‘I don’t cry, but I did that day’ - Wrestler opens up on grappling with mental health in candid new book
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
A Norwich professional wrestler has opened up about grappling with mental health and finding light at the end of the tunnel in a no holds barred story of his life.
Roy Bevis, better known as Roy Knight, was born into Norwich's most famous wrestling family and at 38 has put pen to paper on his extraordinary life journey - from the elation of wrestling his son at Carrow Road to harrowing accounts of being abused as a child and battling his own mental demons.
While he is best known for his life in the ring, Mr Bevis has told of a horrific childhood of abuse - both physical and sexual - and its devastating impact on him in later life - which saw him serve a number of years in the prison system.
At a very young age he recalls being groped by men and beaten as a child, but it was not until he was 29 years old and serving time that he felt ready to speak about the traumatising experience. And it was doing this, he says, that changed him completely as a person.
He said: "When I was in prison I was going through counselling and after one of the group sessions somebody said they could sense that I had been abused as a child. I initially denied it and actually got quite angry he had even suggested it. But after about the seventh or eighth time he said it to me I broke down.
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"I don't cry, but I did that day. It was almost as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. All of a sudden I wasn't angry anymore and I was a different person."
Mr Bevis has spent three separate spells in prison, once for drink-driving and two different violent offences, but has not been back inside for more than a decade.
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And the father-of-three, of Bawburgh, is now hoping that by sharing his story - from its highs to its lows - will encourage others to speak out about their own experiences of depression and mental illness.
He said: "Being a wrestler and playing football I'm almost always surrounded by man's man types and there is a bit of pressure to be the same way. It is so much harder for men to talk out about mental health, but for me, speaking about it has made me feel so much better.
"It was extremely difficult speaking about my childhood and what happened to me for the book. It was a dark time so it was a challenge to talk about and reliving it was tough."
And the grappler has told of the moment his father - Ricky Knight Snr - was brought to tears the first time he read his son's memoirs, which he has penned alongside ghost writer Neil Cameron.
He said: "My father is my best friend and my hero, but reading the book was the first time he really found out about what had happened to me growing up and he shed a few tears. That shows what kind of book it is.
"I've had some really moving feedback already and have been taken aback by how many people have come to me and said how much reading my story has helped them - which exactly why I wanted to tell it."
The book recounts the highs and lows of Mr Bevis's life and career - culminating with stories of the 4,000 seater show at the home of Norwich City and 'Fighting With My Family' - the Hollywood film produced by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson about his family.
"The main message I want to get out is that you're never down and out," he added. "There is no cure for depression and mental illness, but it doesn't have to stand in your way either. I've gone from being abused as a child and serving time in prison to wrestling my own son at Carrow Road and standing on a red carpet in Hollywood. There is always hope."
Wrestling With My Mind by Roy Bevis is available to order online for £14.95 from Amazon.Extracts from Wrestling With My Mind
On his violent past
"I have to live with what I did. I won't hide from the mistakes I've made in the past. I am not proud of them, but I have to accept that I did these things.
"I won't make excuses for my past - just in the same way I won't complain about the punishments I received. I only have myself to blame and did them out of my own choice I do genuinely regret them though."
On 'Fighting With My Family'
"Sitting in the cinema and watching my family's life on the big screen was just mind-blowing. Seriously, I can't even describe what it was like watching it all play out in front of my eyes after everything my family had been through to get to that point.
"To go from our council house in Norwich to being seen on the big screens across the world was emotional."
On speaking out
"Opening up was something I could never have even contemplated, not even to my family, because I thought that I would be seen as weak or I would ruin the character I was trying to protray.
"It's this kind of mentality we need to break down. So many people, especially males, end up harming themselves because we're taught not to be open about who we are or how we are feeling.
"It was only the counselling that eventually slowed me down and got me on a path where I could sort myself out."
On mental scars
"Although I appear okay on the outside now, I still carry mental scars all the time. Sleeping with the light on is just one example and there are times when certain thoughts and feelings come back to me, like some sort of crashing tidal wave of self-doubt and fear.
"At one time I would have blotted these feelings out with alcohol, but now I either hit the gym or go for a run and it gives me the peace of mind I need."
On prison helping him
"It was time to take a good long look at myself and my life. Prison had allowed me to open up about the depression that had been eating away at me, but sadly though, it is not a quick fix solution.
"I came out of prison and although I had faced up to my demons that had tormented me, I still felt anger at the world.
"If anything though, doing time had made me realise that being locked up stops you from seeing you loved one. I had missed seeing my son growing up and I had also missed spending time with a fried who sadly passed away during my incarceration."