I’ll start by saying this is all off the cuff. There’s no real structure to this ‘article’, I’ll just be writing things that come to mind and hopefully it may resonate with a few and open peoples minds to the struggle of dealing with ill mental health.
I recently opened up about my problems about six months ago. Before then the idea of explaining my thoughts and how I felt to someone was terrifying! ‘They’ll think I’m mental’ I used to think to myself. I think even more so because of what I do as a Professional Wrestler; I thought been honest about this stuff may actually cast me in the ‘wrong light’ to some people I guess. We’re already judged and critiqued by people who don’t know us on our performances which can sometimes be quite daunting, but to be possibly judged as individuals on a personal level by those same people again would be terrifying! It’s for reasons like this that I try and somewhat keep my life as Matt Myers and my life as myself away from each other. I’m not ‘being a dick’ when I don’t accept the Facebook friend request from a person I don’t know or have never met before. I just prefer to keep Wrestling and my reality separate.
However, seeing more people in the wrestling world come out and be open and honest about their mental health and how they have struggled with it has made me feel better and eventually gave me that confidence to be open and honest about it. I have guys like Chris Ridgeway and Bubblegum to thank for that.
Chris actually wrote an article about his depression that I found really influential. I read that a while back and I even remember thinking then ‘I wish I could be that brave.’ Because it was. He spoke about a lot of personal issues in that and I respected him instantly for it! For me though it’s never been about depression; I’m quite lucky that I’ve never actually truly had to deal with that. For me it’s always been about my anxiety. Anxiety is tricky; in the same way people assume that those dealing with depression are just sad all the time, the same people assume anxiety is about being worried all the time when it’s not. Anxiety is a range of things depending on the severity of the situation you find yourself in – there’s a lot of second guessing yourself, muscle tension, overthinking things, chest pain, trouble sleeping, an increased heart rate, and for me I find that both my mind and body refuse to cooperate no matter what I know to be rational.
I’ve been dealing with anxiety for at least 10 years now… maybe longer. For a while I didn’t even know what it was. I’d been to doctors numerous times and spent a night in a hospital bed having tests because I didn’t understand where these stomach aches were coming from that I would experience every single morning. Wasn’t until later I realised that a lot of what I felt was in my head… well, it wasn’t. The physical symptoms were there but they were brought on by my anxiety. The mind works in the most amazing, annoying and frustrating ways. And I still regularly deal with this now.
I started doing CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) around five weeks ago. CBT is a ‘talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems’ (Thank you Dr. Google). At first I didn’t think it could possibly work. I’ve had this way of thinking for at least 10 years now and I didn’t believe simply talking about it would help resolve it. Truth be told it hasn’t, but I can see areas of improvement. I used to find myself flooded by emotions of stress and worry every single morning before leaving my house for work which would then put me in a predicament where I would be late for work; then I would feel more anxious knowing I’m going to be late for work, I’d find myself crying sitting on the bottom step of my stairs in shear frustration at the grasp that this illness has on me and then inevitably spend my entire commute feeling sick, sweating, thinking of every worst possible situation that could happen with being late and then, 9 times out of 10 I actually got to work on time and turns out I had nothing to worry about. But no matter how often this happened, ‘everything will be alright’ was never a rational thought I could come up with. And the process would repeat itself the next day.
I guess thanks to CBT, mornings are a lot better for me. It’s been a good couple of weeks since I found myself absolutely losing my shit on my commute. I think the problem with CBT is that I went from thinking it wouldn’t work, to having my case accepted and then expecting it to be an easy fix. That my therapist would say something to me that would just change my life and I’d be cured… but that’s not the case. It’s hard-work. Very hard work. Exhausting even.
Although day to day life is getting better, I’m still yet to find a fix that helps with my anxiety around Professional Wrestling. It’s strange, when I do talk about my anxieties with people I often get dismissed with the question, ‘How can you have anxiety when you do all that wrestling?’ and I can understand why. Certain social situations make me anxious, yet I can go out in spandex in front of up to over 1,000+ strangers and be perfectly fine. Truth be told though, I’m not fine. The build up to a match can send me into a complete mental break down! Let’s go ‘reality era’ and continue to break the ancient art of Kayfabe and be honest a little… to have a decent wrestling match there is A LOT to remember. A start, a middle, ‘hope-spots’, a comeback, a home stretch and a finish. Now I’m not one of these flashy indy wrestlers who consistently have great matches with tons of high-spots; truth be told I have a terrible memory. When I work with people I haven’t worked with before, when I step out of my comfort zone I naturally get anxious. That moment when a Promoter tells me ‘Myers, Mean Dean McKenzie has pulled out the show. I’m going to need you to do the double’ can send me into a meltdown. All the while I have a face full of confidence saying ‘Yeah sure man, no problem.’ And the anxiety can come on at any time… I remember Harvey Dale giving me the opportunity to face Too Cool in a tag-team match at a HOPE show in Mansfield, the second that match was announced I was filled with dread and worry. I didn’t think I were good enough to be on with the imports, never mind two people who were to be quite honest my favourite wrestlers growing up. And this tends to happen a lot. I’ve recently been announced to be in a ladder match for the NGW GenX Championship against three people I don’t know yet… me? Terrified.
Even with all this though, I think I do a great job covering it up. If you’ve ever seen me wrestle you’ll see me come out from behind those curtains full of confidence with a face that screams ‘I am so ready for this!’ but what you don’t see however is my inevitable nervous shit I have conveniently two minutes before the match. The amount of times I go for a piss. Me looking in the mirror at myself saying ‘You can do this’ walking away thinking ‘No you can’t’ and coming back to look at myself again to say ‘you can do this!’ You don’t see me telling the boys ‘Lads I’m shitting myself’, you don’t see me pacing up and down experiencing shortness of breath, telling myself ‘This is your last match now you can’t keep putting yourself in these situations and doing this to yourself.’ You don’t see me going to my best friend Nathan Cruz and hinting how I feel just for him to say ‘Mate, you’ll be fine. Don’t worry.’ Because sometimes that’s what I really need. When I feel anxious and I don’t believe in myself, I need to speak to someone who does. I’m lucky to have Nathan for that… he probably doesn’t realise it but that’s massively appreciated. Same with El Ligero. Sometimes I think he believes in me more than I ever have myself.
The strange thing is though, the second I do come out from behind the curtain, it all disappears. I no longer need the toilet. My breath has come back. My confidence has come back and by the time I do get to the ring I think to myself ‘What was you nervous for? You’re fine.’
It’s a strange thing is anxiety. And a lot of this was hard to admit… I hope that in the same way Chris’ article about his mental health and depression inspired me to be more open and honest about myself that maybe someone can take something from this and realise that they too are not alone.