Sarah Taylor Q&A: Life still a struggle - but I'm most comfortable in the middle
'Literally getting out of bed was the highlight of a day'
Last Updated: 27/05/17 2:38pm
England Women's Sarah Taylor says cricket is playing a crucial role in combatting her on-going, daily struggle with anxiety.
Taylor, 28, was named in England's squad for this summer's ICC Women's World Cup after a year away from the game with mental health problems.
In her first interview since her re-selection - which you can watch in full by clicking the video above - the wicket-keeper batsman - Taylor admits her battle continues.
"From a purely anxiety point of view I'm not done at all, I'm not the finished article," she said.
"There's still social anxiety going on day to day, new places are still a struggle for me and I still have to push through those on a day to day basis so that will take care of itself.
"Where I'm most comfortable is out in the middle: batting, wicket-keeping and being around the girls. Those small tasks, they will come, and I've made great strides to be able to be in the position I am now."
England Women begin their World Cup campaign against India in Derby on June 24 before moving on to Leicester, Taunton and then Bristol for meetings with Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
Taylor is desperate to help the hosts win the tournament - and add to her 3,261 runs, 75 catches and 40 stumpings in 101 ODIs - but accepts she may not be able to play a full role yet.
"Ultimately you want to win the tournament, don't you? But for me it's literally just a case of day by day assessing where I am - anxiety wise, cricket wise, everything in my head. If not, what can we do to help me get through a training session, a game, everything like that," she said.
"My success, from a very personal point of view, is obviously to perform and be consistent in my performances but flip that to the mental side of things and it's about getting through the tour unscathed.
"I'm realistic that there probably will be some bumps but actually if I get through it I should look back and be completely proud of myself for doing it. I'm proud that I've even put myself out there to do it. I want to win as much as the next person - and I'm hoping that there'll be success with my own mental health and we can see a trophy at the same time."
Watch the 2017 ICC Women's World Cup on Sky Sports this summer.
Read Sarah Taylor's interview in full here, or watch the video at the top of the page…
Sarah, it's been a difficult 12 months for you but you've been named in England's World Cup squad. How delighted are you to have made the 15?
Sarah: It's been a tough 12 months and lots has been learned in that time. In terms of where I am with my cricket, I'm incredibly comfortable to be back playing and the girls have been absolutely brilliant. It's just nice to be back around them and the fact that the World Cup is at home as well makes it extra special. To be back in time for the World Cup has been a hard journey but very worth it so far.
It's been 12 months with different emotions, with ups and downs, with difficult times, can you give us an idea over that period of time how it's felt to try and return to the game?
Sarah: If you have a look at my last 12 months it's been a rollercoaster of anxiety from day-to-day stuff to my return to cricket. It's been very graduated - the ECB have been brilliant in terms of not just rushing me back in - and it's actually been calculated in different areas. That's in turn helped my day to day life and it's progressed me on so much to now being here. I'm back and I'm ready to face the World Cup and the scrutiny that professional sport brings.
I guess at some point over the World Cup there'll be unknowables, there'll be moments of high pressure, there'll be situations you have to deal with. How do you assess what's to come?
Sarah: I don't think we can shy away from the fact that in a World Cup there will be pressure. Through what I've dealt with over the last 12 months I feel like I'm probably mentally strong enough to deal with those pressures. All I want to do is help someone else get through it, so I don't think I'm any different to anyone else.
When you stepped away from the game 12 months ago did you look forward to this period of time and did you think about what 2017 might bring?
Sarah: To be honest, when I took that break I didn't look too far ahead. I couldn't. I was always told to not look too far in the future, to take it day by day and as it comes. Literally getting out of bed was the highlight of a day and then accept that doing something brilliant might mean walking outside, that was a tick in the box. To look towards the World Cup never even got into my head, it was never something I was striving for at the time, then all of a sudden I found myself wanting to train again and like I said before it actually benefitted my day to day learnings and my anxiety through that. Next thing I knew I was on a plane going to Abu Dhabi and that was a very last-minute decision. It was a very, very tough decision and a tough tour to go through but I think for myself, the girls and the staff it was a massive learning curve for everyone. I guess that's probably made this decision a little bit easier, to make myself available for the World Cup and then to push on through it. I'm hoping it goes well.
You mentioned the contrast between getting out of bed being a big tick in the box 12 months ago to now being picked in the World Cup squad. Are you able to give an insight into your personal development over that 12 months?
Sarah: I've learned that the person I became over the last three or four years wasn't me, I wasn't being honest with myself. That was the biggest step for me, to actually come out and admit it. I'd obviously got to a point where I'd probably left it a little bit too long but it's actually so important to just say something. People are a lot more accepting and it's a lot more normal to talk about it these days. As soon as I actually said something I was able to get the help that I needed and I'm in a much better position now than I was last year, and from where I was three of four years ago, I would say - and that's including my cricket. Anyone who is struggling, I would suggest talking about it because the more people who understand the better. It's now just a case of putting a lot of strategies in place to cope with day to day tasks and cricket. Hopefully I can use them and push them towards performances and playing well for my country.
I guess it's fair to say that this is a journey that doesn't finish here. You'll continue to deal with your comeback and there'll still be strides for you to take. Is that a fair assessment of how this World Cup campaign will be for you?
Sarah: From a cricketing perspective I'd like to say that nobody is the done article yet. I'm not done in terms of cricket but from a purely anxiety point of view I'm not done at all, I'm not the finished article. There's still social anxiety going on day to day, new places are still a struggle for me and I still have to push through those on a day-to-day basis so that will take care of itself. Where I'm most comfortable is out in the middle: batting, wicket-keeping and being around the girls. Those small tasks, they will come, and I've made great strides to be able to be in the position I am now. I guess it's a learning curve. You can still live a completely normal life and have issues like this and conquer them. I'm still living an extremely normal life and doing the job I love so I can't complain too much.
From what you've said there, an awareness of the issue is perhaps the most important thing you've learned over the last 12 months. The knowledge that you might have a bad day, you might have a bad time but that's acceptable, that's allowed, and you deal with it as it comes?
Sarah: You've got to accept that those bad days will just randomly come about. Sometimes you can feel them coming but other days you just have to accept that they're there. Acceptance has probably been the biggest learning curve for me. Everything you do, you just accept and you just be proud of it - no matter how small. I've had people come to me and say that they've achieved this for the day - and you have to say, 'You know what, you should be so proud of yourself for doing that'. Just accepting that you should be proud and that those bad days come about has made this journey a little bit easier. The girls have been brilliant at accepting that as well. I think everyone realises that sometimes I might not be at training that afternoon or I might not be myself but I'm just having a bad day. If they can do anything to help they're quite willing to and that's been the eye-opening thing that the girls have been willing to learn and willing to help with. There are probably more people - maybe even some of the girls themselves - who have some things going on and if we're more aware of it as a team then we can look out for it and we can help each other.
Looking ahead to the tournament itself, do you have specific aims for what you want to achieve?
Sarah: Ultimately you want to win the tournament, don't you? But for me it's literally just a case of day by day assessing where I am - anxiety wise, cricket wise, everything in my head. If not, what can we do to help me get through a training session, a game, everything like that. My success, from a very personal point of view, is obviously to perform and be consistent in my performances but flip that to the mental side of things and it's about getting through the tour unscathed. I'm realistic that there probably will be some bumps but actually if I get through it I should look back and be completely proud of myself for doing it. I'm proud that I've even put myself out there to do it. I want to win as much as the next person - and I'm hoping that there'll be success with my own mental health and we can see a trophy at the same time.
And it's a home tournament - does that make it even more special for you?
Sarah: You look at some of the young girls who come and watch us play and they just look at you like you're God almost! You're role models to them and you want to be that for them. We want to bring as many fans to the game, to women's cricket, as possible. It's not every day that you get to say you're playing in a World Cup at home.
You've been away from cricket for a year - how's your game? How's batting?
Sarah: Batting's more fun now than it was back then! Once you eliminate all the things that are going on inside your head you're able to just purely enjoy the game. People are saying that I look a lot calmer now when I'm batting and I am purely just focusing on the job in hand - I'm just having fun. I think you get lost in it sometimes and you take it for granted. I think going away and then coming back means you really appreciate what you're doing. I'm back into a little bit of a family with these girls and you do miss them. You miss the inside jokes and you feel like you've been a bit of an outsider for a bit.
What does it mean to be back in an England shirt?
Sarah: I'm almost looking back at my career and seeing this as a bit of a blank canvas. In the UAE it felt like I was wearing that shirt for the first time and to play in an England shirt at home will be another first step, as well. This is going to be pretty special, this summer, and we speak about pride and everything like that when it comes to playing for your country and I know the girls have it in abundance. You want to be a part of that and this journey has been about getting myself to a place where I can join them in that and I can gladly say that I'm back there.