The simple answer is badminton is one of my main defences against my depression.
In fact, badminton gave me one of the first indicators that something wasn't quite right. I remember very clearly being involved in a particularly demanding rally and being moved from one side of the court to the other. Normally, that would have been the sort of rally I thrived on. Not this time. Despite eventually winning the point with a powerful cross-court forehand, I felt nothing; no joy, no enthusiasm, not even a fist-pump. Though I didn't know it at the time, that was a warning sign.
Normally, I am the sort of player who wears his heart on his sleeve. I will berate myself when I make a mistake and celebrate when I win a point like the one I described above. Shouting 'come on!' or cursing a mistake are ways of channeling at least some of my negative emotions or feelings into something positive. Every now and then, It might look as though I am not enjoying the match or taking it too seriously but without that outlet, keeping control of my mental health would be a lot harder.
I have a saying before I step onto the court; 'Anything outside the lines can wait.' This is my way of telling myself that Whatever might have happened during the day is over, now is the time to focus on playing well and putting everything I have into the match. It is also a challenge to the hateful voice inside me, the one that tells me that I am no good at anything and that I don't deserve to be on the court. Even if I don't win or play poorly, my focus is always on the match, and I will do everything I can to make sure that depression doesn't ruin that.
On those rare occasions that I let my guard slip and my depression finds its way into my game, more often than not, I am able to push it out, Whether that is through playing all-out aggression with plenty of smashes or sprinting after every lost cause. Another tactic that I use is tuning everything else out and actually 'experiencing' the rally.
What I mean by that is I will switch my focus from the scoreline or what my head is telling me to what I am feeling physically. That doesn't just mean the thudding of my heart or the sweat dripping down my arms; it is the sensation of my kit on my skin and hearing the sound the shuttle makes when it strikes a racket. It is my way of reminding myself where I am, keeping myself in the present, and putting my attention back where it belongs.
As well as giving me a vital outlet, badminton has helped me to build my confidence and the people I have been lucky to share the courts with are absolutely wonderful! I have built some incredibly close friendships at my club and some of the matches I have played with them have been phenomenal.
Most importantly, I play badminton because I love it! I love the people I play with and the sense of achievement that always comes after a hard match. I have been playing since I was a teenager and I have no plans to stop!
Thank you badminton!