal-based learning and others do not, so don't worry if you think you are not reaching your goal. Does music help you feel calm? Then take headphones and pop your favourite song on. If your anxiety is around other people watching you skate because you are the ONLY skater in your area, music can really help. Put your skates on for one song and evaluate how you feel. Are you still having a nice time? Then pop on one more song.
Keep showing up for yourself. We understand that there is some feeling of safety if other skaters are there. If you often measure your own progress by comparing yourself to others though, this can be unhelpful, as it can paralyse you into feeling not enough. In fact, you are plenty. Putting your roller skates on in a public space is courageous every time you do it - you confidence will develop over time. Comparison is the thief of joy.
Tell someone where you are and don't forget to let them know you're home safely!
Empower yourself to do exactly what you want to do. If you want to roller skate up and down and gain confidence to stop, then do that! If you want to practise your spins, try one and don’t enjoy it, then don’t do any more! And if you catch someone watching you, they are probably thinking, wow I wish I had the courage to try that.
You inspire people. Yes you, imperfect human. When people see you trying roller skating for the first time as an adult, or coming back to it after a long gap, they realise they could try too. More roller skaters, encourage more roller skating.
Look at the bonus hour when no-one else is available as special skate time just for you. Seek out that spot you've been meaning to try and pop your skates on. You may just sit there in your skates, or you may move. Putting your skates on in public is one step closer to skating in public (aka outside).