I don’t know about you but I always find it humbling when someone in the public eye finds the courage to speak out about their struggle with depression. At some point we’ve all had to make that choice, to speak out and so we can appreciate how frightening it is. Jonny Wilkinson has achieved such a high level in his rugby career in spite of and despite, his depression which I find inspirational.
We were very lucky to have the opportunity to probe a little further and ask Jonny some questions. As massive rugby fans, we couldn’t resist throwing in a couple of rugby questions too. Here goes….
Did you find it difficult to write about your depression in your new book?
I certainly didn’t find it easy. It wasn’t a comfortable experience for me opening up about something that has at different times made me feel weak, silly, lost and very low. It is clearly a very personal issue but learning about it and understanding where it came from and how it came about has allowed me to view it as a disease and not part of me.
What kept you going even on your worst days?
It’s difficult to be precise here but for me it was little things like knowing that I was not alone and that many others suffer with something similar helped. Something very important to me is knowing that there is an end in sight and surrounding myself with people who I believe can help me to get there.
What has helped you the most with your depression?
Probably a combination of the above. Isolating it as a disease was a great start, learning about the disease, discovering how widespread the disease is amongst others helped me find a touch of stability too. My loved ones were always there for me and the professional help I received was amazing. I would definitely advise others who are seeking help to take time to find someone that they have a connection with before diving in.
What advice can you give others that are just starting out in sport?
Make every second count. By that I don’t just mean working and practising every waking hour but actually enjoying and embracing every opportunity. Listen to those more experienced than yourself, respect your peers, your opposition and above all the sport that you are involved in. Finally, believe in yourself and don’t forget to pat yourself on the back once in a while when you do things well.
Can you give any tips when it comes to eating well and nutrition?
I can only speak for myself and the principles I follow. Eat a good breakfast. I try to get a good amount of protein into very meal and avoid saturated fats as much as I can. Take a packed lunch with you if you don’t have time to eat much during the day. Sometimes a good lunch can be extras from dinner the night before. At dinner time get plenty of protein and vegetables but don’t go overboard on potatoes and rice or pasta. Treat yourself once a week maybe and avoid eating a lot of the obvious danger foods like butter, cheese, chocolate, biscuits, cakes and other stuff. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables, organic if possible. If you are training hard then make sure you are getting enough food beforehand (2 hours before) and protein and energy back in very soon afterwards.
When did you first realise you had depression?
I think it was when I started giving up and stopped caring and when I had no answers and couldn’t function. It was our club doctor Graeme Wilkes who first introduced me to the concept of depression which before then I believed was reserved for “other people”.
Have you achieved everything you have set out to in rugby?
I’m always searching for the best of me and will keep doing so until the day I hang up my boots.
What is your favourite ground to play at and why?
I love our home ground here in Toulon. The Stade Mayol is right on the port, right by the sea, is invariably packed to the rafters and is frequented by some of the most passionate fans in the world. Playing in the sunshine helps too!
What do you do to relax/chill out?
I play my guitar, my piano, read, watch dvds, hang out with my family, girlfriend and friends and play other sports. I love being quiet and walking by the sea too.
Thanks to Jonny for granting us the time to ask him a few bits and bobs. If you haven’t bought it already, his autobiography is out now and is a must read.