It takes a special kind of bravery to face up to a cricket ball being propelled towards you in excess of ninety miles an hour. During my long, but consistently moderate club career, I probably didn’t come up against any bowler of quite that pace – although even with such a short reaction time, I reckon I would still have been nippy enough to scurry towards the square leg umpire.
But it takes far greater courage to admit to an invisible, yet potentially debilitating mental or stress-related condition - and that is exactly what England cricketer Jonathan Trott has done today.
Almost two years ago to the day, I suffered one of the worst moments of my life – with no prior warning and no obvious explanation. The events of that day, coupled with the tragic suicide of Wales football manager Gary Speed, gave me the strength to write about my own condition, illness, depression, call it what you will.
I didn’t post the article for sympathy – although I was incredibly grateful for the positive response - no, I wrote for myself, because I needed a release, but I also wanted to show others that they weren’t alone. The hardest thing to do is to accept something is wrong, and don’t be fooled into believing that just because you’re an international sportsman that you can’t be affected. Mental illness is unseen, unheard and makes no allowances for who or what you are.
Jonathan Trott’s situation is reminiscent of former England international cricketers Marcus Trescothick and Michael Yardy (and Marcus’ autobiography Coming Back to Me is an emotive, but compelling read). To hold up his hand and admit a problem means that the strain must have become unbearable. Jonathan may well have been suffering for quite some time, but the step he has taken is not only the biggest and most difficult, it’s also the first on the way to recovery.
I am trying desperately to steer away from the inane comments made by David Warner in relation to Trott’s performance in the first Ashes test, but I readily accept there will be a minority that will consider today’s news as confirmation of some perceived weakness. The reality couldn’t be further removed.
I can only hope that Jonathan and his family find a way to get through what will be very tough time. Whether or not you ever completely recover I honestly couldn’t say, but I know from personal experience that you can eventually find a way (or ways) to cope and things can, and often do, get better.
Jonathan, I salute your cricketing ability, but I have even greater respect for you as a man. I wish you well.