New North Carolina Courage signing Millie Farrow believes her revealing new autobiography, “Brave Enough Not to Quit,” will offer hope to female players who suffer in silence from the crippling stresses of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in competitive sport.
Unlike most sports biographies, the non-linear narrative of Farrow’s life does not dwell on races and goals, but instead focuses on her own character and emotional journey through a career marked by a succession of injury setbacks exacerbated by her mental – health problems.
Suffering from anxiety and OCD since childhood, Farrow explains how these conditions were ignored and excused, all the while struggling to make it in a competitive sporting environment. Her lowest points are recorded in sometimes uncomfortable detail.
After suffering her first ACL injury as a teenager playing for Chelsea in the FA Girls’ Youth Cup final in 2012, Farrow describes the dark thought processes involved in the long-term recovery stating in the book that “what I just It’s absolutely horrible and what makes it worse is knowing I’ll have to go through it again tomorrow.”
After Chelsea, Farrow spent spells at Bristol City, Reading, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, meaning the pressures and idiosyncrasies of trying to carve out a career in professional women’s sport, where wages are lower and contracts often shorter , are touched upon in the book. Farrow tells me “the women’s game, as it gets older, gets a bit more tiresome. There are clubs that pay good money – sustainable money – and then there are clubs that don’t pay so well. You almost feel like you can.” don’t get hurt because you’re afraid they’ll leave you. It’s really difficult.”
Now, ready to embark on a new journey playing in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) after signing with the North Carolina Courage on a one-year contract, Farrow tells me she is better equipped mentally to deal with life away from home. In 2017, she turned down an opportunity to move abroad to Norway, a decision, looking back, she’s glad she made. “I wasn’t in the best mental state to be honest, my OCD was pretty overwhelming.”
In her book, Farrow describes how OCD took over her life, ruining her early experiences of going away to international boot camps to the extent that she avoided certain people and situations that would trigger her behavior. In such circumstances, she was never able to fulfill her potential, increasing the pressure she put on herself and creating a suffocating cycle of fear and frustration. She admitted she was “guilty of trying to argue with reality, that’s an argument I’ll always lose.”
Drawing on the expertise of Vernon Sankey, author of self-help books such as The ladder to happiness, and Rob Blackburne, a leading performance coach, helped change Farrow’s perception of her life situation. The obstacles created by back-to-back injuries weren’t things to be angry about, but lessons to be learned from. By changing her mindset and the negative language used in certain situations, Farrow believes that anyone can overcome their problems, “if we have the ability to change our thinking, our problems can disappear.”
Last year, Farrow was prescribed an antidepressant, sertraline, to manage anxiety and OCD. In the long run, she hopes the positive mindset she now possesses will allow her to wean herself off the drug. “I’m just learning every day, but my goal is eventually to not have to take it anymore, I definitely think that’s possible, 100 percent.
Through the publication of her book last month, Farrow hopes that opening up about her struggles will encourage others to face their fears in hopes of maximizing their potential. “In the past, I was kind of reluctant to talk about these things. I was always afraid that the coaches or the coach would see me as weak, which is something that a lot of players face when they do.” They often keep it to themselves because they worry they won’t be played or trusted on the field.”
Now a published author, does she worry that her new teammates will judge her for the emotional baggage she carried then, rather than the person she has grown into? “I have absolutely no problem being honest about it anymore,” he tells me. “I really encourage people to read it because I know there are a lot of players in similar situations that I’ve been through in the past. It’s easy, when you’re struggling with something, to go inward and it’s harder to find the right people to actually, most of the time, a lot of people in the same group as you are going through similar things.”
“With the book coming out, and specifically talking about OCD, the number of messages and people reaching out to me with their stories was really overwhelming for me. I honestly didn’t really know what to expect, what kind of response I was going to get. It was a little touching actually, reading some of the messages from people. When something isn’t talked about, you feel alone and you’re the only one going through it. I’m so glad I was able to put it out there.”