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The Loss of a Distraction

Before I begin to write this piece, it must be said that it is as much about myself as it is about events and conditions and Charlton Athletic. Not that I want to prevent opposing views being made, but I would ask that you consider that prior to making comments. Attempt to understand how I feel, more than anything else.

My mental and physical health has been incredibly poor for an extended period of time, with depression, anxiety and epilepsy particularly crippling me in the previous three-and-a-half years. I’ve had no real quality of life, and have struggled to contend with how I feel in a calm, sensible and logical way. It’s simply been too much, and continues to be so.

For without a definite cause, both my mental and physical health have deteriorated further in the previous four months. That despite both already being at an impossibly low level. There’s an inability to leave the house without my dad being with me, an overwhelming sadness that makes me long to escape my life, and even today a combination of already feeling weak and a terrible sleep means I’ve had a nasty seizure.

In truth, mental and physical health issues are nothing new me. Particularly with regards to mental health, I’ve not been healthy since the age of 13, but this period is simply impossible to deal with. I have no desire to live like this, and suicidal thoughts are constant.

A part of that comes down to the extent of how I feel without considering outside factors. I’m terribly low, terribly anxious, and regular seizures, including one today, make it all a great deal worse.

But there is another quite obvious factor that has increased the extent of my suffering in recent times. I’ve had depression for eight years, I had anorexia for a little over two years between the ages of 14 and 16, but there used to always be a distraction. Not only something that allowed me to escape how I felt, but something that meant I had an event to look forward to even when feeling at my worst.

That distraction was Charlton. Not simply watching and supporting, but a sense of connection to the club, and a real attachment to both staff and players. The Valley another world.

There are countless games I can recall, irrespective of the result or performance, that allowed me to do what felt like the impossible and escape grand suffering. A 4-2 win against Reading in 2008 allowing me to momentarily escape the reality of my parents divorcing, a 1-0 defeat to Brighton in 2010 came on the day I was diagnosed with anorexia and allowed me to escape from a rather traumatic day, and a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest in 2013 provided a release from an unbearable beginning to a university experience so bad that I would ultimately quit.

It not just the games themselves, but the anticipation of them. Attempts to fight off low states during the week were assisted by the fact I knew a distraction would come at the end of it. There a genuine way of fighting off overwhelming suicidal thoughts.

Alas, that distraction has now been replaced by something I dread. Something that makes my state even more difficult to contend with. Enjoyment replaced by a sadness, panic and disconnection.

The obvious reason for that, in addition to the decline in my health that’s unrelated to Charlton, is the behaviour of Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire. Not just their failure and destruction of the club, but the manner in which they treat and undermine both the club and its supporters.

The Getting to Know the Network podcast, and particularly Duchatelet’s arrogant and offense response, another reminder and something that I’ve found very triggering. Not to say the podcast isn’t a fabulous piece of journalism by Jimmy Stone. Truly fabulous.

It provided a reminder of the time when, under Chris Powell and his marvellous group of connected players, every Charlton game meant so much to me and my attachment and distraction couldn’t be greater. I miss it so much.

Move on is the shout constantly made, but how can they when Powell and that team had such an impact on my life and my health.

Even since his departure, Powell has an impact on me. A letter sent to me after his appointment at Huddersfield and, though I can’t disclose the message itself, I was forwarded a message from Powell that was very supportive of my position. I’m not a big crier, despite my position, but I was drowning in tears after receiving that.

So too and am I still so connected to those that were involved in that side. As footballers, and as individuals.

The success of Yann Kermorgant, Michael Morrison, and Dale Stephens, arguably among three of the best players in the Championship over the previous few seasons, is fantastic to see and another indication of Duchatelet’s failure.

On a personal level, Bradley Pritchard and Johnnie Jackson have been fantastic. I’ve been to meet Pritchard a couple of times, while he was at Leyton Orient and his current club Greenwich Borough, and, particularly as someone whose anxiety prevents me from communicating with most people, he was marvellous with me, while Jackson, without encouragement has sent me a couple of messages in support on Twitter in the past.

Now those sorts of connections, and the connection with the club in general, just isn’t there for me. The empty seats, the lack of atmosphere unless there’s a protest, the fear, anxiety and sadness that comes with the uncertainty of what a man and woman destroying my connection to the club will do next.

It in some contrast to the feelings that were felt during the extended period when Charlton was an incredible distraction from how I felt. Defeats, such as the aforementioned one against Brighton, doing more for me than some victories now.

The first time I felt the extent of my lack of connection was Dorian Dervite’s late winner against Bournemouth in 2014. An important goal, but I cried because, and not for the want of trying, I felt nothing. In complete contrast to the incredible emotion felt after Jackson’s winner against QPR a few months earlier.

Several games, as much if not more a result of depression as Duchatelet, that have resulted in victory but have upset me just as much. The win at Brentford last season one of those, and earning me one of the messages of support from Jackson, while a lack of feeling after the Shreswbury win this season resulted in me feeling so uncontrollably low that I attempted suicide.

The question, I guess, is why do I still go? Habit, hope, and because I don’t do anything else. One of very few things I feel comfortable leaving the house for, but that comfortableness is lost by the time in SE7.

Blogging and photography another reason, but it’s becoming increasingly less enjoyable. A constant anxiety that those who stand up for Duchatelet will question what I write in a manner that, because of my anxiety, I’ll interpret as aggressive. A constant worry people will dismiss my photos as terrible.

I’m not denying people their right to an opinion, I can promise you that, just merely stating the impact it has on me. My weakness, more than the views of others.

Engaging on Twitter is becoming difficult for similar reasons. Again, it not a criticism of the people who make the comments, more exposing my mental weakness, but comments so regularly trigger me, and I just want to hide.

One thing that did keep me going was what felt like the togetherness of the protests. A sense of pride in people fighting for the future of the club, and a unity that didn’t make me feel anxious or uncomfortable.

I believe it’s a case of dissenting voices standing out amidst the flow of opposition to the regime – the volume of anti-Duchatelet chants, the response to the Getting to Know the Network podcast and the supporters’ trust survey suggest that, but it’s still triggering for my unfortunately rather weak mind.

And overall, regardless of who is on the pitch or who is in the dugout, it’s very hard to feel connected or distracted. I’m supporting the team, I very much want victory and the suggestion that I’m not is infuriating given that I’m still attending games despite how I feel.

I don’t like Karl Robinson as an individual. The biggest club in League One nonsense the sort of unnecessary arrogance I’m not a fan of, and his regime and protest related comments are understandable but disappointing, but I respect his managerial ability and will obviously support him.

But there’s a difference between support and connection.

And a worry whether that loss of connection is a permanent thing. The idea of Duchatelet and Meire departing is exciting, and I look forward to a packed Valley the game after they do, but I’m very anxious that a distraction and connection anything like I had before won’t return. Worried that I won’t find another necessary distraction to cope with how I feel.

Connection lost, the distraction from my mental and physical health lost, and it just incredibly upsetting to be experiencing this.

Apologies if my feelings and position anger those who believe losing connection is wrong and avoidable.

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42 Comments

  1. Peter says:

    I’m sorry to hear how you’re feeling at the moment.

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your blog. I’ve been reading it for a couple of years and the level of detail and insight on every match report is incredible. You provide an invaluable service to a passionate fan like myself who can only make a couple of games a season. Please be very proud of your work!

    • Kyle Andrews says:

      Thank you Peter, it’s really good to hear that, and makes the stress of it all seem worthwhile. Appreciate the show of care, too. Thank you again.

  2. Tunji says:

    Kyle amazing blog, I’ve had depression and anxiety for 2 years exactly when Roland Meire had taken over. I have decided to protest and do not attend games anymore. I don’t go as well of my anxiety. My family showed me your blog and it has been very good to read.

  3. Kyle,
    I am so sorry that you feel as you do. I also, feel disconnected from the club in a way that I haven’t experienced before and the Saturday ritual to home and away games has, for years now, proved a welcome distraction in my life too, from bouts of depression and personal tragedies. I still go, actively support the protests and keep the faith by looking forward to the day Duchatelet and Miere go…and they will. I don’t consider your mind weak at all, but maybe you’re too empathetic of a situation out of the control of those that love the club. What I really wanted to say was how much I look forward to your blog, incisive, well written and intuitive, the work of a very obviously talented and passionate supporter. I’m sure that this feeling of disconnection won’t last forever, while the support is still there, there’s still hope! You may not realise, but you are brave man speaking out about your own struggle with health problems and I’m sure that this is a help to some that read your blog. I know it has been to me.
    Karen

    • Kyle Andrews says:

      Karen, it’s difficult to explain properly how much I appreciate that. Those words are really powerful, and I can’t thank you enough for taking time out to send them my way. An equal amount of support goes your way from me, too.

  4. Michele says:

    Hi Kyle we will get OUR club back and Iwe will with people like you achieve it. Always enjoy reading your blogs and latest one was very powerful and shows the huge importance that a club can play in society and the impact it has on people’s lives! Don’t give up and really hope things get better for you soon.

  5. David says:

    Really pained to read this,Kyle. I can understand why what’s happening at your club has left you disillusioned, but it will pass. And in the meantime, this is Northamptonshire’s year for promotion. Hang on in there.

  6. fishface says:

    I feel for you Kyle, as others have expressed, your reports are valued. I have recurrent depression and at times am very anxious. Distractions from one’s condition are really important otherwise we become too self-absorbed. For me, local football has been stress free (Cowes Sports in the Wessex Premier League), I rarely get to Charlton these days. I find practising mindfulness really helpful, plus there are a whole range of videos on Youtube that can help with relaxation and sleep etc. If you do end up taking a break from The Valley, the creativity of your blogging could maybe be channeled into other subjects? Best Wishes.

  7. Tom says:

    Please keep up the great work you do with your blog Kyle. It is part of my weekly reading and without the doubt the best read in terms of the match report. The level of detail is absolutely outstanding.

    I think much of the anti-protest movement is a mixture of denial, tiredness and apathy. A hope that maybe, maybe we can regain that matchday feeling you so eloquently describe in your article under the current regime. A hope that when the regime say that mistakes have been made (like the ones outlined so well in Getting to Know the Regime) and lessons learnt, that they will not be repeated.

    None of us can know how this is going to turn out or the timeline but what I do know is that the contribution you provide to fans of our club with this blog is invaluable. Thank you

  8. alex says:

    Hello,

    I was really touched by your post. I read your blogs regularly and you could not detect the underlying feelings in your written words. I cannot begin to know the torment you are suffering, but as a 60 year old granddad entering the final furlong I really do hope you get to experience and enjoy what life can offer as you get older.
    My support of CAFC goes back 50 years, and I still watch the Wembley game whenever I need cheering up. I wish we had someone now like Clive Mendonca, my all time legend.
    With best wishes

  9. Blackheath Addick says:

    Kyle, I sincerely hope your situation steadily improves, I believe the means for this are within you, your qualities and abilities including your empathy. Like you, the sense of disgust at the treatment of Sir Chris has never left me. We will get our club back, probably not exactly the same as before but better and with new positive experiences, because it means so much to us, people like you, that we will not give up. But some things we can’t control, like what Duchatelet will do and what might prompt him to sell. So in the interim feel sorry for him. He cannot experience the joy that we have done and will do again, knowing that the ecstasy of two Peter Shirtliff goals in the second half of extra time was raised by and reflected the despair we felt at the end of the first half.

  10. Kyle
    Your blog is bloody fantastic. Its informative, well written, heartfelt , the photos are great. Its particularly useful if I miss a game and want to get a balanced report. Keep up the good work – I know its particularly depressing at the moment ,but it will change – hopefully Duchatelet and Meire are the dark before the dawn !!

  11. ColinG says:

    Dear Kyle ,

    Please keep the faith , Charlton is in our blood and we can never abandon the club that means so much to us . When we played our last game at the Valley and moved to Selhurst it was the most depressing time of my life although I still continued with my season ticket and following them all over the country .In the end we had relative success and indeed for what now seems rather strange given our current situation it still felt like we were a club and my emotional contact somehow remained in tact .I absolutely hated how low our great club had fallen and our nomadic status, then we returned to the valley and the rest is history .

    Fast forward to today and it now seems so much worse and unbelievable that RD and KM have managed to completely rip the heart out of Charlton and left it without what seems like any positive future to contemplate and thus destroying that emotional connection we have that even becomes part of who you are as a person.
    However one thing I do know for sure is they will not last forever and there will come a time when they are gone and the Charlton heart will be beating again, but we desperately need people such as your self who apart from an incredible loyalty and passion for the club are able to articulate our plight in such a well thought out manner , please see your self as on a mission because one day you will write a book about this episode in your personal life combined with the plight of our club under this regime and I can tell you it will fill you with immense pride and provide a everlasting chronicle for generations of Charlton fans to come who will need to know exactly what supporting Charlton had become like under this regime .

    Thank-you

    ColinG

    • Kyle Andrews says:

      Thank you Colin, it really is appreciated. It’s been surprising to me, having not experienced the time away from The Valley, how many regularly say that this period is worse than that.

  12. Pete - Iberian Valley says:

    Hi Kyle,
    You don’t know me but I feel I know you very well. I read your Blog every week and really enjoy it. Its clever, detailed and very informative, just what you need when you can’t see the games.
    So its very sad to read your latest post. I didn’t know you had so tough a life. Anxiety and depression are very hard to cope with, my wife suffered with anxiety for most of her life so I know something about the problems that you must be experiencing.
    But the important thing is that reading your Blog, nobody would guess that you were fighting with these difficulties because you write very well. So I think It shows how important is your Blog, this “distraction” to you. You have to continue with it, so your sake and ours. You are still watching and writing about Charlton, a team that will still be here when the current owners and management have long gone.
    We, you and all the other fans, are stronger that this current outfit in charge, its just another blip in the eventful life of Charlton.
    Keep Writing, Kyle

  13. Nug says:

    Kyle, really enjoy reading your blog and sorry that life is so difficult for you particularly right now. I wish we could get back to the Charlton we all fell in love with, fortunately Jacko keeps that light burning for so many of us. As fans we are all doing what we can to rip the club back from these owners who are neglecting the community and history they should respect. On top of that they are neglecting the most fundamental part of the club, the team’s performance too. Look forward to continuing to read your excellent posts.

  14. Marlon says:

    Hello Kyle,
    Your blog is very moving. If there’s any justice in the world, Roland will sell and your physical and mental health will improve. The two may be connected!

  15. Antony Wright says:

    What a wonderful read. Brought a tear to my and as a fifty-four year old male that doesn’t happen too often.
    I’m sorry to hear about your problems and the demons that you battle. Please believe that we will get our club back and just imagine how great that will be. When we left The Valley in 1985 it felt like the end of the world. Look what happened, however, after we returned. Some of the greatest days to be a Charlton supporter. Things may be bad now but they could be the catalyst for the return of those great days. Imagine what can be achieved again with a galvanised support and an owner that understands that support. It is only a matter of time.

    • Kyle Andrews says:

      That’s definitely a thought that’s always lurking at the back of my mind – what Charlton supporters have achieved before, and what they can achieve again. Thank you for the kind words.

  16. Sam says:

    Kyle,

    My first time to your forum and I am not on Social Media. A great read and very brave post.

    In the Premier League days, the season we finished 7th I had somewhat of a nervous breakdown and suffered depression with many of the feelings you describe above. I can honestly say that my family and going to watch Charlton were the things that got me through it. I was very lucky in a way that my illness coincided with our best season as it was a huge and important distraction for me, and, as you, it got me out of the house which I would not have done otherwise.

    Luckily for me I have improved (although never fully recovered) from those days and I sincerely hope you do too. I never had the courage to tell my friends and struggled to put a brave face up instead so what you write about so openly is a massively brave and courageous thing to do and more power to your elbow for it.

    I look forward to reading many more posts now o have found this site.

    • Kyle Andrews says:

      Hi Sam. Thank you for the kind words, and I’m really glad things have improved for you. Hopefully, in time, similar will happen for me.

  17. Richard Hunt says:

    Hi Kyle. I was utterly stunned to read your blogpost. I only know you from your articles in the Voice. They have always been excellent, perceptive and thoughtful. Like others, I had no idea of the struggle your life can be, and just how much Charlton can help with it.

    I read your post, and reminded myself how lucky I am to have good health as I approach my 52nd year of being a Charlton fan. I’ve always been an activist too, but at times this season I have wondered if it is really worth so much time and effort. If I needed a kick up the ass your blogpost was just what was needed.

    We are going to get our club back, Kyle, and we are going to do it, because it is not just about football. We will do it for people like you. Every time I think about some email I can’t be bothered to write in support of our battle for the return of our proper decent club, I am going to think of you.

    We will win, Kyle. Stick with us. We’ve done it before and we will do it again.

    • Kyle Andrews says:

      Hi Richard. I really appreciate those words, and while I didn’t expect to have that sort of impact on anyone else while writing this post, I’m certainly glad it’s had a motivational impact on you. Thank you again, it genuinely is really appreciated.

  18. Hi Kyle, The hardest part of depression is accepting its happened to ourselves, I like you I took solace in our football until I even had to remove that from my life, your ability to put your feelings into words is your strength. As said elsewhere we will get our club back and that will help the darkness lift, until then we have to keep each strong. Here if you want a chat or a pint. Ray

    • Kyle Andrews says:

      Hi Ray. Thank you for the kind words, I take some heart in the fact so many have praised me for being brave enough to speak about how I feel. It’s very much appreciated.

  19. James Maddison says:

    Hi Kyle

    I’ve just read the above and you are not alone in these battles. 18 months ago I was blind, had just had complications with a transplant operation, had my job trying to sack me because of my disability and was incapacitated with depression. This led me to walk to my local park with a knife, find a quiet corner and internally battle for several hours as to whether it was worth carrying on.

    That day I decided that I had to keep fighting for my family, my friends and more importantly myself.

    Since that day it hasn’t been easy but I have thought tooth and nail to survive and thankfully today I do find myself in a better place from it, though the battle will probably never end, each day I just learn a little more on how to cope.

    Football and its culture does always seem to attach those souls that are tourtured and need some sense in belonging and I do have many friends amounts my Charlton brothers who have their daily battles with mental illness. I think we find the sense of belonging to something bigger as you said a distraction and a comfort.

    Since that day I have continued to fight long and hard to survive. 18 months on I have now been supplied with specialist lens that have enabled me to see with them in, I have received CBT therapy for my low self asteam which has given me the tools to cope better day to day, I’ve gone on a diet and joined a gym and have nearly lost 12.5 stone and I have recently got a good appraisal from work after giving it everything to make it impossible for them to force me out.

    I won’t lie there are still many very tough days and I won’t ever be cured but all we can do is cope a little better every day.

    You’ve got my email, if you need any advise or support just message me or I’m on Twitter under JamMad83, even if you just fancy a pre match pint. I know you possibly already have but I would strongly advise contacting Mind they helped me get the CBT which has really helped me.

    Keep on fighting mate and up the addicks!

    James

    • Kyle Andrews says:

      Hi James. Your story of improvement is certainly encouraging, and I’m so pleased you’ve managed to fight your way through. Both in terms of fighting your way through each tough day, and fighting your way through over the longer period. Unfortunately, I’ve tried CBT on several occasions, and didn’t find it useful – my overall experience with counsellors and forms of counselling hasn’t been great, though I’m continuing a search to find one that words. Thank you for the support and understanding. It really is appreciated.

  20. Hi Kyle. First of all well done for writing this. I believe that speaking up about mental health is the best thing anyone can do, though the hardest. I suffer with depression and anxiety and also ENT problems (usually siniusitis), which can cause, at the very least unsteadiness, and at worse dizziness. As a result, despite times of improving mental health, I have had recent set backs causing feelings of frustration and uselessness and lack of motivation, usually meaning that I don’t want to leave my room let alone the house even when I’m well enough to. I have also found Charlton to be an outlet and something to look forward to and I think that’s why I find it even harder now and am finding it harder to cope with my health issues. As I have found that having hope that things were going to get better (which only came as I myself got better) led me to ignore the intincts I had aginst this and join Target 20K. Since meeting RD that hope has gone, though it has ignitied something in me that makes me want to fight for something that eans so much to me. This may have to wait a few more months until mu ENT treatment starts but I’m not losing any of that drive. Also, have you thought of maybe setting up a online group for Charlton fans who have health issues with a specific focus on mentall health and how physical health can affect it? More than happy to be involved and help in any way! 🙂

    • Kyle Andrews says:

      Hi Alison. Really appreciate you sharing that, especially, as you’ve said, it can be difficult to be so open about mental health issues. I certainly like the idea of some sort of group, though I’m afraid that would be well beyond my capabilities! All the best to you.

  21. Stu says:

    Kyle, most of us feel disconnected at the moment mate. It wil change – just imagine that time at The Valley for the first game after Duchatelet sells.- thats the goal.
    You coming to Belgium? Could do with you in the front row mate.

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