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Published on November 2nd, 2011 | by Guest Contributor

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The Dark Side of Derby

There will come a time when something or someone in the derby world will rock your world so hard you will feel like you just got back blocked, hit in the face, and baseball tackled by the entire Gotham team at the same time (only using them as an example because I just watched them dominate at Regionals recently). People love to hold this lofty view of derby, full of wonderful supportive people who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Maybe you’re lucky enough to come from a drama-free league. But even in the best league, something is bound to happen that will rock your world, or the world of someone you love.

My world was recently rocked. My particular form of rocking involved a teammate and very close personal friend having an affair with my partner, a derby widow. This set the stage for my subsequent anger, fear, depression, and heartbreak. But the sense of loss and confusion that accompanied my feelings towards derby are not unique to an affair. There are many things that can happen within a league that can lead to the feelings I experienced. Rumors of personal matters, personal vendettas that threaten your position in the league or your play time, or in-league romances that go bad–these, and many other situations have the potential to make you hate the thing you love so dearly–derby.

In order to make any sort of sense of why these situations occur, you have to understand one very simple fact. Derby people are just like the rest of humanity, so there will be some people who are just plain fucked up. Not everyone is fucked up, but there are definitely some crazies. And sometimes those crazies mask their true nature, acting like “I’m just crazy in a good way” for a long time. Until they fuck with you and your life.

And then they fuck with you hard. They will really hit you where it hurts. Just like learning how to skate, it will hurt in places you didn’t even know could hurt. But these horrific acts they do aren’t like other fucked up things people do. They can hit you on so many levels. You can lose your home, your family, your safety, your security. But you also can lose derby. And as you all know, derby is your life.

What do you do when someone on your league crosses you like this? Your derby family has been your security since you found this refuge called roller derby. But now the thought of turning to them just makes everything hurt worse. You feel like you can’t confide in the people who you spend 10+ hours a week with because you care about the league too much to let your drama tear it apart. How do you tell your best friends that your life is falling apart without telling them why? And what do you tell them when they notice you aren’t at practice and ask you if you’re okay?

You just want to scream “NO I’M NOT OKAY! MY ENTIRE LIFE IS FALLING APART AND I NEED YOUR SUPPORT SO BAD!” But instead you just smile slightly and say, “I’m fine, just dealing with some personal issues.”

And you can’t do the thing that has been your stress reliever for the past year or so – skating hard and hitting bitches. This stress reliever is now the source of your stress. You can’t bear the thought of seeing the person who fucked you over at practice. What if they are laughing and smiling? What if other people are talking to them like nothing happened? What if they are sad and mopey? And then comes the potential for questions from people who you skate with but aren’t your close friends. “Oh, I miss you, where have you been?” “Are you okay?” (Said in the most annoying, fakey I-care-about-your-well-being-but-I-just-really-want-to-know-the-latest-league-drama tone of voice.)

You want so badly to be able to just go to practice and forget about your shitty everything, but there are too many potential distractions that can take away from your game and make your pain worse. When I practice I give it everything I’ve got. If I have to be on the same track as the person that fucked with my life, I can’t help but be distracted. And a distracted player is not a good teammate. A distracted player is a safety hazard for themselves and the rest of the team. I won’t be the weakest link; I care about the success of my team too much.

And then there’s the feeling of loss. Yes, loss for all the above things. But also loss for your future. You’ve been working so hard to get better, setting and meeting goals, setting new ones. You’re just about to cross into a new territory and you’re so proud. So what happens to your derby growth when you stop going to practice? You can’t make any progress like that, and you may even atrophy. And you can’t find the motivation to work out because what does it matter anyways…you’re not going to go to practice the next week. So you sit at home and think about your shitty life. And the things that used to make you happy. And what you could have been. And you have a feeling of loss for something that never even existed – your future derby successes.

This process is so complex because of what derby means for us. It is our competitive and aggressive outlet. It is our form of exercise. It is our motivator to be better athletes. It is our community. It houses our most intimate friendships. It is our family. So when someone fucks with derby, they don’t just fuck with this sport we happen to play. The fuck with our life. All of it.

So what do you do to overcome this hardship? I don’t yet know the answer to that. I wish I could go on now about how to move forward and overcome. But right now I can’t. Because this is where I’m stuck. Nothing feels right and I don’t know where to turn or what to do. But I do I know I’m not alone in these feelings. When this happened to you, what did you do? There are support and resources from the larger derby community that can help me, and others, figure out how to make things work. Things will never be the same, they can’t go back to normal. But we can create a new normal. How did you create your new normal?

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