Premiership winner’s ‘miserable’ torment
Former AFL star Tom Boyd has opened up about his battle with clinical depression which prompted his retirement from professional sport in 2019.
Boyd won an AFL premiership with the Western Bulldogs in 2016. He managed eight marks and three goals during the team's 22-point Grand Final victory over the Sydney Swans at the MCG.
As a number one draft pick on a million dollars per season, everything was seemingly falling into place for the young footy star, but an ongoing mental health battle brought his career to a premature conclusion. In July 2017, Boyd was diagnosed with clinical depression, and stepped away from the sport to seek help.
"I was sitting there and I'd been having real issues with insomnia for a number of weeks at that stage," Boyd said.
"What they get you to do is firstly they medicate you and generally that's not enjoyable, as some of the sleeping medication is so powerful that in the morning you wake up and you feel so bad and almost hungover from the effects from the medicine.
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"The other one they get you to do is you sit in a chair next to your bed and say, 'Sit in the chair until you start to doze off, get into bed, get out of bed and if you can't sleep repeat that.' That's part of just trying to bore your brain to sleep.
"On that Tuesday, I'd kind of got to the end of my tether, I'd missed a couple of games but it was essentially all stemmed from not being able to sleep."
Boyd knew he wasn't able to continue competing with this distressing mental state, and decided to contact psychologist Lisa Stevens for guidance and help, which in hindsight proved a critical turning point for the young footballer.
"I couldn't comprehend why I was feeling so terrible about myself. Everyone in my life is telling me how good I've got it, but I was 100 per cent miserable," Boyd explained.
"I couldn't play on the weekend. If I didn't get help … I didn't know what was going to happen next.
"The first time in my life I actually called her and specifically asked for help. I said, 'Lisa, I can't play on the weekend'. Of course, her being her, she said, 'How can I help?'
"I made the effort and decision to get someone to help me through that time. If I didn't, I don't know what would've happened next.
"That was the last time I felt so hopeless that I couldn't comprehend anything good happening in my life.
"That was some two-and-half years ago and it's been a general uphill slope since then."
In May 2019, Boyd announced his immediate retirement from the AFL at 23 years of age, still with two years on his contract with the Bulldogs. He never played more than 15 games in a season due to lingering injuries and his mental health.
"My decision to retire now is a reflection of issues I've had over the past five years both with physical injury and with mental health, and they have now accumulated to a point where I just don't have the desire to play or the enjoyment of the game I used to have," Boyd said in a statement.
"I've spoken with key people at the Western Bulldogs and my close friends and family, and I am satisfied that this is the right decision for my future. I approached the Club about my desire to retire and be released from my contract this week, and we have worked out a mutually agreeable position."
However, since leaving the AFL, Boyd's mental wellbeing has improved drastically, and he has even recommenced his university studies in Victoria.
"The last eight months have been extraordinarily enjoyable for me," Boyd said on The Fat Side Podcast in March.
"I've really got engaged in the public speaking space, doing a lot of work in mental health and wellbeing. I've started doing my uni again at Vic Uni, Business and Management and Innovation. At the same time, I started up playing footy at St Kevin's."
Originally published as Premiership winner's 'miserable' torment