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F1 helped me with a mental health battle I never knew about!

Mental Health! The sensitive topic which most of us try to ignore, more so in Sri Lanka. It’s a serious issue ignored or not, and I personally feel that it is as serious as a disease like Cancer. The danger of Mental Health is that it doesn’t have a physical way of identification most of the time. As a result of this, we may tend to assume it is something else and disregard it, or even worse, go ahead with the wrong diagnosis without getting any input from a Mental Health Professional.

I have been a F1 fan for the past three years, and a Petrol head ever since I was a mere infant. Over the years, I have now tended to make F1 a part of my life. It has become such a big influence on me that whenever I hit a low point in life, it has been the place I go to, to uplift myself or simply asses a situation on various scenarios that have happened in F1.  

I didn’t really realize this until a couple months back. Even though I have always known that I might have been suffering from some sort of mental health disorder, I have always ignored it and never paid much attention to it, although knowing this was a terrible thing to do. Most of the time I would just pass it off as a mood swing or a bad day.

Since a F1 season is not something that goes year-round and there is a off season for the sport, there usually won’t be any action between the months of December to February until pre-season testing, and until the end of march where the season opener is held. This time frame is known to be a hibernation period for any passionate F1 fan.

With the 2020 season opener in Australia planned for March, I was very eager to see the cars being back on track again and see what the world’s best drivers and faster cars had to offer. But 2020 being 2020 gave us a pandemic to worry about, and waking up on the morning of the 13th of March to find out the race was officially cancelled broke hearts of the millions of fans that were ready for the action. With the situation worsening in a very short period of time and the whole world being sent into lock down, it was no surprise that the track action every F1 fan was waiting for would be postponed indefinitely.

I was upset to not see any action happening, but it was for the safety of everyone. Here’s where I slowly started to realize that what I have was not a mere mood swing. Although there was no live action racing I sometimes spent my free time watching some old races, but they never ever gave me the same thrill a live race would give. Within the short time period of a few months I went to feeling very demotivated and down. I tried to ignore it and get my work done, but this wasn’t easy since this was also the time period where we were stuck at home, and going out meant risking a lot of people.

On one fine day F1 announced that they will be starting the season in July, and hearing this brought back a lot of adrenaline to my body. I’m sure a lot of F1 fans felt the same. With this, I was counting the days until I could hear the sound of the engines going around a track once again.

As the start of the season was drawing closer and closer, the excitement of the fans was felt everywhere and I made the bold decision to start up a page dedicated towards giving my opinion on the world of F1. I was so excited that all I could think of was the Free Practice session happening on a Friday. This was probably the most excited I have been for a practice session because they are usually the boring parts of F1, so it just goes to show much I have missed the sport.

I was in a really good place/mood (whatever way you want to define it) when the race weekend got underway. Every negative feeling I had in the past few months just vanished. I then realized how strange it was that I first ignored it all thinking it was a mood swing of some sort. On July 5th at 6.40 P.M. the moment I have missed since march was finally here. I officially launched my page “F1 with TSG” (Theekshana Sankalpa Gunasekara), on social media and was ready to hear the signature words of David Croft saying “Its lights out and away we Go!” This for me was an instant adrenaline rush and I just loved the feeling. It was an exciting race, and even though my favorite driver finished 4th it was still a memorable moment to see the Fastest cars in the world go around resonating the sounds on the Hills of the Austrian Alps.

Regardless of everything that happened in a short two hours I was genuinely feeling very good. I was in a happy mood for weeks with back to back race weekends and more importantly being able to express my thoughts on F1 via my page. This went on for a few months, and one day on an off week I started to sit down and collect my thoughts on what had actually happened to me during lockdown, and how I bounced back. This was also the time my Co-International services Director and I were making the year plan for our avenue. So, I came up with the idea of doing a project on Mental Health awareness called “Break the Stigma” and after agreeing on it, I started to do a bit of research on the topic.

It was at this moment that I realized that I have been taking my Mental health for granted and started to trace back to see what had actually happened. It was at this moment that I realized that F1 has been the place I always ran to at any time I felt down or wanted some motivation, or even to just isolate myself. I brief F1 has been my therapy for everything. I don’t even know how many times F1 could have saved my life, or how many times I’ve relied on the sport for help, but all I know is that F1 helped me with a mental health battle I never knew about!

This is not to say that I have only relied on the sport for help. It would be inhuman of me to not mention my family and my golden group of friends, the ‘Mashed Potatoes’ who have been there for me even though they probably wouldn’t have known I was having issues with Mental Health. Well, even I didn’t realize it until very recently. Nevertheless, they have been a constant pillar of support whenever I needed to be saved from a dark past of mine.

Having issues with Mental Health isn’t anything to be ashamed about or something only among the less fortunate. Anyone can have it, even without knowing it, and some may knowingly ignore it. Mental Health being a Taboo topic, some may try to self-diagnose it which is again very wrong and could be very harmful. This is mainly because it is possible to self-diagnose a wrong decease, which could lead to many complications and side effects. So, in case you are afraid to come out or have decided to keep it to yourself and not do anything about it, just remember that anyone can have it and there is nothing wrong in it, but it’s important to fight through the tough times to get to the better ones. After all, Diamonds are made from pressure. And after all, we are all human and no one is perfect.

That’s my story and obviously writing this was personally very difficult for me, and me being an introvert I am, didn’t help. But I hope my story could be a helping hand to someone, anyone who needs to get out of the dark and make it through. I’ll leave with a quote by a Rotarian that was really embedded in my mind. “You’re not Okay, I’m not Okay, But That’s Okay”.  

Rtr. Theekshana Gunasekara

RACALBS

The author RACALBS