I was really interested to read Andrew Fifita’s interview this morning . For those of you that aren’t Rugby League fans, Andrew Fifita is a huge name at international level, and his admissions about his battle with depression is probably akin to a top premiership footballer saying the same here in the UK. Rugby League in New South Wales is as big as footy here, with a relentless media machine.
Andrew Fifita’s comments are so honest. The sentence that hit home with me the hardest is where he says that he ‘felt that there was no joy to life’. I’ve felt that way at times when the black dog of depression has got me, and to hear someone else say it makes me realise it’s not just me. I’ll never meet Andrew Fifita but to read the exact same feeling from him as I’ve felt 12,000 miles away is powerful.
The power of disclosure. The power of giving a bit of yourself to help others. It’s massive. Stephen Fry, Clarke Carlisle, Alistair Campbell, a baldy dad of three boys from Chorley, and now Andrew Fifita. We all want the same thing by talking about depression we have experienced – for it to help others. We’re all blokes, we all know that blokes don’t talk. We all know blokes need to talk. Personally, my motivation is that I don’t want other blokes to realise how they feel as late as I realised. By the time I’d realised I was experiencing depression I had a) cut myself off from the world and b) thought there was no point in continuing.
So, I, like the other guys, opened up. It’s genuinely good to do because once you’re comfortable talking about a problem then you start to lose some of the anxiety that comes with bottling it up. So, I did it. I blogged it. For me it was time to talk.
When someone first said to me it was ‘brave’ I thought ‘bollocks it’s brave, it’s typing a blog. Brave is not defined by tippy tappying a blog’. I thought there was nothing brave about it because why should it be, I was just putting my tuppence worth into a domain of people who may or may not find it useful. If one bloke read it and didn’t go as far into that journey of depression as me then to me, it was a total win. Plus, I couldn’t really have cared less what other folk thought.
What I realise now is that I was probably a bit wet-behind-the-ears and naiive because I had no real consideration of how some people would, from that point hence, judge me as ‘that’s Rick, he’s like that because he’s got mental health problems, he’s got depression’. It happens. Any time I get into a situation of challenge with some people or structures it’s a prejudice that comes out, like it’s an label for them to apply to dismiss my view. Generally it’s people that didn’t know me too well before the last couple of years, who didn’t know that i’ve always been pretty much the same and that I haven’t radically changed because of depression. Im not intolerant and arsey about injustices ‘because of my depression’. I’m not like a dog with a bone where it comes to battling for services for Isaac ‘because of my depression, and because i’m angry with the world’.
So, by trying to reduce stigma what can it create….stigma? Is that a reason not to open up and try? No, is it shite. It’s all the more reason to do so. Sometimes I think ‘such and such (person) will always just see me as ‘mad’ because i’ve admitted I suffered depression…how can I change that?’ but then I think – that’s THEIR problem. I’m not being obstinate there, but it is THEIR problem, because should life ever take the twists that drive them to experience depression they’ll feel they can’t talk. I genuinely believe that the cause for trying to prevent this is bigger than the reason to build walls and retreat into my own little sometimes depressed shell.
Andrew Fitita isn’t a baldy dad of three from Chorley, he’s a star rugby player. He’ll go through the rest of his career with people attributing ALL his future behaviour on his admission this week of depression. He maybe doesn’t realise it but he’s in for testing times where it comes to whether he retains his own self belief he did the right thing when people start to do that, but from one bloke who’s experienced depression I KNOW he’s done the right thing. Brave? I suppose by some definition it is, but that’s just a label imposed by people who know what the backlash can feel like.