20 Feb David Weatherston explains mental health problems behind retirement
Former St Johnstone striker David Weatherston has bravely opened up on his battle with depression after admitting mental health problems stopped him reaching his true potential.
The 31-year-old retired from football last year as his struggles with anxiety robbed him of his love of the game.
Weatherston made his admission in a heart-felt blog post.
Although it was first written four months ago, the striker says he only felt able to reveal his problems after reading about former Falkirk player Chris Mitchell, who took his own life in May 2016 after a similar struggle.
“It’s really sad that it came to such a tragic end with Chris, but it has encouraged me to speak out about my own troubles,” wrote Weatherston, who won his 2007 Saints move on the back of a prolific stint with Queen’s Park.
“I should start by saying I’m not suicidal, never have been, although I’ve almost certainly been depressed.
“I can pinpoint the first time I ever felt nervous before a game. It was for St Johnstone in 2008 against Hamilton at McDiarmid Park in my first season as a professional.
“I hadn’t started since the new manager took over in October, then suddenly I was thrown in against the league leaders in an important game. I’d never been nervous before but suddenly self-doubt and anxiety crept in.
“Although I’d tell myself I wasn’t nervous, my body said differently. I felt physically sick, couldn’t eat, could hardly speak, felt breathless and my legs felt heavy.
“These symptoms were all due to nerves, lack of self-belief and anxiety.”
Weatherston quit McDiarmid Park after just 12 months having failed to score for the Perth side.
And his demons continued to dog him after moving to Queen of the South.
“The football dressing room is a very tough place to be if you have anxiety or depression because it’s a ruthless business where everyone looks after themselves,” he continued. “Most of the jokes are about making fun of people.
“There’s no place to hide on a training pitch and when I was young at Queens I found it difficult.
“I was nervous about every game. I was sick several times, even once on the pitch during the warm up, and it regularly affected my performances.”
Although he experienced a brief improvement after moving to Falkirk in 2011, Weatherston admits his problems, combined with a string of injuries, ultimately cast him into a “downward spiral”.
“I’ve learned to deal with the feeling over the years, but they never really go away. I could force food down before games and relax sometimes, but the truth is I was never the same player again,” said the frontman, who ended his career with stints at Stirling, Alloa and Brechin.
“I never felt carefree like I’d been at 19, and it resulted in part-time football and dropping down the divisions.
“Looking back I wish I’d asked for help but mental illness is a huge taboo. In football, if you show it you’re tagged mentally weak.
“Although I had a decent career, it should have been much better and I’ll forever regret it.”