The mind and the body will drive us, and talent will only bring us so far, but to succeed and achieve our goals we need to combine aptitude with strength. Wise words from Rugby pundit Brent Pope’s new book Win: Proven Strategies for Success in Sport, Life and Mental Health, written with psychotherapist Jason Brennan. Brent spoke with Sean O’Rourke on the Today programme, admitting he was diagnosed with a dysthymic personality that can range from severe anxiety to severe bouts of depression. Another feature to this would be the denial of euphoria.
“People talk about having moments of chronic euphoria in their lives be it in a form of marriage, of giving birth to a child. Sadly, for me, I lack those moments in my life.”
The former rugby player revealed that he was only thirteen or fourteen years of age when he started exploring his mental health issues after having panic attacks. He explains the physical components of such an attack are shaking, crying and struggle for a breath. Albeit, the psychological fear was him being a failure and amounting to nothing.
“The psychological fear was, failure and that my whole life would be a failure and that I’d be unsuccessful at anything I did. I wouldn’t amount to anything and I would be unloved and that I would be homeless.”
Pope wants to destigmatise the stigma that has attached itself to mental health and wants people to stop carrying shame. He told Sean that in sport you’ve got people battling with depression, loneliness and isolation combined with the expectations of winning. When people come fourth in the Olympics or lose World Cup medals they can’t recover from the loss. For Brent, his body has always served him well, but his mind is what always been a struggle.
He reiterated that it’s easy to walk into a doctor and complain about a broken leg or arm but it’s never easy to say I think there may be something else, mentally speaking.
“We can’t have it all. So, what happens when a young player gets an injury and suddenly has to change careers, it’s life-changing for a lot of people.”
While Brent is out and about giving talks around the country he said it appears that the older athletes all appear to regret not having someone to talk to. It’s perceived as a weakness for men to seek mental health help.
“They come up to me after I speak around the country and say, Brent, I’m going through a tough time and who do I talk to? I think the culture is changing where young men can go and talk about their feelings.”
To listen to the full, fascinating discussion from Today with Sean O’Rourke, click here.
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