Depression is a bit of a buzz word in the media at the moment, with famous sports people suffering from it, culling international careers of those who could have been all time greats or far more tragically causing those such as Gary Speed to suffer to such a degree that the only way he could find out was to die.
Let me start by saying that I used to play a bit of cricket, I was quite useful in a roundabout way, and so have followed cricket a lot and played with some very good players. But the the thing that has always been unsaid, untold, until recently is the depression story.
I have to give huge credit to Freddie Flintoff for doing a programme on it recently – it needed doing – but it needed someone of his standing in the national conciousness, someone that people would look at and say – he’s hard, he’s a lad, he’s not soft to tackle it. Chapeau Freddie.
Retired professional cricketers are more likely to take their own life than almost any other sector of the British population. Is that shocking? Yes, it should be.
In his program, Freddie told of his dispair and the depression stemming from a long trip leading England in 2006/7 to Australia where, under his captaincy, England went from Ashes winners to losing 5-0. He was in a bad place mentally, he’d done all he could – then the press came for him – is it any wonder that come the world cup it spilled over?
The stories in the programme of Steve Harmison struggling, year after year with depression whilst being one of the worlds top fast bowlers – that he kept going is testament to his own inner strength – but he suffered alone – imagine how much better he could have been.
Graeme Dott – world champion snooker player, dropped down the rankings, struggled with enthusiasm to get out bed, and can only now compete thanks to drugs.
Marcus Trescothick, probably England’s best opening batsman over the last 20 years, (Ali Cook might become better) but with a career cut short by his own struggles, at a time when it was taboo. He was desribed has having all sorts of different conditions, whilst Steve Harmison was put down to being homesick.
But most importantly (for me) listening to these sports stars talk about their own depression, how it affected me made me think. And as I reflected on my life I realised that there was a time when the only thing you could say was that I depressed. There are reasons for it – but it can happen to anyone, anytime – and yet because someone is famous we assume that they are ok, somehow immune and that we can knock them down further if we like.
Imagine if you like that a football manager is suffering a loss in confidence, his team are struggling and more than worry – it’s got to him, down to his inner most being. He feels aweful – but in this state he’s beyond looking at the situation coolly and can’t just walk away. Then the fans turn on him, coming after him on match days, the papers are next – the manager was already depressed -what now?
For me depression did two things – firstly it led to me losing interest in anything in particular. I went through motions, did the least possible – but all I wanted to do was curl up on the sofa and watch TV. Then there was the self destructive feeling. I didn’t want to hurt myself – at heart I’m a wimp and pain is most definitely not my friend – but first I stopped caring about what was good for me, then I wanted to cause myself damage – spiritually, emotionally – however.
I didn’t see it at the time, and that is what makes it so dangerous, it’s only looking back that I can see those dangerous thoughts and feelings. So next time, talk to people, ask people how they really are. Give people time – and if things aren’t going right for them – if life is tough – remember what they might be going through. And if that doesn’t make you want to give them a break – how will you feel if you push their buttons with tragic consequences.