Mark Selby insists finally going public about years of mental health battles has given him a second crack at life – on and off the table.
There was a moment as Selby celebrated the second of four World Championship wins in the Crucible arena seven years ago that wife Vikki knew something was wrong.
The joy was simply missing for such a colossal achievement, and Selby was told “you just stared through me as if I wasn’t there”.
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World No2 Selby, now 39 and unquestionably one of the greatest players of his or any other generation, tried to manage the problem in private with the help of anti-depressant medication.
But there was a moment of cathartic reckoning during last year’s Masters tournament which led to Selby going public on an ongoing battle, and taking time away from the game.
And as yet again one of the main title contenders this year, Selby believes that the therapy, help and huge support he has received have made him a better man, husband and father.
Selby, who has won two titles this season, takes on Geordie Gary Wilson on Saturday in the last 16 – a player that beat him at the same stage at the Crucible four years ago.
He said: “I am coming here looking forward to it, whereas last year I was really just going through the motions. I was still fragile mentally. But now I am enjoying it again, and definitely in a better place.
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“The doctor told me you never sort of overcome it, to the point where it goes completely. It is the same as losing a loved one, you learn to live with it better and manage it better.
“I didn’t really have a life, I was locking myself in the house. Not even doing anything with Sofia. Not really being a father figure. Not being a good husband.
“Because I was basically just living. Now whether I win or not, it is about the enjoyment. If I win here, then amazing. If not, I’m happy with how I am.
“I do a bit of running, and write down every day when I wake up something that I want to complete that day. It could be anything - maybe taking Sofia to the park after school.
“I am not speaking to the doctor at the moment but still on the medication. And if I have another eight or 10 years at the top – maybe eight world titles is a possibility for me.
“This year I come here obviously more excited, looking forward to it, and feel as though my form is okay.
“I played well at the WST Classic to win there, and then at the Tour Championship where I only got pipped by Shaun Murphy.
“So my form is okay. Sometimes you come here, your form can be not very good and you perform.
“Other times you come here really looking forward to it because you know you are playing well and it goes the other way. It’s a very special venue. And you either produce or you don’t.”
Three-time Olympic gold medallist swimmer Adam Peaty recently went public about his own mental health struggles. And Selby said: “I saw he wasn’t enjoying it either – it just shows you.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have in the bank, it can come to everyone.”
Thoughts of his beloved Leicester City, though, are never too far away for Selby. That 2016 Crucible triumph came the same night the Foxes clinched the Premier League title.
This year he’d happily take a win/survival double. He added: “You can’t ask me if I’d take another title for me above survival – though being selfish I guess you’d have to!
“One year I won here we won the title, another time I missed the open-top bus parade for winning the Championship. But I’d love to win here again and see them stay up.”
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