Marcus Trescothick, one of England's finest cricketers, spoke for the first time yesterday of the clinical depression that forced him to abandon his international career.
Trescothick –who remains England's 11th best run scorer, with an average of 43.75, described the bouts of homesickness, sleeplessness and anxiety which forced him to fly home during Test series against India in February 2006 and from Australia in November of the same year.
In a serialisation of his forthcoming book, Coming Back to Me, Trescothick, 32, said: "I would not have wished my illness on my worst enemy ... Depression is not the same as feeling down or fed up. People might say 'I'm a bit depressed today,' but true depression is quite different." In March this year the opener was found slumped distraught in a corner of a shop at Heathrow, unable to board a plane to join his Somerset team-mates for a pre-season tour of Dubai. He announced his retirement from international cricket a few days later.
He recalls how he fretted about the welfare of his wife, Hayley, who had been tearful after the birth of their first child, Ellie, during England's tour of India. A bout of fever had confined Trescothick to his hotel room.
"My mind was pulling itself apart in a hundred directions," he wrote. "Then came the pictures in my head; specific, enormous, terrifying images. What was happening at home? Was Haley OK? Was Ellie alright? I couldn't distinguish between what was real and what I imagined to be real ... things, beings, beasts, bastards ... attacked in waves, one after another, each worse than the one before. 'Oh God, Please, make it stop. Oh go, please make it stop.'"
He tried to hide his state of mind from his team-mates, but he finally fell apart during a warm-up in Baroda, India. "We were out in the field, but I didn't have a clue what was taking place around me ... [and] I was supposed to be captain."
Back in Britain, his GP diagnosed depression. He said he asked himself why he should have depression. "What did I have to worry about? I had always been someone who coped. But depression doesn't care who it attacks; if it wants you, you cannot beat it off with a CV or a bank balance."
He worked with a cognitive therapist and returned to international cricket in November 2006, during the Ashes in Australia, but it was too early. He eventually broke down: "All the same feelings of irrational fear, despair and panic that had taken over my whole being in Baroda came back, wave after great wave."
Trescothick has since returned to county cricket, helping Somerset to the Division Two championship. And he says he now has his illness under control. "While there may never be a cure, I have built up strategies to deal with my depression and understand it better," he says.