Former Wales rugby star Gareth Thomas opens up on mental health struggles during coronavirus lockdown: ‘I didn’t feel like I was in control of my life. I live with HIV and yet I hear someone say disease and it’s a word that really scares me’

Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas has opened up on his mental health struggles during the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.

The UK has been in lockdown since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic with measures only slightly relaxed last week as the daily number of deaths continues to fall.

The former British and Irish Lions captain, 45, who came out as gay back in 2009, said he felt gripped by anxiety and ‘out of control’ at the start of the isolation period, which comes just days after the UN claimed a global mental health crisis could be looming.  

Gareth Thomas has opened up on his struggles to deal with anxiety during the lockdown

“I cried a lot, I was very anxious, very afraid, I was obsessed with the news.”

Rugby star Gareth Thomas opens up about his mental health during the coronavirus crisis and tells us how he’s overcoming his anxiety.@GarethThomas14 | @TheJeremyVine | #JeremyVine pic.twitter.com/J5A2AAjMtC

— Jeremy Vine On 5 (@JeremyVineOn5)

Thomas, who revealed he was HIV positive back in September, admitted the word ‘virus’ and ‘disease’ is still a trigger for him and that it has been particularly hard hearing them on a daily basis with coronavirus understandably dominating the news.

Speaking on The Jeremy Vine Show via Zoom, he said: ‘I’ll admit the start of it was very, very difficult for me because for me anxiety is like a loss of control and that brings a huge amount of fear into my life. At the start of it I didn’t feel like I was in control of my life.

‘It went from one day to the next I suddenly felt this pressure I suppose of having to fill time, so I felt the pressure to get really fit or become a genius to do a jigsaw or learn to bake banana bread and some things that weren’t me so I found that challenging and I was missing my family so I cried a lot.

Wales rugby legend admitted he felt pressured to fill time by doing ‘something that wasn’t me’

‘I was obsessed with the news and I was obsessed with finding out more about coronavirus so that brought a lot of fear into my life as well.

‘I am somebody who lives with HIV, which is a virus, and yet I hear someone say disease and that’s a word that really scares me, really discriminatley. 

‘You look at the tabloids and they are calling it different things, they are calling it a virus, a disease or an illness and they are all trigger words which to me – someone who is very anxious and very afraid anyway – it heightened my senses and heightened my fear.’

The 45-year-old was speaking to Jeremy Vine via a Zoom call on his show this week

The former rugby star, who represented his country over 100 times during his distinguished career in rugby union, added: ‘What I’ve done now I feel like I have created my own comfortable environment that I left things in.

‘I don’t take pleasure out of knowing people are in worse circumstances than mine. People say you know : “It could be worse, you could be so and so down the road”. 

‘What I do now, is I do a lot of work in the community which helps other people and how you feel and gives you a purpose because you’re helping people who are in worse circumstances than yourself. That gives me a real sense of purpose.’ 

Wales rugby icon Gareth Thomas opens up on mental health struggles during coronavirus lockdown

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