He has not lost yet in a AFL Game
He has not lost yet in a AFL Game
Adam Treloar is not ashamed, nor does he want anyone to feel sorry for him.
His battle with anxiety — a feeling of being worthless — has only recently been made public. By “coming out”, Treloar has found freedom from those chains of despair.
Despair might not be the right word.
The umbrella term for it is mental health.
The intricacies are low self esteem, of catastrophising small things and believing people are judging you. The brain goes into overdrive. You feel vulnerable, you question yourself, about what you do and what you say. You feel and see failure when others see optimism. Rational thinking and contentment are puzzles that can’t be solved. But overall, it’s that sense of worthlessness.
Danny Frawley died from it. Wayne Schwass is a voice of change because of it.
Treloar is living it. He’s dealing with a monster that keeps trying to get him and scare him and maybe even hurt him.
“I’ve been to the absolute bottom, I feel I have,’’ the Collingwood midfielder says. “But right now in my life, I feel it’s the complete opposite. The challenge is to stay up there. I’m not a superhero, I still have my days.’’
Are you troubled? “No.”
Complex? “Yeah, a little bit.”
Complicated? “Complicated within myself, yes.”
Confident? “I reckon externally I can show I have confidence, but ...”
Caring? “100 per cent. Caring is the one that matters to me.”
What will people reading this think of you? “I want them to see me as the individual that I want to be seen as. That I’m caring, (a) thoughtful person. I don’t have a bad word to say about anyone. I’m a massive lover. And I’m someone who has a lot of passion and lot of motivation to make his family proud. Just see someone who is caring and works his arse off.
“But he over thinks ... he definitely over thinks.”
TRELOAR: ‘WE GREW UP ROUGH’
Everyone is a product of their upbringing.
Treloar tells stories of his childhood as if it’s part of his therapy.
They are not ‘woe is me’. They are real and affecting.
At 12, he’d have a bad footy training session and get annoyed.
“Little things used to tick me off,” he says. “A lot of this has to do with my insecurities and anxieties, about not feeling worthy or good enough in the world I live in because, I feel, in my head, that I don’t deserve it. My mind is trying to convince me I don’t deserve it and that’s where it all stemmed from.
“When I talk about growing up rough ... we grew up rough.”
Treloar didn’t know his father.
“He left my mum ... I don’t know, I might not have been born when he left. I’ve met him on the back of me being intrigued when I was 16. I met him once. I didn’t want to have to do anything to do with him and I’ll never want anything to do with him.”
Treloar’s mother was 21 when he was born. His brother was born three years earlier. They have different fathers.
“My mum was 21 with two kids growing up in a flat in Doveton, which isn’t the safest area, and my stepdad came into my life when I was about one,” he says.
“They are married. They had a further two kids, a brother and sister. It was hard for mum to work because she was busy with four of us. My stepdad worked his arse off, he brought in all the money. I call him by his name, Ken, but he’s my dad. I say my parents to anyone who asks.
“It was all loving, but I don’t think they made the best decisions when they were young.
“But I reckon my work ethic I’ve got from Ken. He’s a good man. He would do anything for us to have food on the table. He worked his arse off his whole life. But sometimes it was tough.
“I can remember times we didn’t have food, sometimes we didn’t have electricity. My parents never owned a house. We lived in this ministry house in Dandenong up until when I moved out when I was 17.
“At the time, there was no room for me. I was on a single mattress in the hallway for about a year and a half. The hallway was right where the bathroom and toilet was, so whenever somebody needed to go the toilet, I’d get stepped on. The day before I moved up to the Giants, my last sleep was on the mattress. That said, it was all loving.”
Treloar was always shy. He was embarrassed because the family didn’t have anything to show off. And, he said, friends never came around after school.
“My mum did everything she could for us,’’ he says. “I love her. And whenever we had food we’d have lunches to take to school. But when we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t have lunches.”
There was an office at school which had lunches for those who did not.
“That was the norm. That’s where all my worries came from.”
Football would be a salvation, but it could never hide his insecurities.
At his first training session with the Dandenong Stingrays, he wore basketball shoes — hand-me-downs from his uncle and brother — because he didn’t have runners.
He wore the same basketball shoes at athletics carnivals, where he was a state-class cross country runner and hurdler.
“We ran at the aths track at Olympic Park in grade six and all these kids were wearing spikes and everything else. I’ve got basketball shorts on and basketball shoes that are barely holding on. And I felt so out of place. Then it got to footy and I made all these reps teams, and I had boots that were so old they were coming apart. We’d have to tape them up to make sure the leather wasn’t flapping around.
“The amount of times I felt like ... I felt — other parents were looking over at me and thinking: Who’s this kid? He looks like he’s just off the street.
“On the flip side, that what’s motivated me. I wanted to do this for my family, but also I wanted to prove people wrong.”
‘TOUCHING WOOD’ + DEALING WITH OCD
Treloar is a jumble of idiosyncrasies.
At 17, he had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and had a long talk to former Kangaroo and Bali bombing survivor Jason McCartney, who was his coach at the Australian Institute of Sport.
“If I was to see myself at 16, 17 and 18, I’d be like, you’re a weirdo, what are you doing?”
Treloar would “touch wood’’ on everything. If he said he hoped his footy team would win, he’d secretly touch the wood of the seat he was sitting on or get up and walk to find wood to touch.
To reset after a period of panic, say walking home from school, he would have to bend down and touch the ground.
“Another thing I used to do, and this is just weird, I used to have to go left around things. This what OCD is. See my car over there, I’d have to get up and walk left around the tree and the rubbish bin even though I could walk to the car in a straight line.
“You’re looking at me like I’m a weirdo, aren’t you?
“Deep down I’m still that 13-year-old Dandenong boy who is biting and scratching and clawing and doing his absolute best to make a name for himself and his family — 100 per cent, that’s what motivates me.”
WHEN IT ALL GOT TOO MUCH
Managing his world was a constant psychological wrestle and it finally collapsed last year.
After picking up 26 touches and kicking a goal in the Round 3 win against Carlton, Treloar started crying in the spa.
To cover his tears from teammates, he submerged his face in the water. That week, he revealed his sizeable problems to his mum, his girlfriend Kim, leadership and culture manager Nick Maxwell and (club psychologist) Jacqui Louder. Coach Nathan Buckley was also a constant.
His travails were filmed for the documentary Collingwood: From the Inside Out, which was released this year.
It was August 3 when he first went public with his struggles on Fox Footy’s AFL360, where he joined Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt on Tuesdays this year.
On September 3, he didn’t front for the program.
“It was one of those days where I had an anxiety day,’’ he says. “It got to about 2pm and I said to Kim I can’t go on, I just feel undeserving. You can ask me what does that even mean, but I can’t tell you what it means. It’s just in my head.
“Yeah, I felt under deserving. And the biggest thing that goes off that is anxiety. If I were to go in, I probably would’ve gone to the toilet and tried to hide.’’
He returned to the show a day after Danny Frawley’s death. His four-minute piece on Frawley and the impact of depression was gripping. “That’s what I battle with, that’s what I struggle with,” he said.
His worthiness, which he has spurned from childhood, was apparent.
“I know that, but I will never be satisfied with footy, never, ever. Of course I want to achieve great things. I want to be a premiership player, I want to be an All Australian, I want to leave a legacy as a football player. That’s always burning inside of me.
“That’s when I say I haven’t achieved anything yet. But mum and Kim and Jacqui say, ‘what do you mean Adam? Think about where you are now and how many lives you’ve touched by just being you’.
“I know that, I know that, but in my mind, I think ‘nah, you still haven’t done anything, you’re still not good enough’.”
He’s taken days off from Collingwood this year, too. The most recent was between the break of Round 23 and the first final against Geelong.
One of the first panic attacks this season arrived at the first JLT game against Melbourne.
“Pre-season I’m always happy because there’s no anxiety about anything. But it just comes back. We had a praccy match against Melbourne and it came back and I had to have a couple of days off.
“I was in the car park bawling my eyes out and I couldn’t get out of my car. Bucks came over, and Maxy and Jacqui and they consoled me and I went home and had a couple of days off.”
The sense of being a burden exacerbates his problems. “Of course I feel like a burden. I feel embarrassed, that’s the main thing, I feel embarrassed.”
The constant challenge begs two questions.
How has he put together the best season of his career? “With the anxiety and the worry, one of the biggest things — and hate thinking about it and it almost brings me to tears — is letting my teammates down. It scares me. That’s the other thing that motivates me.”
How has he lived the most positive year of his life? “It’s a challenge, but it’s well and truly getting easier because of everything I’ve spoken about.
“Could you imagine if I was still holding on to all of the stuff I’ve spoken about and no one knew about it?
“I’d be ready to explode. It could turn in to something so unfortunate, do you know what I mean? There’s so many people who could go down a completely different path when they have their own mental demons. And I mean a path of destruction.
“I don’t want to say it, but it leads to people thinking suicide. I’ve had a friend, five years ago, who took his own life. That my broke my heart at the time. He had so many demons.”
THERE’S ALWAYS A ‘BUT’
Treloar’s outlook on life has changed dramatically.
He doesn’t read or listen to media. And he no longer worries about what commentators say about this kicking efficiency or that when those commentators praise him, there’s a rider.
“There’s always a but,” he said. “(They say) ‘That was really good by Treloar but ... how good was that play by Treloar but ...’
“That has been part of my anxiety, because I feel there’s always a but. And that’s part of the reason why I always thought I wasn’t good enough.
“It got to me early, but I know I’m valued internally and that’s taken me a long time to accept that’s all that matters.’’
Just last week he was a guest speaker at a mate’s manufacturing business. It was about mental health.
“Since AFL360, a lot of people have asked me about it.