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Tyson Fury, Mental Health and Vulnerability

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The last time I wrote about Tyson Fury, I was using cocaine. Fury was also using cocaine. So basically some guy doing cocaine wrote a story about another guy doing cocaine halfway around the world.

“Cocaine is f–cking awesome.”

That’s how I started the story I wrote for another boxing website in October 2016. I proceeded to write about how easy it is to fall in love with doing cocaine, how hard it is to stop doing cocaine and all the things someone has to do to make the turnaround.

I remember feeling sad.

Because while it was hypocritical for me to write about the things another man would need to focus on to get his life back on track while my own was falling apart around me, I also knew I was writing the truth because I had been through it all before.

I knew how hard it would be for me to do it again, so looking back at it now I can see I was writing the story partly for myself. I might as well had written “Stop doing cocaine, Kelsey, this always ends badly.”

In a recent interview with BBC.com, Fury talked openly about his mental health battles. “I woke up everyday wishing I would not wake up any more,” said Fury. “But I am living proof anyone can come back from the brink.”

More people have probably seen that place than let on. It’s a place full of misery and devoid of all hope.

But there’s an admirable trend going on in today’s society where noteworthy figures candidly open up about their own mental health issues. Fury did this first in a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, but if you read it now it seems more like a cry for help than anything else. Still, it was brave, emotional and raw. I’d like to see more people be so vulnerable.

“They say I’ve got a version of bipolar. I’m a manic depressive,” said Fury. “I just hope someone kills me before I kill myself.”

I don’t remember reading that bit back in 2016, but I know I feel the very same thing sometimes. Like Fury, I am also bipolar and have a whole host of other mental and behavioral issues I have to stay on top of in order to stay alive. For me, that means living in recovery from all the things I and others have done to me. Otherwise, I find myself not wanting to be alive anymore, and no amount of ringside seats or anything else in the world can really change that.

Without the tools of recovery life is just too hard.

That’s a really difficult thing for me to admit, but I think there are probably lots of other people in the world who feel the same way at one time or another and are simply afraid to talk about it. That’s a real shame. Because when nobody knows anyone is struggling with anything, at the first sign of turbulence, it can seem a whole lot more reasonable than you might expect to look for an escape pod rather than a steering wheel.

When I first started using cocaine, I did it as a way to stop feeling all the things that hurt me. Nothing made me happy anymore, and among many other things God didn’t seem to want to give my wife a baby, so I figured it was okay if I used a little of my discretionary income to numb the pain with cocaine.

I love cocaine.  

But soon after I started using it again, I realized (or maybe remembered) that while cocaine is f-cking awesome, Kelsey McCarson is pretty f-cking terrible when he’s on it. Soon I wasn’t just spending my discretionary income on cocaine but all of it. I lost my job, most of my friends, almost my wife and pretty much everything else I love, too.

So I know what it’s like to want to die.  

Scientists say there’s a phenomenon called anhedonia whereby the person experiencing it is no longer capable of feeling pleasure. It’s typical for people suffering from depressive, substance-related, psychotic and personality disorders to experience anhedonia, and as someone who has been through it, I can tell you it’s godawful. But recovery from the ailment is possible through psychiatric drugs, therapy and sometimes even just the passing of time. Yes, time heals all wounds but that axiom is suddenly valueless when find yourself writhing in the awfulness of anhedonia.

The most important thing to get out of all that is that like most other mental health issues you can’t simply think your way out of it. There’s help available, but you have to go out and get it. You have to take action.

I tried to kill myself with cocaine, and when that didn’t work I tried doing it with meth because it seemed like a relatively easy way out. At the time, I thought accidentally overdosing on drugs would look better than using a pistol to blow my brains out though now in recovery I see neither of the options are really all that palatable. I did eventually end up with a gun to my head, but thankfully I wasn’t able to pull the trigger.

Every time I read that Rolling Stone interview it’s as if Fury’s words are my own.

“I’m in a very bad place at the moment. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I don’t know if I’m going to see the year out to be honest.”

I’m so glad Fury is still alive. The world is an infinitely better place with him in it, and everyone would be wise to consider the same for themselves. He told the BBC this week that part of the reason he wants to tell people about his recovery journey is to let them know there is truly hope for everyone no matter the circumstance.  

There’s a lot of people out there suffering with mental health problems who think all their days will be grey, but life can improve again and you will start to enjoy the little things again.”

Fury said living a healthy, clean and ordered life was of vital importance to his own journey, and my personal experience tells me it’s probably true for anyone.  

Have you read the news lately? Did you see how even someone like Kate Spade, a wealthy and famous fashion designer, can end up committing suicide even when all the world around her would assume she was okay? She wasn’t, and now she’s dead.

Unchecked mental health issues can wreck anyone.

Fury has been really open about his experience and struggles. My hope is that he, alongside other people, like WWE and boxing host Mauro Ranallo–who recently let Showtime cameras into his life for a televised documentary entitled ‘Bipolar Rock ‘N’ Roller’–can help bridge the gap in American culture between stigma and awareness.

Stigmas exist for a reason. It’s society’s way of dealing with undesirable behaviors. But no matter how much stigma we place on any particular issue, there will always be someone out there somewhere suffering from all these things we don’t want to talk about.

There’s a mental health crisis happening all around us, and epidemics should never be silent. Any human life is worth a conversation.

I know from my own experience that part of what made it so hard to come back this time was feeling so alone. What would my readers think if they knew I could hear voices nobody else could hear? Or that I was addicted to alcohol, drugs and pornography? What would they say about me on Twitter?

I’m so grateful for people like Fury and Ranallo, people who go the extra mile for others by sharing their own stories about mental health. My hope is that anyone who is reading this would find encouragement in their examples, and maybe even my own sharing, too.

A year ago, I was lost, heartbroken and confused. All I wanted to do is use drugs and die. Those were the only options I knew existed. I don’t know how Fury got back to being his old self again, but I know for me it took a lot of focus on every little thing.

I sought counseling. I sought medical treatment. I sought my higher power. And I sought help from other people like me working 12-step programs. I started to live my life one day at a time. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.

Wherever you are now is not where you have to be tomorrow. Hell, look where the heavyweight champion of the world was less than two years ago, “I don’t see a way out, I don’t even see a way of living for me, I don’t want to live anymore. It has brought me to the brink of, of death, that’s where I’m at at the moment.”

And look where he is now.

This weekend, Fury will face Sefer Seferi in a 10-round heavyweight comeback bout at Manchester Arena. The fight will stream live exclusively to U.S. audiences on the Showtime Boxing Facebook page as well as their YouTube Channel beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET.

If you would have asked me two years ago when I wrote about Fury whether we’d ever see him fight again, I would’ve told you he was probably finished. And if you would have told me he would do it? And that I would also still be around to write about it?

Impossible.

But it wasn’t impossible. It only seemed so. So I share this little bit about myself to give insight into my personal journey of recovery–one that started at the brink of destruction but certainly didn’t end there.

What a gift it is for us all to witness Fury’s comeback to boxing on Saturday night. And what a gift it is for me to write about it.  

Follow Kelsey_McCarson on Twitter for more boxing commentary and personal recovery stories.

Kelsey McCarson covers boxing for NY Fights, The Sweet Science, Gambling.com and Bookies.com. He also hosts a YouTube show about boxing with his wife, Rachel McCarson, called "Real Talk with Kelsey and Rachel".

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