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'I spent 10 years hiding depression on tours abroad'

I spent 10 years hiding depression on tours abroad I was close to taking the same decision as the England batsman but was scared of the reaction.

Published: 26th November 2013 05:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th November 2013 05:36 PM   |  A+A-

Steve-Harmison_ap

I spent 10 years hiding depression on tours abroad I was close to taking the same decision as the England batsman but was scared of the reaction.

"I know what Jonathan Trott is going through because I have been through it as well.

Nobody knows more than me what it is like to be depressed while you are on a cricket tour because I spent 10 years hiding it as homesickness.

harmison-pietersen_ap.jpgI suffered from depression from an early age, long before my international cricket career began. I was not in a very good place whenever I toured, but there were probably two occasions where I thought I was going to have to make the decision Trotty has made.

At the time, nobody did that. It was not that I did not want to be the first one, I just did not believe I could say anything about how I was feeling. Somehow I managed to struggle through.

I said I was homesick and that was actually used as a stick to beat me with. It was not just homesickness, although that did not help. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain

and it is something I battled with for years. It tended to be inflamed when I was away from home because I did miss people, I was lonely and I did not have my support network around me.

When Marcus Trescothick went public with his depression, I was glad somebody had made that step, but I still did not think I could because, by that stage, I felt if I said I was depressed I was one bad game away from being finished as an international cricketer.

I wish I had said more, but I was scared of the reaction It is a tough, tough place to be. You feel alone, insecure, isolated and you feel as though the world is swallowing you up, that you are wading through treacle. You do not want to eat, you do not want to drink and you rarely sleep. The nights become longer and longer because you are awake for most of them.

It is so, so tough. I can remember sleepless nights in hotel rooms where I would be in tears and then going out to play the next day.

I think the big difference with me and Jonathan is that my refuge was on the field. When I was playing, I was happy. I liked training, I loved the matches, but I hated days off, any time I was on my own for a long period. It was the moments when I was alone that it would engulf me. I used to surround myself with people. I took a dartboard with me so that people would come to my room after training or a day's play. I was comfortable with people around, it was when I was alone that the world caved in.

Jonathan is different because he has found it tough to play. He has had the ball hurtling at him at 90mph and when you are going through this, the body does not move. You freeze, the stomach is churning, you become blind and the brain is muddled.

It did not surprise me when it all came out because Jonathan Trott was not the same player. He was always so cool, calm and collected. His mind is scrambled and that is what this illness does to you.

I am out of the game of cricket now, but this thing carries on. I am on top of it, but it has been hard and it still needs managing.

You feel as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but there is. The best thing he could have done is this. He will be at home surrounded by people who care for him, his family, friends and his club. He will feel good about himself in two or three days, but that is not the end.

He has identified there is a problem, now he has to get himself mentally and physically right. He has to forget cricket, he has to look after and repair the human being. There will be a lot of relief when he gets home, but it will be temporary if he does not seek professional help.

There are a few of us in the game he can speak to, but if he never plays international cricket again and is happy, that is a better outcome than playing and suffering. Hopefully he will be back, but the only person who can sort it out is Jonathan.

- Interview by Luke Edwards



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