West Ham United star Jesse Lingard has confessed that bottling up his feelings towards his mother's depression kick-started a vicious downturn in form which almost cost him his career at the highest level.
A regular for both club and country back in 2018, Lingard's stock plummeted after the start of the 2019/20 season. Performances on the pitch began to worsen and he was eventually frozen out of the first-team setup at Manchester United.
In the first episode of the debut series of Presenting, a new show created to rationalise fame and humanise celebrities, Lingard confessed that it took him a long time to realise that his slump in form was connected to his mental health.
"When you're young, seeing your mum going through something like that, you don't understand it logically, you don't know what she's going through," Lingard said of his earlier memories of his mother's struggles. "She'd say 'I'm depressed, I'm depressed' but me, as a kid, you don't know what that means.
"You're just going out, playing out, playing football, doing your thing, but mum was in bed most of the time, curtains closed, she's going through it. This is when I was young, like 12."
The situation took an obvious toll on Lingard, who confessed he did not even realise the extent of his mental struggles until it was almost too late for his career.
"It feels like you're not the same person, I feel like I wasn't Jesse Lingard. Even in football matches, I felt like the game was just passing me by, like I just didn't want to be there - it was crazy.
"I could see myself playing but watching the game back I just think that's not me, that's not how I play. You go from the World Cup to some performances I've seen myself playing and something needed to change.
"I was going into games happy sitting on the bench and that's not me. My mind wasn't there, I wasn't focused at all. I was thinking about other things and obviously bottling it all up trying to play football, you're tense, you're stressed and you can't do it.
"I opened up to United and told them what I was going through, what my mum was going through and they're always there to help. I've had doctors that have helped which has been brilliant and during the lockdown I got my head together."
It was not until England entered lockdown because of COVID-19 that Lingard realised the severity of his mental battle.
"Lockdown has kind of transitioned me in a way. I watch my old games back and watch the World Cup games back and the old games I used to play and I think, 'Yeah, that's the real Jesse Lingard'. The time that I had going a couple seasons back or last season, it just wasn't me at all and you can see that.
"My brother who lives with me, he could see that and he's got a video of me literally laying on the couch and I'm just staring for 3 minutes into thin air and he's just thinking, 'What is he going through? He's got the weight of the world on his shoulders’.
"When I finally opened up and everyone understood it was like, 'Oh that's why', so now it's just me getting my head back together, football and helping my mum and I don't really have time for anything else really."
Now shining at West Ham, where he bagged nine goals in his first ten games, Lingard encouraged anyone struggling with mental health problems to open up and get help as soon as possible.
"I feel like in life you go through difficulties, you go through stages of lows and highs, but I feel like you've got to get through the lows, grind it out and you see the light at the end of the tunnel," he continued.
"That’s why I did open up, I want to change people’s lives and inspire others to start opening up, cause I've been through it and I know what it’s like to bottle things up, so if I can pass on the information to anyone who’s going through mental health issues, it’ll make me smile."