I want to share with you my personal story and update you on my well-being. I will do this in English so everyone can understand.
For over a year now I have been dealing with panic attacks and anxiety, something that started when I was chilling at home in LA. At that time I didn’t know what was happening to me and thought I was having a heart attack. My first thoughts were that there was something wrong physically. Together with different hospitals and doctors we checked my whole body and the conclusion was that everything was functioning optimal. After this confirmation I started to focus on the mental aspect, which I am still working on until this day.
There are a few reasons why this is happening to me and I want to share these. As a professional football player I always had the pressure to show the best side of myself, no matter how I was actually feeling. I always put my emotions to the side and that is something that has built up after all those years. Frustration, anger, disappointment, sadness, I have put it all on the side and just went on with my life and career. Saying “I don’t care” to yourself is easy and that is what I did. The last few years of my career haven’t been easy. After not always being fully happy in Paris, a difficult year in Istanbul and a bad couple of months in Cagliari, the biggest emotional blow came when I was forced to leave Toronto FC. After all that negativity, as just mentioned, I finally had a great year in Toronto. I loved the team, loved the people and the city. I envisioned myself playing and living in Toronto for at least another 5-6 years. Then, out of nowhere, I had to leave because of a professional and healthy discussion with the coach, a coach that I liked very much. This hurt a lot and it still does.
But I went on with my life, put it to the side again and moved to LA. I tried to play for another team. Maybe for my old coach in Atlanta, but they never got back to me after showing initial interest. I then tried to play for one of the LA teams for FREE, but after first positive responses they never got back to me either. My career slowly ended there. At that time I kept on going and didn’t realize what it did to me emotionally. On top of that is the feeling of not knowing “what is next” for me in my life. Waking up everyday and not knowing what to do was killing. I went from a routined life of training every day and playing matches every week to having no goals or routine at all. Six months later my panic attacks started.
Now back in Amsterdam I am doing much better. The love for the game is still here, it never went away. That is why I am trying to get back on the pitch no matter what and I am very fortunate that I have found a club that is willing to help me make this happen. RKC Waalwijk received me with open arms and offered to help me with everything. After great conversations with the head coach and technical director it was a no-brainer for me. I am not there yet but I am working hard every day to make my comeback. I am not sure if this is going to happen but time will tell. No matter the outcome, I am very grateful for the amazing help that I get from everyone at RKC.
I wanted to share this because this is a part of life. No matter who you are, we are all human beings and this can happen to anyone. I also wanted to update you guys on what I have been going through and why the situation is as it is today. It has not been an easy year for me but I am doing much better now and I am very excited for the things ahead.
Gregory van der Wiel