Stephanie Ware

#FightingBack: The fight to conquer mental health problems


In the fourth part of England Boxing’s features around the mental health camapign #Fightback, Stephanie Ware describes her ongoing battle with her mind.

“Mental health problems – I see them as a real life fight.

The battle of getting out of bed in the morning, the physical tiredness and exhaustion that zaps every last ounce of your energy. A weight pressing down on you, trying to push you into the corner of the ropes. The overwhelming anxiety that hits you like a right hand punch that whips your head back or digs you so hard in the solar plexus that you can’t breathe…

For years I struggled with depression and anxiety, coming to a head in 2010 with a breakdown. The fight became even harder.

I wasn’t doing the regular sport that I enjoyed anymore due to quite a severe back injury and I’d lost all my motivation to do activities that I enjoyed. I had lost all ability to look after myself very well so also gained weight, which for me reduced my self-esteem.

After seeking support from my local Mind charity, I was referred to a six-week boxercise course with three times, three weight world champion Duke McKenzie.

The fight back against these debilitating illnesses was a tough one.

The metaphorical blood, sweat and tears pushed me to the limits to be able to keep taking a step into the ring every day.

The physical training was hard, with pad work, bag work, skipping, shadow boxing and fitness circuits. The mental battle to get out to train and keep going back was also hard. But when I walked into that gym I felt like every punch I took from my mental illness was not having as much of an effect – I started to get stronger to be able to reply with some very good shots back.

A strong jab to the lows, a strong rear hand to the panic, a left hook to the darkness and an uppercut to the fear.

After the boxercise sessions with Duke, I continued my fight by joining an amateur boxing club where I boxed competitively, representing the Home Counties and competing in the British University Championships. I became fit and healthy and I have since found the tenacity to do a master’s degree and am now doing a graduate diploma in Theology too. I also now coach boxing to children and young people.

Now I am well, yet without boxing I would not have found the resilience to carry on with the daily battle with mental illness.

Boxing is one part of my armour that holistically helps to keep me #FightingBack.”