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Ex-prop Alexander posts powerful thread on beating 'deep depression'

By Liam Heagney
Retiring Brumbies star Ben Alexander

Former Wallabies prop Ben Alexander has written a powerful twelve-tweet thread revealing that he became deeply depressed during the pandemic and explaining how he reacted to beat it. The ex-tighthead, who won 72 caps for his country between 2008 and 2014, retired from playing after participating in the 2018 Super Rugby tournament with the Brumbies.

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A Wallabies pick at the 2011 Rugby World Cup and for the 2013 series versus the British and Irish Lions, Alexander exited the game having already set up a prosperous pub business but the enforced lockdown in Australia affected his mental health and he has now opened up about the helpful measures he took to combat his deep depression.

“Twelve months ago, I was burnout from the pandemic impacting my pub and fell into a deep depression,” began the 38-year-old in his Twitter thread. “But fortunately, I recovered in three months. Here’s what I did: I accepted something had to change.

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“I had been doing everything I could to look after my health and kept telling myself I was OK. But once I hit rock bottom, I realised I couldn’t keep going how I was going and had to accept that I didn’t have all the answers. I needed help.

“I told people I trust I was struggling. I told my wife and dad. I didn’t beat around the bush. I didn’t know how to get better, but I needed their help to figure out the next step. Which they did and reassured me that things would work out.

“I walked regularly with someone. At the same time each morning, I went for a walk with my dad and brothers and the combination of routine, fresh air and exercise made it easier for me to talk and get everything out that was inside my head. I did everything I could to get sleep.

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“I think depression is when your brain runs out of energy, so I focused on doing what I could to recharge it. I cut coffee, sugar, alcohol, pulled back on work and watched NBA. All of which had me sleeping like a baby within days.

“I got professional help. I reached out to the Brumbies and the team doctor made time to see me, even though he was busy and it had been years since I was his responsibility. The player welfare manager also made an appointment for me to see a psychologist. Thanks QB and Steve!

“I learned I had developed unhelpful patterns of thinking. With the help of the psych, I realised I was ruminating, catastrophising and worrying about things outside my control. All of which are wastes of energy and led to my depression. How you think impacts how you feel.

“I took medication. I was very hesitant to try these as I had heard stories of people becoming addicted. But once I was told I should look at them like a cast for a broken arm and only temporary, I gave them a go.

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“I wouldn’t say they fixed things, but they played a part in my recovery and I took them for about six weeks. Finally, I went and did something new. Once I was feeling a bit better, I decided it was time for a change so I could learn some new skills.

“The Dock no longer needed much of my attention, so I got a job at KPMG doing change management and haven’t looked back. Now I’m back at the Dock a day a week and sharing what I have learned from working at a Big 4 consultancy firm – and I’m the happiest I have been in ten years.

“Anyways, thought I’d write this for anyone out there who is struggling or knows someone doing it tough. Things will get better.”

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