French rugby star Mathieu Bastareaud has written a tell all autobiography titled ‘Head High: Confessions Of A Terrible Child Of Rugby’. In it, he has gone into great detail regarding his battle with depression and alcoholism.
In 2009, during the French tour of New Zealand, Mathieu Bastareaud claimed he was attacked by five men in central Wellington. The attack, according to the French rugby star, had taken place on the 20th of June after the second test at Westpac Stadium.
The story that the Toulon centre told however, did not tie in with camera footage from the team hotel that saw him entering his room in the early hours of the morning uninjured. After police had presented said evidence to the French management, Bastareaud admitted he had been lying.
He had not been attacked by five men. He had not even been involved in an altercation. Instead, in a drunken state, he had fallen while attempting to undress and smashed his face on a table.
Writing about the incident in his autobiography, the French centre says that he had decided to go drinking after France’s 14-10 loss to the All Blacks and returned to his room in a rather inebriated state.
“Then, wanting to take off my clothes,” he writes. “I lost my balance, I staggered and, awkwardly, collapsed on the floor with all my weight. In my fall, I smashed the room’s night table.”
“The shock was terrible. I was bleeding a lot and it hurt. My left cheekbone had exploded… I panicked.”
At just 20 years of age at the time, Bastareaud feared that the emergence of his drunken escapade would jeopardize his career. Hoping to cover up the incident, the Toulon centre woke teammate Alexis Palisson and together they fetched their team doctor to stitch his wounds.
“The doctor asked me how I got the injury. I should have confessed I was drunk, but I was ashamed of my behaviour and afraid to face consequences. I was a coward.
“So, instead of telling the truth and trusting management, I developed a lie. A lie, that would have heavy consequences.”
When he returned to France, Bastareaud began to drink even more heavily and, struggling with the shame of his lie, he became depressed to such an extent that he tried to commit suicide.
The Toulon centre, who suffered from Bulimia as a child, (an eating disorder which is frequently attached to additional psychiatric disorders) had taken the decision to end his life after discovering an anonymous website where people criticised him online.
“I jumped up and walked to the kitchen. I took a big knife and slit my veins.” he explains in a matter of fact manner. “I immediately collapsed on the floor, fainting.
“My friends in the living room heard the noise and came in. They saw the knife, the blood, and me lying there, unconscious and they called emergency services immediately.”
Bastareaud’s life was saved but after the incident, he was kept in hospital with severe psychological issues.
“I don’t know if I really wanted to die. I wanted to suffer. I wanted to punish myself.”
“When you hear everywhere all day long that you are just a loser, that you don’t deserve to be there… You try to keep a cool attitude but you begin to believe what people say… I smiled in public but, as soon as I came back home, I was alone.”
Bastareaud’s story is an incredibly open and frank account of the struggles that one faces when coping with depression. His fight is ongoing but with the help of a psychologist, the French star has gone from strength to strength and he is currently preparing for the Rugby World Cup in September.
John Murphy, Pundit Arena