On July 27th, 2015, professional tennis player Mardy Fish played one of his first matches since 2013. Fish didn't retire, or stop playing because he didn't like tennis: "I do want to play again," he said back in August 2014, "I'm just not sure if I'll be able to. It's still a daily struggle and a daily battle." The daily battle he's talking about is one many others face: a struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. "I was basically getting anxiety attacks every 30 minutes of the day," he says, describing his mental state back in 2012 when he decided to leave the competitive tennis scene.
Fish's Encounters with Severe Panic Attacks and Anxiety
Fish's tennis career came into serious turbulence at the 2012 U.S. open, where he withdrew in the fourth round shortly before his match against Roger Federer (known by many as the greatest tennis player of all time). His anxiety at the time was so debilitating that he had to, with the help of his wife, get off his flight to Los Angeles and stay in New York an extra five days before taking a private jet back home. Once he was home, his anxiety rendered him unable to leave his house for months, except to see his psychiatrist. This withdrawal came after an incident several months prior, in which Fish experienced a panic attack after losing a match at the Sony Open. Fish had to be taken to the emergency room for a violently fast heart-rate, and was diagnosed with arrhythmia before a more comprehensive diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.
The Path to Recovery
Now, more than 18 months later, Fish is back in the game, and he doesn't shy away from talking about his experiences and his journey to recovery. "I was in a deep, deep place," he told ESPN, "it wasn't like I needed a little bit of medication and a couple therapy sessions and we're back." His recovery took time, and he discusses how he utilized both therapy and medication, along with playing golf, to overcome his disorder. However, Fish also emphasizes that he hasn't gotten through it completely. "I'm still sort of fighting the battle of the anxiety disorder, trying to get a firm grip on how I feel after matches," he says.
Fish's Recovery Inspires Many Struggling with Similar Problems
On a more positive note, Fish's struggle and road to recovery seem to have affected and inspired many. His website features a whole section of positive comments from fans, including supportive words like "thank you, Mardy Fish for being a much-needed role model for those people dealing with mental/anxiety disorders," and "his personal win is more important than winning, say, 17 slams." "Only folk who have been to despair and back can understand how he felt and the guts and strength it takes to fight back. Full of admiration," writes one supporter, putting into words what Fish's journey means for many struggling with anxiety.
Date of original publication: June 24, 2015.
Recommended For You