Image: Daracie Photography
Last week the UK raised awareness for mental health and it's interesting that it took place during lockdown when so many people are struggling with the impact of Covid 19 both personally and professionally. Whilst many people have found a way to create something positive from this time, for many others it has heightened their levels of anxiety and depression.
Julia Regis, wife of the late footballer Cyrille, tells her story of how golf helps her mental wellbeing:
I became a keen golfer in 2012 when my husband Cyrille persuaded me to give it a try. After six lessons I was hooked and have grown to love the game. Little did I know, that golf would become more than just a hobby. It has allowed me to meet some incredible people, both here at home in the UK and around the world, some who have become very good friends. We joined Edgbaston Golf club the following year and have enjoyed many rounds of golf both individually and as a couple. Many evenings have been spent on the beautiful terrace of Edgbaston, enjoying a glass of rose after a round, regardless of how we played. Golf was something we loved, most of our holidays were organised around ensuring we would get a chance to play a round or two. We were fortunate to play at some of the most stunning courses around the world.
Several of my friends who had never played could not understand the attraction. I understood this, as I once felt the same and simply did not get this fascination with hitting a tiny ball with a 3-foot stick. I soon learned how gratifying it was to strike a golf ball hitting the sweet spot and was sorry I hadn’t been introduced to the game sooner.
In 2018, Cyrille died suddenly and my life was turned upside down in every way you can imagine. At the age of 50, I found myself a widow. I began to experience anxiety attacks and after visiting my doctor, was told I was showing symptoms of PTSD and depression. This was a complete shock in itself as I hadn’t quite computed the level of trauma I had experienced. I knew I wasn’t ‘myself’ and felt like I was sinking under the pressure of this tragedy life had thrown at me. I decided to get therapy to help me try and heal. I have come a long way but I’m still a work in progress. Much of the ‘grief fog’ is lifting and whilst I feel like I will never fully recover from my husband’s death, I am confident that I will continue to live a fulfilled and purposeful life as he would have wanted me to. I was always described as a ‘strong woman’. Even after Cyrille died, people would say to me, ‘you’ll be OK, you are strong’ but inside I did not know if I could survive one day to the next and felt like I was not coping.
Image: Nick Hayes
I had told a few friends that I would be giving up golf as I didn’t see how I could play without my husband, as he got me into golf and it was such a huge part of our lives together. A friend of his came to see me one day and gently raised the subject, assuring me that Cyrille would have absolutely wanted me to keep playing and in fact, get better and win competitions. My hubby was very competitive.
I still have many positive things in my life. A firm faith that has kept me rooted and grounded and wonderful family and friends that have showered me with love, support and understanding. I wouldn’t be here today without a good support network. However, being out on the golf course allows me to continue with a passion that was a huge part of my life with my husband, manage stress and anxiety.
My golfing friends were amazing, they allowed me to ‘just be’ and even when I hit a bad shot of which they were many, would always say something positive. The golf course became the place where I could exhale the stress and immerse myself in the beauty of the environment with friends who were not going to ask me a thousand questions whilst I was trying to be at peace. In the early months when flashbacks and anxiety attacks felt unbearable, I found they were less intense when I played golf and I was able to somehow manage them better.
It is true to say, I have had some moments of brilliant golf but on the whole my golf has not been great in the last two years. But that for me is irrelevant. I am so grateful to have a hobby that allows me to be physically active and enables me to engage with the rhythm of nature.
Playing golf has so many positives. Yes, there are aspects of the game that need to move with the times but I believe there are many more positives than not. I could speak about the networking and making contacts, but, that has been a side benefit for me. Far more important has been the benefits to my mental wellbeing and physical health.
I never tire of the beauty of my golf course in particular, I may be biased, but the same goes for most courses I have played. To be out in nature, with views of lakes, oceans, beautiful landscape, trees and flowers is often breath-taking. It becomes so easy to exhale stress and anxiety and inhale the peace that nature brings.
I am so glad that lockdown restrictions have eased and golf is allowed again albeit with new parameters in place. Nonetheless, I am back in my happy place which gives me peace and solace balanced with friendship, banter and laughter. I will always enjoy playing the game that has given me so much.
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