Mental Health and Skateboarding
Damn, I think I could write a whole book on mental health and skateboarding. Hmm, maybe someday I will, who knows? Not there yet, but I am willing to give my piece on the topic – something I have been doing pretty openly with friends and family as of late, so this is a big jump for me taking it to the web.
I got a little more involved in mental health awareness when I entered the Wild Wild Web in a Discord chat that was meant for Anxiety and Depression – didn’t last long.
Not before long, I could see that I was being taken advantage of in some weird ways by a weird fuck. I’ll just leave it at that.
Thing is, I want to help. It’s all I ever wanted to do. That’s what Skateboarding Saves is for. I just want to help people through Skateboarding – whether through the action of skateboarding, by being part of skateboarding culture, or by helping others out with my technical skills.
And, yes, this was a long, long time before COVID-19.
It was actually way before Skateboarding Saves was even conceived as an idea. I’ve spent my whole life taking care of people, so it’s just natural. My mother was considered disabled and my son is also disabled, in a wheelchair, and cannot walk or talk. Not a pity party, just a little backstory. These are the kinds of situations that shape us into who we are.
That’s who I am at a personal level, and now I want to continue that on a professional level. This applies to the mental health aspect as well. I feel I have a lot to offer in that regard.
This is the good that skateboarding can do in a human, and is much of the reason why I felt I should go for it and just start this damn thing with this website. I don’t give myself credit on this, however, I give skateboarding credit for it. It wouldn’t be possible without skateboarding.
“If you skateboard for any significant period of time, your perspective and what is possible changes.”
Ricky Roberts III – Thank You Skateboarding (A great read – 4.7 out of 5 stars and a great guy and skateboarder to support)
The point? Yeah, I’m getting to that
The point is, over time, with wanting to somehow save the world, metaphorically speaking, when you’re not able to do that in your own sense, it hurts. And for anyone that has any sense of empathy, you get me.
And when you already have mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, it can make it that much harder to stay afloat.
In my current situation, this is the first time I am having what I consider to be true success in my career. So, yes, I am feeling pretty good with my mental state from that alone.
A month or two ago, however, I was a complete and utter mess. I did it to myself in a way, but don’t regret the series of events that led to it.
One of those events was deciding to kick the meds to the curb.
No better time to do this than during a pandemic, right? Yeah, that’s the kind of guy I am. I make my decisions, take my criticisms from those around me and move on. I’m not recommending that at all, I truly believe that it’s more the mental shit that leads me to these situations and decisions.
When I was off the meds, at first it was euphoric, I was at the top of the world. But just like a slow-burn eventually fades away, this slow-burn did much of the same. I was becoming overly emotional and just being a little bitch due to the fact that the meds were fading away more and more each day.
The effects of 10 years on meds had completely faded away in about half a year, and it was bad. Even the weird gut I grew over that decade due to the meds faded as well. I was a paranoid, anxious, depressed, and angry shell of who I truly am and who I am meant to be.
I started to whine too much about trivial things, and I found that on most days, I was fighting a daily battle against my age, my situation, my wealth (or lack thereof), unfulfillment, you name it.
I hated this, but I took my shot against these feelings. I lost, I was cool with it, and I moved on.
So, yes, I am on meds again after about half a year off of them.
Do I still deal with an illness that throws emotional bags of shit at me from time to time? Hell yes, mental health is still a thorn in my side, just a thorn that is a lot smaller.
The glimmer of light that I see with this whole mental health awareness movement is that the skateboarding culture has been heavily impacted by some heavy shit in this regard as of late. As a result, so many individuals in skateboarding have stepped up in this arena, showing their support.
Brandon Novak is tops when it comes to sobriety and mental health and has been doing it for a long time. Six Feet Above is a sick new initiative that is on the rise that uses skateboarding for vets to deal with mental health concerns.
Additionally, the rise in military-based skateboarding companies is helping to set an emphasis on mental well-being. Bunker Skateboards is another company that will soon be on your radar. Stay tuned for that.
These are all great things, and all those involved should give themselves a pat on the back. Skateboarders are a different kind of human, some may be much more emotionally fragile than you’d ever think.
Mental Health and Skateboarding Perspective
Having the right perspective is a must if you want to make it by dealing with unstable mental health. I like to break it down like many others do, if you put out positive vibes, they come right back at you. Love is positive; hate is negative. Whether or not your world is filled with love or hate is up to you.
If there is one thing I have been able to do with this life, it’s making any negative a positive. I think this can be attributed to having what I’ll call an unorthodox childhood.
Growing up with my father leaving at 3 and starting another family was fucked up, but I am thankful for it. Taking care of my disabled mother (who had her own mental health issues) at a young age was tough, but I am thankful for it. Living in Philly was cool, it was more the lack of having money, but I was even cool with that.
Because it was that or just give up on life, and that wasn’t an option for me. I just wanted to keep my focus on taking care of my Mom.
I knew in the life I had, I would have to work that much harder than those around me, and no matter what, I knew I had to take pride in that work, no matter what it might be.
So I did. The work part was easy, it always has been. It was my mental state that was the problem, and I knew it back then.
I felt broken.
I stayed quiet about it and just tried my hardest to push forward. More often than not, I’d find my younger 16-18-year-old self in drunken stupors crying my face off because I didn’t know how to process my own emotions. They were too fucking heavy. It was an embarrassment but was necessary for my growth as an individual.
There was always a positive that I had to put in place for every negative. So, for me, one of these positives was obviously skateboarding. The last thing that I wanted to do, even at a younger age, was play the victim.
Skateboarding was the glue that held me together, no doubt, and was the reason why I never completely folded. I honestly think it kept me away from even considering any of the thoughts I had of just ending shit.
It was that extra layer of buffer to distract the brain just enough from not only reality but acting on any foolish thoughts.
Knowing you’re not alone with your Mental Health
The very instant you make yourself a victim in these situations is the very instant that you are losing at life. This is when the depression is at its worst. The hole gets deeper and deeper, and it seems impossible to get out of, and you’ll be alone for damn sure.
Use any source of motivation to make sure that’s not the case! For me, it’s the tragedy to triumph stories that will always reside closest to my heart and be what I strive for in my own career.
When I think of someone in the skate world that took a situation that was unfavorable and flipped the script, it’s none other than Philly’s own, Stevie Williams.
I know so much already about Stevie. Shit, I used to watch him skate LOVE on the regular. I followed his whole career and plan to someday form my own board company.
What blew me away was the ESPN Documentary, Being Stevie Williams. I learned so much more about Stevie the person, and he’s truly an amazing individual.
I actually thought DGK was the crew that the homies had already assembled just as a non-skateboarding crew (much like a graff crew), I didn’t realize its birth was due to skateboarding photographers that were saying don’t take shots of those dirty ghetto kids. It makes his story that much better!
But this is why We ❤️ Haters! And that shit is some complete and utter bullshit and does not represent what the skate culture is about. I’m sure they were out-of-towners, but who cares, they’re not worth our time.
I would never compare myself to the greatness of Stevie, but what I will say, I get the chip on the shoulder, underdog mentality. That’s what makes stories of greatness that much better. Like Stevie, it’s where we come from that makes us who we are.
And Philly isn’t too shabby of a place to be representing. We get a lot of haters, but we like it that way. Hate all you want! We ❤️ you!
If I am lucky enough to have high levels of success, you will see that kind of thing in my work, embracing my haters. And you should too. It makes them disappear when you pay them no mind.
Bottom line is, learn yourself, see the patterns of your emotional state and work on yourself daily. Turn to meds if you have to, but if you can avoid them at any cost, do so. In my opinion, they should be a last resort.
To end on a high note, I just want to say again how thankful I am now. For life, for skateboarding, and for anyone who supports this effort.
Once you are able to love yourself you will be hard to stop! As much as it sucks, sometimes meds have to be the option. That’s where I am now. I want to try other holistic stuff eventually, but I don’t make a lawyer’s salary, so I’ll just stick to my $5/mo. meds for now. ?
A few words of advice in Conclusion regarding Mental Health and Skateboarding
- Try to avoid creating messes that cause more mental baggage
- Turn every negative into a positive
- Surround yourself by people that don’t trigger your emotions (within reason, not telling you to run away from those that are unavoidable)
- Find good outlets – Music, Gaming and Cooking are some in addition to skateboarding for me
- Lose the labels
- If the drugs and alcohol seem to be the only solution left, get help
I want to dedicate this to those dealing with what it feels like to have a panic attack or not want to get out of bed. I’ve been there, and I’m here for ya!
I will leave you with a quote:
Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.
By Tupac Shakur
Your homie, Steve