Mental Health

TIME TO CHANGE: Johnny Wilkinson speaks out about battle with Mental Illness 

FORMER England Rugby ace has spoken out about his battle with Mental Health amid one of the UK’s biggest ever mental health anti-stigma campaigns. 

Speaking to Time To Change – a mental health charity, the former England player revealed that he had been battling Mental Health issues “Since the beginning of his sporting career.”

“I have experienced highs and lows but after riding a wave of success in my rugby career, my world came crashing down when I was hit by multiple injuries, which left me unable to compete in the game that is my entire life,” said Johnny.

“It all came to a head in 2005, when after choosing to ignore the growing pain in my groin, I found out that I had retorn everything that had been repaired in my first groin operation five years ago.”

“On top of that, I had torn a big part of my adductor muscle and needed another hernia repair operation plus a tenotomy, which involved cutting the adductor cleanly so that it can reheal perfectly.”

“After the operation, I started training again but as soon as I tried any sideways or unpredictable movements, I could feel the groin starting to tear slightly and would have to wait for it to heal before I could train again.”

“So the cycle began and I found this desperately frustrating.”

“Suddenly I then found myself fit enough to kick again but I was so desperate to get it right, so driven by the annoyance and fear of not getting it perfect, that the anger I felt inside began to express itself physically.” 

“I didn’t know what it was, but my frustration was so intense that I started shouting at the walls, screaming obscenities.”

“I also punished myself for my mistakes too. When my left foot let me down, I stamped down hard on it.”

“At one stage, I was so livid that, before I knew it, I was sinking my teeth into my hand, trying to bite through the skin between my thumb and index finger. It immediately started to bruise and the pain was intense.”

“I had experienced frustration like this before. I remember one time after training going up to the nearby Slaley Hall Hotel to use their pool.”

“Usually I use the pool to relax physically. This time, I made sure that no one else was around, lowered myself into the water until I was completely submerged, and then I let out a scream of total frustration.”

“I came up for air and then submerged myself again and screamed again. No words, just pure desperation. I carried on screaming as long and as loud as I could and I didn’t stop until I was hoarse.”

“I simply could not find any other way of dealing with this non-stop barrage of thoughts and negativity.”

“Eventually, I got to a point where I felt I couldn’t escape. There was simply no way I could concentrate enough to even read a book”

“My mind was totally preoccupied with anything it could find that was negative and destructive; and it caused me to feel panic and my heart to beat quicker. “

“My obsessiveness had vacated rugby completely and started to drive my thoughts downwards, tossing endless dark, nasty images through my head.”

“I’d been working closely with the Newcastle doctor, Graeme Wilkes, on my physical injuries and this one occasion I went and visited him again but this time I let it all go.”

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