You may have seen our next Woman of Oilersnation around the Twitterverse talking all things Oilers and mental health.
If you missed last week’s feature, I chatted with Shaan Chahal, a feisty Oilers fan and Edmonton business owner! You can read her feature here.
If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen Jackie AKA JB McHockey around, but you may not know her story! A super Oilers fan (including an Oilers-themed wedding), Jackie is also extremely passionate about mental health and we chat about all things hockey, mental health, and how sports and mental health intersect.
Especially right now, our mental health has never been more important and I’m excited to share Jackie’s story with you!
MEET JACKIE BONDURANT
KYLA: Who are is Jackie?!
JACKIE: My name is Jackie Bondurant and I’ve been an Oilers fan my entire life. You will probably know me on Twitter as @JackieBee16 and if you don’t, well then you’re just missing out on potty-mouthed hockey talk.
By day I work as a Talent Development Advisor, teaching online leadership and employee development courses to our staff in the public sector. I teach about four courses per week out of the 16 I have in my repertoire, so it’s pretty busy, but I love it.
My passions are my family, my Oilers and my sweet little miniature schnauzer Frankie. I also love to fish, a hobby my husband got me hooked on (pun intended). I’m also a huge fan of lame Dad jokes and puns.
I’ve played competitive sports since I was about seven or eight years old. Ringette, indoor and outdoor soccer, and hockey. I was a member of the very first girls hockey team in Edmonton. I was interviewed on TV and I got to participate in the K-Days parade on rollerblades. I was about 12 at the time, and it was so exciting.
KYLA: How did you get into hockey and sports in general?
Jackie: My parents were big sports fans so hockey was a staple in my house. My older brother played hockey and I wanted so much to be like him, so my parents put me in ringette when I was seven. I was the Smytty in my first year. All heart, all effort. The only problem was that I couldn’t skate very well, so they put me in goal. I was actually pretty decent but it wasn’t where my heart was.
The next summer I was in power skating classes and I worked my butt off. The next season, I was named captain and was one of the best players on my team. I then got into hockey, which unfortunately didn’t last long due to school and the school sports teams I was part of. When I was older, something had to give, so soccer was what I stuck with because I could play all year long.
I’ve always been athletic and very good at most sports I tried, and I could run for days so track and field and cross country running were a big part of where my time went. Sports were a pivotal part of how I grew up. No time to get into trouble because I was too busy doing something athletic!
Hockey stuck with me, particularly the Oilers (obviously) and I’ve been a diehard fan since day one. When social media was born, I was introduced to a whole different side of sports fandom and it was pretty amazing to me that people wanted to talk to me about the Oilers on a Twitter account.
KYLA: What’s your favourite Oilers memory?
JACKIE: Just one?!?! Probably heading to one of my first playoff games as a kid with my dad. We sat behind the opposing net and I’ll never forget how hard we chanted “BELLLFOUR, BELFOUR”. That is how my hatred of the Dallas Stars was born.
Also, the 2006 cup run. That was such a heartbreaking but amazing time to be an Oilers fan. I lived just off of Whyte Ave at the time and the cheers of people could be heard for miles. It was great!
I was there for Gretzky’s retirement and Messier’s retirement and I cried like a baby both times.
As a non-season ticket holder, being there for the last game played at Rexall Place and the first ever game at Rogers Place were two pretty incredible moments. I even partook in the purchase of two seats from Rexall place that are currently in my basement.
Other highlights: Drafting Connor McDavid, meeting Doug Weight, Ryan Smyth and Jordan Eberle.
KYLA: You’re a mental health advocate, including the connection between sports and mental health. Can you talk a bit about your own mental health journey and how sports have helped you?
I was diagnosed with anxiety and OCD in 2011, but knowing what I know now about anxiety, it’s been a battle I’ve fought my whole life. There was a full year where I could barely leave my house due to severe anxiety/panic attacks. It was terrible. During that time, the only time I went out was to go play soccer. It was like an adrenaline rush where I felt “normal” for 90 minutes, but as soon as it was over, the high wore off and I was back to a depressive state wondering if I’d ever feel like me again. Sports is what kept me going.
Watching hockey, building up a Twitter following and chatting up people that were so like me when it came to hockey. I couldn’t help but want to meet them, so I finally got the courage to push myself to go out and meet these people that loved the Oilers like I did. I’ve met some amazing humans that I still call friends and talk to regularly.
Now that I have been through multiple types of therapies, I’ve tried and failed at multiple avenues of overcoming anxiety and OCD, but I’ve also succeeded in them as well. I have all kinds of tips and tricks that I can offer people to try.
I am an advocate for mental health because I want people to talk about it, I want people to understand that it’s ok to not be ok but also that you have to fight to get your life back and put in the work. I want to support people through that. Anyone that has ever reached out to me always asks me why I’m so easy to talk to. Now, I don’t have an answer for that, but I like to believe that it’s because I’m relatable. I speak from experience, not from a book (even though I’ve done a ton of research). I’m not some random person behind a desk. I’m a real person, and we have sports in common, so people tend to find it easier to reach out, especially when I’m so vocal about mental health in general.
KYLA: What do you think makes sports so powerful in people’s ability to maintain their mental health?
JACKIE: Your brain is the computer that runs your body. Without strong mental health, your body won’t function as it should. The opposite is true as well. Even if you don’t want to get out of bed, setting a goal to go for a walk around the block or go for a jog, you start to see little positive changes in your mental health. Endorphins are a powerful thing. When you feel good physically, you start to feel better mentally. Not only that but team sports also give you that sense of belonging, camaraderie, building lasting friendships and relationships with people. That is something you can’t put a price on.
I also truly believe that those who battle their mental health and are self proclaimed shut-ins can still find that sense of belonging in the Oilers Twitter community. I have talked to hundreds of people that find friendship through talking about Oilers hockey or just hockey in general. There are so many ways to communicate and sports seems to be where most people find that connection that they’re needing. Social media can be a good thing sometimes
KYLA: What are some ways that you manage your mental health, especially during Covid?
JACKIE: To be honest, Covid has set me back in terms of my anxiety. I’ve been working from home for over a year and because I have anxiety, OCD and am a germaphobe, I do not want to leave the house much.
I have tried all kinds of new hobbies like learning to play the guitar, those diamond gem paintings (where you stick little beads on to a canvas and it becomes a picture. I actually did an Oilers logo one). I have also started yoga which is surprisingly challenging and helpful in getting my mind feeling “right”. It’s amazing how changing your breathing methods can affect how you feel mentally. I walk my dog as well – so really anytime I can be outside chasing the dog, walking or doing anything physical, that’s when my mental health starts to recover. Again those endorphins work magic.
I find that it’s important to not only try to stay motivated to get your body moving and the blood pumping, but to exercise your brain in ways you never did before. There’s a healthy balance there that I’m working towards. Some days are harder than others but I battle through.
With all the news about Covid and the constant bombardment of horrible things happening in the world, I’ve also shut off my notifications on all my phone apps, including social media. This has greatly helped with my mental health. I’m no longer tied to my phone, which is really big for me. It forces me to get up and do something instead of constantly checking it every time it dings. The majority of the time when I’m on Twitter, it’s because there’s an Oilers game on. Again… balance.
KYLA: If someone is struggling with their mental health and wants to explore the benefits of sports on mental health, what advice would you give them?
JACKIE: First off, find a sport that you have always been interested in but never tried. It’s tougher now with Covid but the ESSC (Edmonton Sport and Social Club) has tons of sports you can try out. You don’t have to be any good at it either, that’s the best part! If you’re sitting at home and you’re battling your mental health demons, get outside and go for a walk. That’s where you start. Then build on that, try a longer walk or a little jog, try biking, try meeting up with a friend and go for a (physically distanced) walk, then start looking at those social team sports.
When you battle mental health, meeting new people is hard. You have to build up to it. You will feel terrified, nervous, anxious and worried but I promise you, once you are there and doing it, the rewards outweigh all of those negative feelings and emotions. It’s such a high to be able to try something new, meet new people and leave saying “I did that. I didn’t think I could, but I did it”. The more you do it, the longer that high lasts – and it’s one of the healthiest highs there are.
KYLA: What does hockey and being a part of the Oilersnation community mean to you?
JACKIE: It sounds a little nuts I’m sure, but it means everything to me. My family is most important to me, without question, but I am so grateful to be part of this group. I have done so many amazing things since I joined Twitter and found this community of people. I joined the Oilers Rig where I blogged about hockey, stirred up controversy with my articles but got people talking, I podcasted, I ran fundraising events for MS, I met amazing people and made amazing, lifelong connections. I’ve since taken a step back to enjoy just being a fan again but the amount of conversations and hilarity I get to experience with people about the Oilers, about hockey in general, on an almost daily basis, is just incredible.
Look at me now! I’m being interviewed to talk about my sports/hockey/Oilers/mental health experiences! How cool is that?!
I’m also a very proud owner of several merchandise items from Oilersnation and other local groups like ProAm Sports. So I represent my team very well wherever I go.
I am so thankful for the friends I’ve made, the things I’ve been able to do since joining this community of wonderful people and I’m excited what the next few years will bring—hopefully a Stanley cup for our boys and when it happens, I hope we can all be together to shed tears of joy with each other.
her Soul Shot shows women how powerful they are through sport by providing resources, community, and inspiration for all women to live their soul’s truth and take their shot in sports.