There was a two-day period from the 19th of May to the 21st of May 2016, where I was the most anxious I have ever been in my life. This was when I handed in The Dark Side of Sport article in to be printed in the Magic Weekend programme and to be put online at MantalityMagazine.com. I wrote about my depression which I suffered in 2014. I also detailed the anxiety which could wash over me from day to day in the most casual of situations. Doubts were creeping in to my mind and I was wondering if I had made the biggest mistake of my life. But the feedback was overwhelming. Writing this, I feel like that there is a bit of pressure to have a similar effect. That was the hardest bit of writing I have ever done, but the most rewarding, without a fraction of a doubt.
“That could be gambling, it could be prescription drugs, or it could be drinking.
So, what can I tell you this time? I feel like a short career of major ups and character defining lows culminated in The Dark Side of Sport piece. A lot has happened in rugby league and a lot has happened for me physically coming back from my injury too. I’m a deep thinker and I have things that come in to my head a lot of the time. I’ll explain why I think that I’ve managed to use this in a better way.
As a rugby league player, you always have to be at 100%. Simple. There is no other way around it. You need that constant drive to succeed. Whether you are so focussed on a game plan to execute for the weekend, or whether you are obsessively driven to get better physically, you are always ON. From the young age, where you realise that you want to ‘make it’, every decision that you make is obsessive. What happens when you don’t have something to obsess over? Players can look for other paths to supplement their focus and desire for reward. That could be gambling, it could be prescription drugs, or it could be drinking.
Those are different issues altogether, but I believe them to stem from the same root of the problem. The need to fulfil.
It is not healthy to go from working yourself up to ultimate physical prowess, to then go and work towards simply walking, or trying to use your arm again. The constant fixation that you have to win, or obsession to be the best, cannot just stop when something halts you physically. It just doesn’t work like that. Most pro’s hang their self-esteem on how they perform as a rugby player. I definitely weighed up how I felt myself, on the perception of my performance and (specifically in my case) the absolute inability to physically perform like a rugby player. I was back ‘fit’ playing and capable of being selected in 2014, but my nerve damage just wasn’t allowing me to put size on, or tackle like I knew I could. That is the reason for why I fell in to depression.
You need to work harder than your opponent to win, or even teammate to get picked in the team. Constantly, you’re plugging away at getting better and to beat someone who has the same mentality. I’m sure it’s innate, but also it’s manufactured further when you’re coming up through the ranks to try and be the best. Which is the way it’s got to be. Those are high standards and that’s why the game is so admired. But… What happens when that is taken away from you? There is a big, big hole.
I managed to find something to vent this drive. I plunged myself into something which would give me inspirations for the day, after treatment on the physio table at 8am. With Mantality, I get to scratch my own itch and speak to successful people from all walks of life. I get to learn, grow and hopefully help others. Which, for me personally, is the thing that makes me happy. But what else has started to make me happy? I feel like there is probably a duty to tell people what I have done to make myself feel the best I have felt for so many years.
I don’t get flushes of anxiety right now. I very, very rarely have full days of lack of self- worth and depression destructive days. Why? It would be daft for me to say there is one definitive resolution to have stopped this. But, I think there has been a massive factor in me being full of energy and positive. “Think positive”… Isn’t that such an empty, weightless statement.
How do you do it? What does it mean? “Oh come on, it’s not so bad, think about how lucky you are with what you have done, think of how bad this is that has just happened to this guy”. No that has never worked. I can bet you have been there yourself. When nothing is going your way and there seems to be a landslide of negative thoughts toppling on top of each other. You may have visited a sick relative, you may have lost your keys and then everything spirals.
“Oh thanks for that pal, I feel great now.
The worst thing you can do, is try and justify what is going on with you compared to someone else. Everything is relative to you. You’re in your own mind.
You can’t just switch your mind to think positively in one instant. It just does not happen. I wonder when the last time was that you told someone to think positive, and they turned around and said “oh thanks for that pal, I feel great now”
I’d be interested to know.
There’s a thing called muscle memory. It plays a massive part in rugby league. After so many training sessions, we will make such a vast amount of tackles – we will know how to adapt and shape our body to perform a tackle, and hopefully, whack someone. Result.
Surely there has to be a similar approach to your mind? To start thinking successfully and powerfully? We all think in certain patterns and structures. Why would we not work just as hard to implement positive and constructive thinking in to our lives? To me, it seems like the most essential thing we could do.
Thinking positive has to come with training. It comes with effort, and the rewards will follow.
Each morning upon waking up, there’s something which I do, without fail.
Before I go to bed, I will review the day and 9 times out of 10 it will have been a good one.
I was such a negative man before. I dislocated my shoulder which caused nerve damage down my arm, accompanied by a 10-month layoff. When I fell into depression, I couldn’t perform to my required standards as a rugby player. I was naive, close minded and I thought that this was all there was for me. All I had worked for my entire life wasn’t happening and I had no information on the best way to deal with it. So, I struggled massively. I would bitch, moan and treat everything as if the world was going to end. There is a culture in this country specifically, where it is popular to moan. It’s popular to complain about most things in life. Why don’t we keep track of the good things which are happening in life instead of the insignificant stuff that doesn’t matter. If you are seen to be massively positive, people think you are a weirdo! I find it embarrassing that there is a mildly oppressing undertone where everyone should be pessimistic. I’m ok with being a weirdo, as long as I’m a comfortable, happy one.
“The biggest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another”
The reason why I have mentioned my morning and evening ritual, is because it’s tangible. It’s a part of what I believe to have led to a healthier attitude. I now walk around with a smile on my face for some bizarre reason that I’m not aware of. I now tell people how much I appreciate what they have done for me. And, I now brush anything negative which happens to me to the side. And it doesn’t have an everlasting niggle to my day.
Recognising, and then writing down what’s going good for me is just part of my daily ritual and that idea is practised everywhere. I’ve used something called the Five Minute Journal before. I’m going to make the Great Life Log to incorporate different ways which I think can work.
I find myself on the verge of a return to playing. I have been injured for just shy of a year. I have had 3 knee operations, two 6 week spells on crutches and another shoulder operation. But I am absolutely grateful for the learning curve. Must be mad, eh?
I’m running a competition. There is a chance to win my Leeds Rhinos number 13 ‘combat’ shirt. There is only one out there. I will award the winner at 9pm Sunday night 28th August.
All you have to do is tweet a photo of you having a great time. Hashtag #GreatLifeLog and #TeamMantality then send us it over!
Stay tuned with us at @Mantality_mag