Take it from someone living with depression and anxiety: Skateboarding is. . . surprisingly liberating
Photo: Ulrika Luksevica
I am someone who most people would consider an extrovert. It’s sort of a gift and curse at the same time – high energy, lots of humor, chit-chatty, almost always able to find a topic to converse about. And folks who don’t know me too well might think that’s how I always am. They’d be wrong.
To fully understand my perspective and how much the following experiences mean to me, I should let you in on some of my personal battles. I have been struggling with depression and anxiety on and off for several years now, to a point where it has just become a natural part of me. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse.
I’ve also been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by an amazing family and caring friends who have been with me every step of the way. That’s not even a doubt. However, at some point in our lives, we also have to face the facts. And the fact is that you have to allow yourself to seek help before anyone else can actually help you.
Personally, my main weapon for fighting depression has always been structure. Whenever I began feeling like the clouds were starting to form over my head, I’d clean my room. I’d try to fill my week with back-to-back appointments, or help someone in need. It was the certainty, and feeling needed that would ultimately lift the unbearable weight off my shoulders, helping the clouds to part again.
At the beginning of the summer, I found myself to be jobless. The time where the sun finally shines (a rarity here in Copenhagen) and people can finally enjoy drinks with socially-distanced fun by the water suddenly became my worst nightmare. I had no desire to socialize, to let out the ‘’happy’’ side of me that many know; I had no energy, and was just ready to throw in the towel and stay in bed.
The loss of that job was like having my foundation kicked out from under my feet. I felt completely blindsided. Working has always meant a great deal to me; it’s the reason I’ve been able to be independent and able to help those who are closest to me. Once this peace was disrupted, I felt like I had failed – both myself, and them.
Luckily, this story turns to a slightly more positive note. I know, it seemed a bit grim there for a second. A girl I knew but had not been too close to, Sarah, had previously done some skateboarding, mostly back in Germany, where she’s from. When I showed interest in the sport, she mentioned that it would be nice to have a skating buddy. Even though I had never skated before, I figured, if not now, when? And the rest is history.
Ever since I was a teenager, I was fascinated by skateboarding. I’m not entirely sure how this interest first surfaced, but I distinctly remember the feeling. Early in my teens I’d met some people (a few are still my friends) who used to gather to skate in my hometown of Riga, Latvia. I remember it being extra exciting because the best skating spot was a monument honoring Oskars Kalpaks (the commander of 1st Latvian Independent Battalion, so – kind of a big deal). Needless to say, it was never meant to serve as an impromptu skating accessory, and the off-limits nature of the spot made it even more exciting.
Even though the connection to the sport was so strong for me, I was super intimidated by how cool and effortless everyone seemed to be. Plus, my teen years were full of other activities – like playing the violin, drawing, or dancing – so I really couldn’t afford to have a broken limb. Even before I started, there was a voice in my head telling me that I couldn’t be the ”cool” skater-person I had envisioned as a default.
Fast forward to nearly a decade later, and there I was: Buying a board, jumping into the unknown, ready to look like an absolute idiot. I was ready for all the falls and frustration that would certainly come along with learning; but what I hadn’t anticipated was the therapeutic aspect of this new endeavor.
Sarah became my teacher, guiding me through the early basics. She had a lot of patience – and thankfully so, because I had zero. Our sessions were rather bland and boring, if you’d ask anyone skating above the level of a complete beginner. Day by day, I saw kids 20 years my junior absolutely shredding, while I could barely stand on a board without knocking my teeth out.
But the beauty of it all was the fact that whenever we were in a park or on a street – wherever, really – I felt like I had a purpose again. Even though I wasn’t great at skating (and to be honest, that hasn’t changed much yet), it felt like I was a part of something bigger. In times when everything seems uncertain and crazy, feeling like this is gold.
From then on, I connected with different types of people, made friends, realized that I can actually strike up a conversation with a stranger without dropping dead immediately, as well as rekindled my love for photography. What started as a project of no real purpose besides just #yolo (does anyone even say that anymore?) turned out to be the saving grace in a time of need.
Has skating cured my depression? No. And I never expected it to. But skating has allowed me to let go of restrictions and degrading thoughts I may have previously been cultivating about myself. I had to accept the fact that I was going to fail over and over, and over again and I would have to be okay with that. Maybe it’s making me more resilient. Because life goes on, and I need to keep getting up when I fall down.
Whenever I go out, even just for a little bit, to cruise with my board and feel the wind in my hair, I am transported to this place of no cares in the world. For a moment I can just be myself. Yes, extremely terrified to fall on my face at all times; but even so, feeling an indescribable freedom. And I hope that will encourage you to give skating a try, if you’ve been waiting for the perfect moment, or if you could use a little freedom of your own. What’s the harm, right?