Former Test opener reveals his bipolar disorder

'I felt I was going to die' - Slater

Cricinfo staff

March 14, 2005

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Kiss of life: Michael Slater's bipolar disorder caused him to be rushed to hospital with serious panic attacks © Getty Images
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Michael Slater thought he was going to die when he first experienced the severe symptoms of bipolar disorder, a mental condition that causes rapid mood swings. Slater, the commentator and former Test opening batsman, experienced panic attacks that rushed him to hospital and he believed the problem could be linked to the spinal disease ankylosing spondylitis, which he was diagnosed with as a teenager.

"I felt that every day I was going to die," Slater, who played 74 Tests, told the ABC's Enough Rope. "Every day was my last day. That's how drastically it affected me."

Slater's first panic attack came when he was still playing Test cricket and was sparked by his debut as a commentator in England in 2000. "I was so nervous, so uptight about it, and after the first day's commentating, I thought I'd done an absolute crap job," he said. "So I came back to my hotel and I didn't feel great, and then bang, that night I had my first ever full-blown panic attack, was rushed to hospital, thought I was having a heart attack."

It was the first time Slater, 35, talked publicly about the illness and he said it could help people understand why his behaviour sometimes appeared erratic. The combination of the mental problem and spinal disease, which developed into reactive arthritis and meant he could barely move some mornings, forced him to retire.

"It was like I was an old man trying to get going and it would take me to midday before I'd sort of loosened up and be able to walk fairly freely," he said. "I just knew that I didn't have the energy to try and get on top of it again, so retirement was the only option."

Slater also told the show about the break-up of his marriage and the pain of dealing with false rumours that he was addicted to cocaine and was the father of Adam Gilchrist's child. Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive and former Cricket Australia CEO, asked Slater about the drug-use allegations before Australia went to India in 2001.

"You go back to your so-called reliable source and tell him he's not so reliable," Slater told Speed. "Drugs have never been a part of my life, will never be a part of my life. It's just something I will never stand for."

Slater said when he looked back at the period he wondered how he got through it. "It was pretty tough," he said. "I'm proud of myself ... I'm strong, and I'm loving the commentary world, and hopefully there's a long career doing that, being involved with the game and just enjoying life."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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