Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Book Review: Coming back to me

Writing Wednesday

I was quite wary about starting to read Marcus Trescothick's autobiography Coming back to me.  It chronicles not only his lifelong love of cricket and his professional achievements, but also his struggles with depression and the impact it has had on his career and family life. It has had wonderful reviews, awarded the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2008, so it had to have a quality worth reading.

As a cricket lover, the first part was not a great worry, although I have little interest in Somerset as a team, nor (to be fair) in Marcus's achievements, amazing though they were. And, if you don't have an interest in cricket then I would recommend skipping most of the book. Trescothick was (still is, I guess!) one of England's greatest ever opening batsmen. He scored prolifically and sometimes easily against the most feared bowlers in the world. He was part of the 2005 Ashes team that beat the Australians under Vaughan's captaincy. My only criticism of the book is that I struggled to follow exactly which year I was in, as a plethora of matches (county and country) were rattled through.

But what worried me about reading it was his admission of and reactions to depression. Yet that was also the prime reason for picking up the book. In my teenage years I watched both my parents suffer from depression, my mother to a level that hospitalised her for several weeks, and at university age another close family member was close to taking their life. Knowing what it is like as an observer, living with the highs and lows, made me wonder if I could really read what this brave man had been through.

Marcus set out in detail the steps leading to his breakdown - the pressures of being on tour for months on end and his evident love of his wife and daughters. He also writes about how afraid he was of going public, a chapter entitled 'The Lie' when he was interviewed and only told part of the story. But when he had a few more months to come to terms with the illness he recognised that the only way to explain his absence from international trips was by admitting to his problems. He did make one more failed attempt to play overseas, but didn't get further than Dixon's at Heathrow. The crippling anxiety attacks and fearful separation from his family were too much. England's best batsman is never to play international cricket again.

Depression is a dreadful illness, coming in many forms. Marcus' strength of character to write about his experiences will undoubtedly help many others to be open and honest about their own situations. Despite my concerns, I was eagerly turning the pages, willing his illness to vanish as much as he had. It is not a book for a non-cricket-lover, but anyone with concerns about mental health should read this for Marcus's openness, honesty and candour. As a Yorkshire lass I have problems with his prowess for Somerset, but huge admiration for him as a man.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Great review. I'm not a cricket fan at all but I quite fancy reading it. We need more people to be candid about depression and mental illness for it to lose its stigma.

My father was deeply depressed which led to symptoms of mania and violence - only years later was I able to understand that his illness explained (if not exactly excused) his behaviour.

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