CHESTER-LE-STREET: Former England batsman Graeme Fowler said Friday that Twitter conversations had prompted him to write a book, ‘Absolutely Foxed’, which chronicles his experience of depression.
“At the end of every season, come September, in the first week I would lock myself in the house. I’d get a huge pile of videos and watch films for the week,” Fowler told BBC Radio’s Test Match Special in an interview during the lunch break of the first Test between England and Sri Lanka in Durham.
“I took that as recharging my batteries. Was that a precursor to mental health issues? I don’t really know.”
He added: “I didn’t find writing about it cathartic. When I was depressed I was on Twitter, firing things into the dark. I got messages of support coming back. It was helping me and helping them. That’s how the book came about.”
Fowler, who made his name with his native Lancashire, played 21 Tests for England from 1982-85.
As an opening batsman, he was good enough both to score a Test hundred against the formidable West Indies pace attack at Lord’s in 1984 and a double century against India in Madras (now Chennai) a year later.
The 59-year-old Fowler, nicknamed ‘Foxy’, finished his first-class career with Durham.
He then went on to set up run the centre of cricket excellence at Durham University, whose ‘graduates’ include former England captain Andrew Strauss, for nearly two decades until stepping down last year after its remit was broadened.
As news of his mental health problems spread within the cricket community, Fowler received support from former team-mates including England great Ian Botham.
“Ian Botham is the most generous man I’ve ever met,” said Fowler.
“If people don’t like him it’s because they don’t know him…He doesn’t understand mental health issues, but he knew I needed something.”
Botham might well be perplexed equally by Fowler’s ongoing eccentric decision to spend summers living in a tent in his garden.
“I love being outside,” said Fowler. I don’t like being inside. If I get anxious, I boil if I’m indoors.
“I’ve done it for about six years. The dog even has his own sleeping bag. I usually do May-September, then come inside,” added Fowler, set to become a mental health ambassador with England’s Professional Cricketers’ Association.
Fowler’s interview came a day after England left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, now trying to revive his career where it all began with Northamptonshire, following spells with Sussex and Essex, said he had experienced paranoia and anxiety while suffering from mental health problems.
“I felt I had low self-esteem and, especially when my confidence went low, I would get into a place of paranoia,” said the 34-year-old Panesar, now a PCA mental health ambassador.
“I felt I got into a place where I had anxiety and depression issues.”
Fowler eventually weaned himself off medication but Panesar said it had helped him greatly.
“I went on medication and it calmed a lot of things down in my mind and it took away the symptoms of being paranoid,” Panesar explained.