Australia won at the Gabba, but we knew that was going to happen two days before they actually did. Mitchell Johnson, about whom I collected a lot of very interesting stats which suddenly seem irrelevant, bowled fast and mouthed off, but we knew that was going to happen two months two months before it actually did.
What no-one knew was going to happen was that Jonathan Trott would go home with what the England management described as a ‘stress-related illness’. While this phrase might seem like another piece of ECB management mumbo-jumbo, as Dr. Brett Morrissey explained in an interview on Cricinfo it is actually to protect Trott’s privacy. Mental illness, at least while someone is in the midst of it, is an intensely private and personal thing, and until Trott has made a full recovery and is ready to talk about it as the estimable Marcus Trescothick has to such good effect the public do not need to know what precisely has gone wrong in his head.
I have suffered from depression. There are days when I still suffer from it. It took me a year or more to reconcile myself to the idea that I was ill and seek help, a month or so of CBT to be able to function in any meaningful way and all of the 13 months since to pick up the pieces, a process which has still not finished and might never do so. Many of my friends still don’t know what happened, and most of those who do have no idea of the specifics of my illness. I don’t dare think about what might have happened to me if my every up, every down, every therapy session and every empty black rage had been splashed across the back pages, talked about, written about and dissected in minute detail.
I’ve had run-ins (thankfully not very many) with a few of the ‘man up’ brigade – those troglodytes who still see mental illness as a personal failing or lack of effort rather than a medical issue necessitating treatment. I don’t dare think about what might have happened to me if the effect of that ignorance had been multiplied by the ‘take one for the team’ ethos of professional sport, laudable and thrilling to watch as that normally is, and the burden of wrongly thinking I’d let my team-mates down.
I know you’ll probably never read this, Jonathan, and I know you’ll be told what I’m about to say many times by people you love and trust. But I’m going to say it anyway: you don’t owe anything to anyone. Your only obligation is to yourself, to fix your mind and get on with your life in whatever way you see fit. Those of us who love cricket will hope that’s with the England team, but if not, so be it. Just get well very, very soon.