Clyde Rathbone reveals all
Cape Town - Former junior Springbok and Wallaby star, Clyde Rathbone, has written an honest and heartfelt piece about his battle with depression.
“Sometimes we have to take risks, be terrified and do it anyway". Julian Smith wrote this, so I decided to contact him, below is what I wrote. Just like I’ve asked Julian, I’m asking you all to send this to somebody you know if you think it might help them.
I’m not really sure where to start, if this appears as unlettered and rambling as I fear please accept my apologies …
I first heard about you whilst listening to Robb Wolfs podcast, from there I found your blog, read every single post, downloaded & read “Flinch” which resonated with me in ways I’m not nearly well enough equipped to articulate so I’m forced to drag out the cliché that it changed my life, but fuck it it did!
I know my story is neither as boring or as interesting as I think it is, I hope you’ll bare with me and read it (there’s an idea at the end, and I know you like those) but if you decide not to I’m fine with that too.
I was born in South Africa 30 years ago I’m the oldest of 4 boys, I had a difficult childhood, I was abused emotionally by someone who should have been looking after me. And it had a huge effect on me. A number of things can happen when you’ve been emotionally abused. Every negative thing I heard about myself, things that were said repeatedly to me became my truth, I started to believe that negative voice until it became ingrained, it affected me in nearly everything that I did and every decision I made. Usually people who are exposed to this abuse have extremely low confidence and low self esteem, In my case that was certainly true but those that knew me in high school may well describe me as arrogant, my defence mechanism was to project an image of myself that most protected me.
I was lucky in a sense because the abuse I suffered was inconsistent and definitely not as bad as many others are exposed to. So I ended up a confused, conflicted & pretty angry child and I know what saved me was that I was always good at sports, I was good at just about any sport I tried and gradually over time I started to challenge some of these negative thoughts that I had by performing well in sport. Ironically I used those negative thoughts as a driving force, as if every time I achieved success it was a reaffirmation to myself that those negative thoughts weren’t true. Every time I trained hard or played well I felt I was winning the battle against those thoughts.
And I did this most of my childhood and adulthood, this unlikely process turned me into a world class athlete, I captained the South African National U21 team to victory in the 2002 Rugby World Cup. Shortly after that I was offered a contract to play for the Brumbies rugby team in Australia. And since I knew my family planned to immigrate to Australia soon I decided to take up the offer. It was not long before I was playing for the Australian National Team, travelling the world and basically living what I thought were my dreams. The thing is I was never happy, I felt guilty that I could not appreciate the life many others could only dream of. By this point I had convinced myself that what I had gone through as a child was not that bad and I basically tried to forget about it. The fact is those issues never left me completely, they would express themselves in many ways. I would be angry or irritable or feel tension and stress and not really know why but for the most part I would say I functioned as well as I could and anyone who met me would think I was completely “normal”. And I maintained that fictitious existence for years.
But this all began to gradually change about 5-6 years ago when I picked up some serious rugby injuries which ultimately forced me to retire @ 27. That was a catalyst for a flood of all those negative thoughts I had pushed to the background, many I had not had for years slowly began coming back and over time I slipped further and further into depression until I was chronically and severely depressed. Though my body was broken I agreed to play some minor level club rugby, I injured myself in a match and needed surgery to insert a titanium plate in my face. I was on a lot of painkillers and I would go days when I would hardly get out of bed. I felt despairingly low all day, I had no motivation or optimism, I began having suicidal thoughts. And I want to say this about depression, I always looked at it as something that happened to “other people”, until I become depressed it never even crossed my mind that it could happen to me. What I’ve learnt over time is that any of us can become depressed given the wrong mix of experiences.
In that state, in the deepest of my depression my marriage began failing, I become short tempered and verbally abusive to my wife, there was never physical abuse but there is no doubt she suffered hugely emotionally. I completely neglected her and her needs. I did not know how to climb out of the hole I felt I was in, I did not even know where to start. Finally in Late 2010 I told my wife what I had gone through as a child, 10 years after our relationship began and 5 years into our marriage she was learning this for the first time.
And while it felt initially better to finally tell someone what happened, in some ways it made things worse because I began to see how much of my life had been affected by what happened to me as a child and it brought a lot of anger and resentment to the surface.
By mid May of last year my wife had had enough, she came to the conclusion that she could not help me. She had tried everything she knew to try and nothing seemed to change. She packed a bag and left to stay with her friend. Going through depression is difficult enough, but since I’ve recovered I’ve begun to realise just how tough it must have been for my wife to observe the person you care about most struggling for as long as I did while nothing my wife tried seemed to work. I think often we forget about the toll that depression takes on the people who are caught trying to help those suffering from it. If there is a hero in this story it’s how my wife has managed to remain as strong as she did for as long as she did.
Carrie leaving devastated me, that’s is both the most difficult and most valuable thing I’ve been through, because it was the first time I felt as though I was going to lose the most important thing in my life. It focussed my mind for the first time in a long time. I was at a crossroads, either I do whatever I must to completely rid myself of depression or it was likely going to cost me my marriage and probably ultimately kill me.
So as Carrie had been bugging me to do for ages I went to see a psychologist, I went to 5 sessions and they were incredibly valuable in helping me focus on the things I have control over and challenging the way I was thinking about things. After I started getting some help the main thing I developed was consistency. I started working out again, dialling in my diet, working and reading like I was starving for knowledge and I began seeing old friends again.
For the last 6 months I’ve been completely free of any sort of depression, I experience the general ups and downs of life and every now and again you get a curve ball thrown your way but at no point have I ever felt as though I’m becoming depressed or that I’m slipping back into old habits. I think of my mind in the same way I think about a broken bone that heals stronger than it was before. I feel indestructible, I rarely flinch and when I do I make sure forge ahead anyway.
Today I will finally share this story with my brothers and parents, that will be both painful and cathartic. On the 10th Feb I’ll be sharing this with a few hundred people at a speaking engagement I’m doing through work (I own a corporate health business: www.healthfutures.com.au) I feel as though by talking about it at least some good can come from a bad experience, that maybe some of the people I talk too are struggling or know someone that is and perhaps hearing my story might help them to take come action.
All of this brings me to my wife. Carrie is far and away the best thing that ever happened to me, she’s the most kind, gentle, generous, smart, funny, beautiful soul. She sees the world differently to most of us. No matter how dark a situation seems her strength of character and spirit see her through. Her strength ultimately wore her down, when I was ill she told nobody, she took every single burden of my depression squarely on her shoulders and she did everything she could. By the time she left she was literally done, I had been emotionally shut down for years and I had worn her down to the point where she had to choose between becoming depressed herself or staying in an abusive situation. She did the right thing in leaving.
Since then I’ve made incredible progress, I don’t recognise myself. I’ll send you a picture taken in Jan 2011 and another taken a little while ago in November. Transforming my mind has allowed me to transform my body. I’ve never in my life felt as capable of anything I decide to do as I feel today. I seek out things that scare me and I attack them. I feel things deeper than I ever have and my mind is always searching for that next morsel that might just change the way I view the world. Julian, I feel lucky to have found your blog, to have learned who Robb Wolf is and to have been exposed to Mark Sisson’s work. I feel enormously enlightened and humbled by the works of Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. The internet is fucking amazing, I guess I just feel lucky.
And I need your help. I need this story broadcast, I need everyone I know and everyone I don’t to read this. I need that for me but mostly I just need to tell my wife that I love her and that I’m sorry, and that anything she chooses to do for her happiness is the right decision. I need her to know that she should never settle for happier than she’s been in 10 years when what she deserves is happier than she ever imagined you could be.
So what I’m asking is that you post this on your blog, send it to anyone you can, comment on it or don’t. I just need it out there…