‘My mental health took a hit, I was so focused on filling the so-called boots of – Health News Today
These days, Lima Sopoaga inhabits a world of colour at Wasps, a life enriched and a sleep pattern decimated by two infant daughters who have pierced the monotony of coronavirus lockdown.
But it wasn’t so long ago that the fly-half was mired in blackness. A depression swallowed him during his early months in England and drove him to despise rugby. On the grimmest days, he seriously considered packing it all in. The tumult forced him to confront his vulnerabilities and taught him precious nuggets about himself.
Sopoaga arrived at Wasps from the Highlanders in 2018 as a Super Rugby winner and a 16-Test All Black and yet he felt like a boy fresh out of the academy.
He floundered in a new country with new teammates, new competitions, a new style of play, all the while painfully aware of the expectations that came with his CV, fat salary and the desperate thirst to replace Danny Cipriani, whose dazzling talents had been lost to Gloucester. His form fell off a cliff and he grew deeply unhappy.
“I probably hated the game for a lot of my first year, to be totally honest,” Sopoaga told RugbyPass about adjusting to life at Wasps. “I definitely had moments where I thought, I don’t know if I want to continue playing rugby.
“My mental health took a pretty big hit. I was naive in that I didn’t think moving to the other side of the world would have such an effect on home life and on me personally.
“I just thought I’d come to another country, get a house, get a car, go to training, come home, and enjoy life. You’re trying to work out simple things like which supermarket do I shop at, paying this council tax and this insurance, setting my family up at the doctor. Even in an English-speaking country, that was hard.
“What made it worse were the club not doing well and me not playing well. It just all snowballed, man.”
In that first year, Wasps struggled and so did Sopoaga. A canny club doctor, Ralph Mitchell, saw the playmaker flailing and referred him to the Rugby Players Association, who were able to arrange a form of counselling.
Those sessions and the support from his team were invaluable, but most important of all were the love of his partner Miriam and the growth of his little daughters, Milla and Isla, who are now aged two and one.
“I was pretty unhappy for a long time but we have gotten through it. I’ll be better for the struggle of moving over here and not being as successful as I’d have loved to be straight off the bat.
“I’ve got two kids to run around after and they bring so much joy to my life that when you come home after a win, they don’t care, and when you come home after a loss, they still don’t care. You go up to the after-match and they run up to you, give you a big hug and they want to have a million cookies or a drink of your fizzy drink.
“A bit of perspective is always really good for…