Open up in lockdown - former City winger's mental health message
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017
Last March, at the beginning of the first lockdown, Cedric Anselin was scared.
The former Norwich City FC midfielder, who lives alone in Frettenham, a village six miles northeast of Norwich, is known across the county for opening up four years ago about his struggles with depression.
"I was absolutely petrified, I was thinking how am I going to survive, how am I going to live without the structure and routine I've had for the last four years?
"I was worried I was going to go downhill," he said.
But the 43-year-old, who played for the Canaries between 1998 and 2001, and previously won a Uefa Cup runners-up medal with Bordeaux, quickly wrote down a plan that would guide his days for the length of the lockdown.
"It was about trying to get up every day at the same time, doing work at home online, trying to eat healthy and at regular times of the day. Later in the afternoons I would go running. This was something to look forward to at the end of the day.
“Now we're in the third lockdown, I've done exactly the same."
In 2016, after going public about his mental health difficulties, which had cost him his marriage and almost led to a suicide attempt, Mr Anselin signed up as a mental health ambassador for Norfolk County Council and later with Mind, the mental health charity, and since then has doing everything he can to share the message that being open is crucial when you have a mental health issue.
In normal times, he travels to events across Norfolk, talking about triggers for mental health difficulties, and how he has managed to be where he is in his life, surrounding himself with good energy and positive people.
During the pandemic, people have been reaching out to him on social media.
"For me communication is key. In the past, I was a very bad communicator, I was quite happy to be on my own, to be left on my own, not to even reach out to my wife at the time.
"Over the last four years, I've learned it's important to speak, it's okay to be not okay.”
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Managing Norwich United from 2018 to 2020 helped him become a better communicator, he said.
"With managers and bosses you have to be a very good communicator to the players, your instructions have to be clear and crystal.
"When I was a footballer, I knew something was not right in me, but I had never heard of depression, I had never heard of wellness, I had never heard of paranoia.
“If you said to someone, I have a mental health illness, people would judge you and say you're a crazy person.
"I was in the changing room, keeping myself to myself. Sometimes I was at training, thinking what am I doing here, and I knew I should feel privileged, because millions of kids dream about playing professional football.”
His work as mental health ambassador has brought him into contact with scores of people around Norfolk.
"On social media, you can see some people are struggling, because they put out posts, and I always check on those people, even if I don't know the person," Mr Anselin said.
In November 2019, Aylsham woman Naomi Farrow, who had been admitted to a mental health hospital, was regularly publishing blogs about her illness.
These prompted Mr Anselin to contact her and organise a visit. The pair have been supporting each other ever since.
Ms Farrow said: “I find it amazing that even though he has his own problems he still wants to help others. It’s to be commended.”
Mr Anselin had been planning to do a skydive last November to raise money for MIND but the event was called off due to coronavirus.
"I'm hoping it will happen this year,” he said.
So far, he has raised £1,300.
He has also signed up for Open Up, a virtual conference on mental health and wellbeing taking place on February 12
He said: “I take more satisfaction now by walking into a room and talking about mental health than from playing in front of 60,000 people at the San Siro against AC Milan, because I might be able to help some people who are in the same situation I was in. They listen to me and they might see some light.”
If you need help and support, call Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline 0808 196 3494 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours 7 days a week. You can also download the Stay Alive app on Apple & Android.