|Johnny Morton (Newsletter)
As of posting this article Jason Maxwell is well in to his journey to run 3km at each NCU ground for Action Mental Health. Johnny Morton has kindly given permission to reproduce this article he wrote a week or so ago for the Belfast Newsletter.
As Jason Maxwell’s two kids play away on a sun-drenched Banford Green outfield, he takes a seat on the boundary to talk about his journey to this point.
This is a venue that has brought many happy memories for Maxwell over the years through his association with Millpark and now at Donacloney Mill following a merger between the clubs prior to the 2017 season.
Cricket has been a release at times for the 37-year-old from everyday life, where he has struggled with mental health issues for the majority of his adulthood.
It came to a head last year when he didn’t leave his house for almost three months, outside of his commute to work, which he says left him in an ‘abyss’.
“I would go to work and then come home again and that was me for 10 weeks,” he said. “You feel really low, nothing seems to go your way and nothing seems worth living for.
“I have two kids and they are depending on me, but that didn’t matter at the time to me and it’s just hard to focus in general. “Sometimes you feel like you’re coming back up again but then something happens and it sends you right back down again.”It seems like an abyss that is so hard to get out of.”
Maxwell went to see a GP in September about the problems he had, but when childhood friend Darren died from a brain tumour, it set him back to square one and left him at a very low point. “I had gone to the GP in early September and it had been getting to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore,” he adds. “It was just getting to a really low point and I broke down in front of him and from then I’ve started climbing the ladder.
“I felt better because I had spoke about it and was climbing up a bit. “My friend Darren then, who had a brain tumour for a long time but it had gone away and he was in remission, it came back again and whenever he died that was me back to square one.”I wasn’t mentally ready to deal with that at the time.
“He was only 32 and it was very sad – his mum and dad have always been good to me and I went to go to his wake but sat in the car and couldn’t go in.
“I couldn’t get myself to go into the house and I just sat there for 45 minutes before going home again.”
Anxiety has also been a major issue for Maxwell and he recalls vividly taking an attack in work but, with the help of counselling and medication, he has started to combat those feelings. “It wasn’t as much going outside but for me being in crowds,” he said. “I would have gone to Tesco and been in and out as quickly as I could. “I still don’t feel as comfortable in crowds, but it isn’t to the extent that it was. I remember sitting at work and taking an anxiety attack and not knowing how to deal with it. I still hadn’t told work at this stage what was going on, and I was just sitting there with the boss beside me. They have been very supportive of me since I told them about it and have made a large donation to the run. I would have to thank JP and Glenn for that.”
The stigma surrounding mental health issues has been broken down over recent years, with more high-profile cases in the media and fantastic work being done by various charities around the world. Maxwell encourages anyone who is suffering in silence to come forward and seek the necessary help and guidance after experiencing first-hand just how much of a positive impact it can have.
“I think the majority of people don’t come out and seek the help and that is part of the problem,” he adds. “I felt a hell of a lot better talking about the problems and it helped me and I would encourage anyone who even wanted to have a word with me and I would definitely lend an ear. Support-wise, there is support out there but there’s a stigma around it. I didn’t even make my GP appointment – I just told my mum I wasn’t feeling well but nothing about what was going on and she made the appointment and that was my day and way of getting out of it. It’s hard to come forward at the start, people have been messaging me to say “I went through similar” and it’s been making it worthwhile that I’ve put my story out there.”
At the start of August, Maxwell will be running around every cricket ground in the NCU (which will equate to a total of 100km) to raise money for Action Mental Health. “It was something that I had in my head for a while before I had my own problems and that gave me the urge to do it,” he said. “I associate cricket with happier times with my mates, so it seemed like an obvious thing to do. I probably haven’t trained as much as I should have yet! I am up to 30km on the bike but haven’t made it out onto the roads and done that yet. I did a 10k last week and I will start to do intervals now with 3km followed by a walk to imitate what I will be doing.”
Although there are still dark days and there will be more ahead for Maxwell, he has taken that first step down the wicket as he looks to smash his struggles for six. It’s also been heart-warming to see the positive reaction from the cricket community for one of our own and it’s been a pleasure and honour to bring you Maxwell’s story.
For anyone wishing to support Maxwell’s forthcoming charity run, you can at this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jason-maxwell2