Unfortunately, my first piece on Mind the Windows! is on a particularly heavy topic. This is a bit of a let-down, but bear with me. The next one is going to be about Chris Gayle, the gigantic quivering boobs and the IPL parties, I promise…
Depression to me, is amongst the nastiest afflictions conceivable to have. It can slay, just as powerfully as any other. I used to fight with it on a day-to-day basis until a couple of years ago. I sensed its company all the time. It made even the most rudimentary chore a five mile swim through quicksand.
However, this piece is not about my life-long battle with depression. Yes depression is part of this topic, but not a main one.
This is about a bloke and two interpretations of the facts surrounding him; one is heart-breaking and the other is disgraceful. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about Jonathan Trott here.
Given his recent re-introduction to the English side, and apparent forthcoming selection for the Test XI against West Indies, it seems an appropriate time to remind ourselves of what happened following the 2013/14 Ashes.
The first interpretation of those events advocates that Trott is in denial about his morale, chatting about returning to play international cricket so soon after being bundled out of the Ashes tour with ‘depression’
The second view to take is that Trott is telling the truth. He was knackered in Brisbane and hopelessly out of form, not clinically ill. Mitchell Johnson had him found out. It saw him butchered and bullied by the Australian bowlers even more than his teammates. England was hopelessly outplayed, and Trott was the worst of them.
Like any other sport, cricket can be a cruel game. There have been numerous of occasions where the batsmen were completely out of place, been figured out by the opposition bowlers and broke down simply because they had no idea what to do.
Equally so with the bowlers, where they have been easily dispatched by the opposition batsmen and left completely clueless, searching for answers. But that’s just the nature of sport or any profession for that matter. Even the greatest of professionals has their struggles. Even Lionel Messi has had bad years, like the 2013/14 La Liga season.
So it wasn’t completely surprising to see the Aussies, along with Mitchell Johnson, work out the technique of the English batsmen. Australia exposed their vulnerabilities, and then exploited them. It was plain, brutal simplicity. They hit them hard and they had no response. Only Ben Stokes of the Englishmen seemed capable of standing up to the pressure.
“Trotty has been suffering from a stress-related condition for quite a while,” said his coach, Andy Flower.
“I don’t feel it is right that I’m playing knowing that I’m not 100% and I cannot currently operate at the level I have done in the past,” said Trott himself.
Hearing those words hit me hard since, apparently, Trott’s premature departure from the tour wasn’t due to cricketing reasons. Depression is no laughing matter, lots of people make mistakes distinguishing between depression and sadness. Depression is a mental health disorder. Lots of people get miserable. Lots of people experience really extreme unhappiness, or a sustained period of unhappiness.
But is depression just the same as sadness? No.
Being sad and being depressed are two individual things. Depression contains mechanisms of sadness, but it’s scrambled with lethargy, suicidal thoughts, the incompetence to operate or complete errands of daily living and many other symptoms. So one might have argued for these inherent reasons that Trott may have struggled.
Given depression is a sensitive topic and a lot of people don’t have the guts to come out and openly talk about it, Trott deserved a lot of credit and respect at that time. He earned my utmost sympathy and admiration for so courageously coming out and admitting that he had struggled with depression in the past and for that inherent reason, he didn’t have the full capacity to perform in a high-profile, intense series such as the Ashes. And it was even more particularly impactful for me, knowing what depression is like and how much of an uphill battle it is. I had to empathise with him.
Fast forward three months, to that interview with Sky. He said that things had been misrepresented. Depression wasn’t the case. He didn’t want people to think he was a “nutcase”. He also stated that the only reason he left the tour simply because he was “burnt out”.
I heavily resented his suggestion that depressed people are ‘crazy’ and ‘nutcases’. I was absolutely outraged. For the literally millions of people fighting depression worldwide, for a professional athlete – a role model – to come out and say people with depression are “nutcases” was horrifically disrespectful. It was also a massive slap on the faces of those people who sympathised with him. At the risk of sounding vulgar, he’d taken the piss out of every person suffering from one of the most serious and deadly diseases possible.
“We were allowed to believe he was struggling with a serious mental-health issue, and treated him with sensitivity and sympathy,” Michael Vaughan wrote. “I feel a little bit conned we were told Jonathan Trott’s problems in Australia were a stress-related illness he had suffered for years”.
Vaughan summed it up succinctly. “[Trott] completely disrespected anybody who has gone through depression and mental illness by using words such as ‘nutcase’ or ‘crazy’. I find it staggering he is so ill-informed that he used those words”.
I agree with every bit of what Vaughan said. Trott deserves no sympathy. I find it absolutely astounding that so many people believe that his actions were justified and are pouring their hearts out for his support.
There was no depression or stress related issues, Trott admitted. He chickened out of the tour simply because he couldn’t cope with the brutal hostility. He is either painfully misinformed and unaware of what depression truly entails, or he is an intentionally cruel and nasty human being. Everyone would like to believe he’s simply unaware, but in a modern world where mental health is more publicised and treated respectfully than ever before, such a perspective is hard to maintain. It is incredibly hard to retain any respect for a man who is willing to demean some of the most unwell members of our community.
The word ‘stress’ should not be able to be misused as an excuse to run away from responsibility. If Trott was truly incapable of dealing with the stress and pressure at the top level of the game, then he was right in returning home.
But he should not have then demanded to be let straight back into the English side; his amazingly arrogant comments, naming a series when he deemed he would be ready for international cricket, were as out of place as the others he made in that interview.
If Trott had gone home, worked on his problems, redeemed himself at domestic level and earned a call-up to the English side, nobody would have an issue with it.
But instead he manipulated the stigma around depression to be able to get home, and subsequently ridiculed everyone who has fought, is fighting, or will fight depression.
For that, he should never be forgiven.