How a rugby coach overcame sadness

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By Creative Media News

Paul Pook adds, “We hear the term ‘functioning alcoholic,’ but sometimes I think of myself as a functioning suicidal.” He apologizes for the comparison and explains that he is unsure if it is acceptable, but he cannot think of a better way to describe it. Pook has been a high performance coach for the Irish rugby union team, the Russian Olympic Committee, and the Australian Institute of Sport for the past two decades. He has assisted in the victory of grand slams and gold medals. And he constantly had these thoughts. The medical term for this is “suicidal ideation.”

Pook reports experiencing turbulence when flying out of Moscow. “And I’m thinking, ‘This may be it, the plane’s about to crash, and then I won’t feel this anguish again.'” He is bipolar and describes his condition on a sliding scale. “One is suicidal, five is normal, and ten is crazy.” Five times in my life I’ve been awake at one o’clock, I’ve spent a lot of time around three, and maybe once I was awake at eight or nine.”

How a rugby coach overcame sadness
How a rugby coach overcame sadness

That was when he was so overwhelmed by the patterns of coincidence he observed in the universe that he ended up racing into a church, “and I looked up at this statue of Jesus and he had his hand raised, and he only had four and a half fingers on it, just like I only have four and a half fingers myself…” He raises his right hand, on which his pinkie is gone.

“Therefore, in my mind, I was connected to Jesus, and I recall calling my girls to tell them, ‘Look, Daddy is going to become extremely famous.'” A week later, I met with a publisher in Covent Garden to urge them to publish the article.

“That was the craziest I’ve ever been. But I have experienced manic moments in which I was extremely impulsive, made poor decisions, and caused harm to those closest to me. As is the case with all diseases, your family and friends will also be affected.

Light amid depression
How a rugby coach overcame sadness

Pook lived because of his affection for his two daughters. It was his dissuader. He felt as though he did not wish to live, but he could not bear to die. He underwent six years of psychiatric treatment, was prescribed eleven drugs, including lithium, antipsychotics, and anticonvulsants, and went cold turkey on several occasions.

“I spent the entire time trying to determine why I was suffering.” His despair was inexplicable to him. It began during his tenure at Harlequins in the early 2000s. “And I was so satisfied back then; I was married and had a beautiful daughter.”

This year he received a response. Pook was a player for Bridgend, West Hartlepool, Llanelli, and Ebbw Vale before becoming a rugby coach. He retired in the late 1990s after suffering a succession of severe concussions. Soon after, he began experiencing petit mal seizures and bladder control issues.

“However, I nearly brushed it under the rug, and it gradually disappeared.” The depression then began. Pook always suspected their connection. Now, he claims that a battery of specialized tests prepared by the team organizing the legal action against the game’s authorities has corroborated his claim.

Pook is among the 225 former rugby union players involved in the lawsuit. He stands apart from the group since he has bipolar disorder and has not been diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

The scans indicate that I suffered a brain hemorrhage, and it’s quite likely that this hemorrhage caused my mood problem and depression, which later developed into bipolar. He is aware that mental health is the product of “colliding variables,” but “the evidence strongly implies that rugby created it for him.

The diagnosis was welcome news. “I was conflicted because I didn’t want to use my sickness as a justification for my behavior as if rugby were to blame for the poor decisions I made. I do not see it in that light. I feel accountable for my past actions and strive to make atonement for them.

Finally, he was able to inform his older brother about his ailment. “He was my source of approval, someone I was always attempting to wow. I suppressed my difficulties from him for fifteen years, only revealing them an hour after receiving the neurologist’s diagnosis.

My brother said quickly, “I will not allow my son to play rugby.” Pook advised him not to do so. He still enjoys the game because he is so appreciative of the experiences and friendships it has afforded him that he never would have had otherwise. During the past few months, he has rekindled a number of his old acquaintances and formed new ones. Pook is still an elite coach and is pursuing a project with a former top-10-rated tennis player, but he is devoting an increasing amount of time to assisting former rugby players.

Pook claims he has taught himself how to manage his disease. He completed coursework in mental health and non-pharmacological brain wellness. Now he can do the same for others, whether they have dementia with early onset or depression.

“These players require immediate assistance and optimism. I am a trainer. I prefer evidence-based coaching regarding sleep, diet, mindfulness, and mobility, and I would like to provide the players with this assistance. Some factors, such as brain injury, are beyond our control, but others are. There is no cure, but everyone can do something to improve their quality of life.”

He has been bringing players for oxygen therapy and is a firm believer in the need of acquiring new talents and hobbies. He has picked up drums and tennis. “I’m trying to inspire optimism.

You must realize that life will constantly experience ebbs and flows. There is no worse emotion in the world than suicide ideation. But there is no greater sensation than not feeling suicidal. When I go for my morning walks at sunrise, I begin to cry with gratitude that I’m feeling well, that I’m able to function, and that I believe my suffering is over.

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