The former footballer has played for Arsenal W.F.C and has made 140 appearances for the England women’s national football team, but reaching the height of her career came with dangerous costs to her mental health. In an attempt to deal with her deteriorating health she turned to alcohol for comfort.
In an interview with Women’s Health she described how trolling on social media – a form of cyber bullying – led her to seek therapy.
Alex said: “When I retired, getting trolling, I found that I was turning to drink to try and hide everything, hide what I was feeling.
“Looking at my daily life, many would wonder how I could be ‘depressed’. But mental illness doesn’t work like that.
“It’s so easy to think there are people worse off than us and we have no right to feel sorry for ourselves. But that thought process alone can be really dangerous, and lead to bigger problems.
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“I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t tell my mum because I didn’t want her to worry or put that stress on her. I was just that person [who thought] ‘I can look after myself, I can deal with stuff’ but obviously sometimes that’s the wrong way.”
Alex would find herself drinking a bottle of wine a night to herself in order to fall asleep.
“I was lonely. I’d go home and it felt like I was all on my own,” Alex said. “I’d think, I’ve got no one to talk to, no one knows what I’m experiencing or going through. Until, eventually, the only thing I could do was tell everyone.
“That was my, ‘I can’t take it anymore, I need to tell you all what I’m going through’ moment.”
From here the star began therapy, gaining help from a mental health service specifically for athletes which was set up by former England and Arsenal men’s captain Tony Adams.
In a recent BBC documentary – The Truth About Improving Your Mental Health – the star was diagnosed with depression.
Symptoms of depression are important to notice and include the following:
- Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Pessimism and hopelessness
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much
- Crankiness or irritability
- Loss of interest in things once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won’t go away
- Digestive problems that don’t get better, even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.
If you find yourself or someone close to you feeling down for extended periods of time rather than just a few days it is important to seek medical advice.
Alex continued to say: “Mental illness can strike anyone at any time – no matter your age, gender or race. It doesn’t discriminate and can come totally out of the blue for some.”
If you are diagnosed with depression there are several treatment options available to you.
As Alex said herself: “Going to therapy was absolutely the most enlightening thing I’ve ever done in my life. I love it. I will never stop.”
Therapy can be extremely helpful and healthy, with most people attending talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed. For moderate to severe depression, a combination of talking therapy and antidepressants are often recommended.
Inspired by her own journey, the BBC presenter launched a new mental health platform called Headroom back in March 2021.
As an ambassador the platform helps to encourage the public to turn to the dedicated online resource in response to the mental health challenges presented by the pandemic.
The service includes practical everyday tips, inspiring personal stories, activities and music mixes to boost your mood, escape and relax.
Talking about the platform Alex said: “I am honoured to be the ambassador for BBC Headroom. This mental health ‘online hub’ is a project I am very passionate about and believe this is absolutely something we need right now.”