A Top Sportman’s Depression

Mike Yardy had reached his career goal. The cricket all-rounder was in the England team for the World Cup in India. But instead of feeling excitement, he was stuck in his hotel room, unable to pull himself out of a consuming despair…and he knew he had to come home. He wouldn’t hide the reason: he was suffering from depression.

‘I don’t think you should keep it quiet,’ he explained. ‘I’m not embarrassed or ashamed about what happened. I view it as an injury. If I’d have pulled a thigh muscle, it wouldn’t even be a question.’

Yardy first became aware of his condition in 2008, when he was 25.

The biggest thing about depression is you become a very good actor,’ he explained. ‘You’re in the car feeling really down and the next minute you’re surrounded by people giving off the impression that you’re up and with it. Instead of attempting to address the underlying causes, you become very good at masking it. You can’t imagine how much that takes out of you. Always putting this front on, but inside, chewing yourself up. And eventually you just evaporate.’

On returning to England from the tour of India, things did not immediately improve.

All I wanted was for everything to be normal,’ he recalled. ‘Just to go back to where everything was happy in my life. I’m not sure it worked at first. I spent too much energy trying to make things happy instead of dealing with the issues in my head.’

And people’s reactions were not always helpful. Some in the crowd were abusive. Others did their best, but missed the mark:

‘I got letters from people saying thank you for being open about your problems. But everyone with poor mental health is different. I find it tricky sometimes because people come up to me and say: ‘I know what you’re going through.’ I don’t want to be disrespectful, but I feel like saying: ‘Well no you don’t.’’

So what will he be telling anyone who seeks his advice in the future?

‘I think you’d help them find strategies which would constantly reassure them about what they had done to get there. I used that when I was playing for England. And there were periods I got it so right. Periods when I was clear what I did, I didn’t catastrophise bad performances, I didn’t get too high. And there were other times when I just thought: you’re going to get found out here.’

As for his own depression, he is confident things will only get better.

‘I’m still coming to terms with being sufficiently self-aware to recognise trigger points and what I can do to help when problems arise,’ he admitted. ‘I’m learning strategies every day.’

With thanks to Jim White and his helpful piece in the Daily Telegraph.