Harmison: I had suicidal thoughts during my England career

“I can’t say there haven’t been some dark times where I thought it would be easier if I wasn’t here”

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Former England pace bowler Stephen Harmison has revealed that he battled severe depression during his international career and even thought about committing suicide prior to the national team’s tour of South Africa in 2004.

Harmison made the revelations in his new autobiography, titled Speed Demons.

In the summer of 2004, Harmison was the top-ranked bowler in Test cricket and took 38 wickets across seven Tests against New Zealand and the West Indies.

While England went on to win all of those matches, Harmison conceded that he was in a very dark place mentally.

“As that summer went on I could feel the brightness growing darker,” Harmison wrote in his column for The Mirror. “The horrible truth was those same feelings which had consumed me on trips abroad were overpowering me again, and this time it had nothing to do with being away from home.

“The demons had not bothered to travel. They had come to get me at home, in the middle of a very successful English summer. That’s the thing with depression: It doesn’t care if you’re a millionaire, a successful doctor, a nurse, postman, airline pilot…and it doesn’t care if you’re the number one bowler in the world.”

Harmison sought help from the England medical staff, including team doctor Peter Gregory and physiotherapist Kirk Russell.

Recalling when he was asked if he had contemplated harming himself, Harmison admitted that the thought had crossed his mind.

“The honest answer was ‘Maybe’,” he wrote. “I can’t say there haven’t been some dark times where I thought it would be easier if I wasn’t here.”

However, the 38-year-old’s problems with depression and homesickness began all the way back in 1996 when he travelled to Pakistan with the England Under-19 team.

“Pretty much from the minute we landed, I wanted to come home,” Harmison added. “I felt panicky and unsettled. Merely to call it homesickness doesn’t come near to how desperate I felt.”

Fast forward to 2004, and Harmison revealed that he hit rock bottom when he was on his way to the airport for the aforementioned trip to South Africa.

“As I get in my car, that’s when it really hits me,” he wrote. “I don’t want to go. I really don’t want to go to South Africa. Behind the front door are my wife Hayley and our toddler Abbie. I have just said goodbye to them. I did the same with our five-year-old Emily before she went to school.

“I am sobbing my eyes out. For four days, I’ve been ill just thinking about this moment. The pains in my stomach are so bad I’ve had to lie on the floor, the lump in my throat so large I can hardly breathe. There are lots of roundabouts on the short drive to Newcastle airport. What if I pull out on somebody at one of them? If I do it right, I’ll buy myself another few days at home.

“In 2004, I had never felt worse. What was in that car, setting off to tour South Africa, was a broken shell. When I say I was thinking of crashing the car on the way to the airport, I’m serious.”

Harmison, who took 226 wickets in Test cricket, began to take anti-depressants and due to everything he went through, he still takes them to this day.

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