Millie Farrow Hopes New Book Will Help Players Dealing With Anxiety And OCD

New North Carolina Courage signing Millie Farrow believes her revealing new autobiography, “Brave Enough Not to Quit“, will offer hope to female players suffering in silence from the crippling pressures of anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in competitive sport.

In contrast to most sporting biographies, Farrow’s non-lineal account of her life does not look back on matches and goals but rather focuses on her own character and emotional journey in a career marked by a succession of injury setbacks which were exacerbated by her own mental-health issues.

Suffering from anxiety and OCD since childhood, Farrow explains how these conditions were ignored and excused, while all the time she was struggling to make it in a competitive sporting environment. Her lowest points are catalogued in sometimes uncomfortable detail.

After suffering the first of her anterior cruciate ligament injuries as a teenager playing for Chelsea in the FA Girls’ Youth Cup final in 2012, Farrow describes the dark thought processes associated with long-term rehabilitation stating in the book that “what I just experienced is absolutely horrible and the thing that makes it worse is knowing I will 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 peculiarities of attempting to forge a career in professional women’s sport, where wages are lower and contracts are often shorter, are touched on in the book. Farrow tells me “the women’s game, as it’s growing, it is becoming a little bit more cut-throat. There’s clubs that pay good money – liveable money – and then there’s clubs that pay not as well. You almost feel like you can’t get injured because you’re scared of being let go. It’s a difficult one really.”

Now, about to embark on a new journey playing in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) after signing for North Carolina Courage on a one-year contract, Farrow tells me she is better equipped mentally to deal with living away from home. In 2017, she turned down the opportunity to move abroad to Norway, a decision, looking back on, she is 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 her OCD dominated her life, ruining her early experiences of going away on international training camps to the extent that she avoided certain people and situations which 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 circle of fear and disappointment. She admitted she was “guilty of trying to argue with reality, this is an argument that I will always lose.”

Drawing on the expertise of Vernon Sankey, author of self-help books such as The Stairway to Happiness, and Rob Blackburne, an elite performance coach, helped change Farrow’s perception on her life situation. The obstacles created by successive injuries were not things to feel angry about but lessons to be learned from. By changing her mindset and the negative language used in certain situations, Farrow believes anyone can overcome their issues, “if we have the ability to change our thinking, our problems can disappear.”

Last year, Farrow was prescribed an anti-depressant, Sertraline, to manage her anxiety and OCD. In the long term, she hopes the positive mindset she is now equipped with will enable her to come off the drug. “I’m just learning every day but my goal is to eventually not to have to take it anymore, I definitely believe that’s possible, 100%.”

Through the publication of her book last month, Farrow hopes opening up about her struggles will encourage others to face their fears in the hope of maximizing their potential. “In the past, I was sort of reluctant to talk about those things. I always had a bit of a fear that the coaches or the manager would see me as weak, which is kind of what a lot of players go through when they’re struggling. They often do keep it to themselves because they worry that they won’t be played or not going to be trusted on the pitch.”

Now a published author, does she worry that her new team-mates will judge her on the emotional baggage she carried then, rather than the person she has developed into? “I absolutely have no problem with being honest about it anymore, ” she tells me. “I actually encourage people to read it because I know there’s a lot of players in similar situations that I’ve been through before. It’s easy, when you’re struggling with something, to go inwards and it’s harder to find the right people to talk to. Actually, most of the time, a lot of people in the same team as you are going through similar things.”

“With the release of the book, and specifically talking about OCD, the amount of messages and people who have reached out to me with their stories has been really overwhelming for me. I honestly really didn’t know what to expect, what kind of response I would get. It’s been a bit emotional actually, reading some of the people’s messages. When something isn’t talked about, you do feel alone and you’re the only one going through it. I’m really glad that I was able to put it out there.”