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Earlier this year, Lewis Salmon was in a dark place. Between the months of January and March, he says life was like walking through hell every day. It got to the point where he was self-harming. "I simply didn't want to be alive anymore."
The 24-year-old, from the West Midlands, admits that his whole life had fallen apart.
"I had a job in marketing, I was in a long-term relationship and had just moved into a new house," Lewis tells SPORTbible. "But little did I know that I had a mental disorder that was slowly getting worse without me even realising it."
He didn't know it at the time but Lewis had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Before New Year's Day last year, his condition wasn't bad enough to have a serious impact on his life. But after a break up with his partner on New Year's Eve, he was sent "over the edge". Things quickly spiralled out of control.
"There is a form of OCD that gives people 'false memories'," Lewis explains. "I won't go into too much detail, but it genuinely made me believe I had done horrible things.
"My lowest point was when I had to be taken to hospital. I wanted to confess to all these crimes I hadn't committed. I was self-harming and simply didn't want to be alive anymore.
"My mental health was so bad that I couldn't leave the house and eventually, I was forced to leave my job."
Before all of this, Lewis was genuinely quite a happy and cheerful guy. He had hobbies and was "very content" with his situation but almost instantly, he lost love for anything he once enjoyed.
"I can't explain it, but I just couldn't feel anything positive. All my thoughts were negative."
Lewis admits he was so depressed and anxious about everything that he struggled to believe he would ever be happy again.
That's until he picked up FIFA again, after not playing the game for years.
"It gave me relief from all the darkness and anxiety. Even if it was for a few hours, I felt free. It kept my mind occupied, whether it be doing SBCs, trading or actually playing the game.
"Ultimate Team took my head away from all the darkness and and gave me something to live for.
"I can genuinely say FIFA had a huge impact on helping me recover. Imagine three months of pure darkness and nothingness, then you find something that helps."
As he started to play FIFA more and more, Lewis was offered the chance to go to the Etihad and watch Tottenham play Man City in the Champions League. It was a life-changing moment for him.
"This was the first time I had been able to leave the house properly. Something I wouldn't have thought possible," he says.
"FIFA was my first step into finding something I was passionate about again. Maybe not just FIFA, but football in general."
More often than not, the negative aspects of FIFA are broadcast to the world; whether that be through social media or elsewhere, but Lewis maintains the overriding positives from his own personal experiences.
"FIFA is amazing. I see so many people complain and slate the game so much. I wonder why they play it. It's one of the games I will always come back to. I love how it's linked with real life in forms of stadiums and players.
"It's not just a game that helps you escape reality. It helped me integrate back into reality when I lost touch."
Lewis says his mental health remains a daily struggle but the condition is a lot more manageable compared to what it was previously.
"In these past two years I have managed to overcome things I never thought I could. I am definitely much happier.
"And FIFA is still very important to me, even after all these years. No other game compares to the start of every year when everybody is setting their teams up.
"I don't play as much as I used to, but it will always hold a place in my heart."
Here's a list of the leading mental health helplines and services that are just a call away in the UK:
- Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and will talk to you about anything that's bothering you. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email [email protected] or visit some branches in person. You can also call the Welsh Language Line on 0300 123 3011 from 7pm to 11pm every day.
- The Mix take calls from under 25s on 0808 808 4994 from Sunday to Friday, 2pm to 11pm. You can request support by email using the form on The Mix website or using their crisis text messenger service.
- Papyrus HOPELINEUK is there for under 35s struggling with suicidal feelings, or those who are concerned about a young person who might be struggling. You can call them on 0800 068 4141 on weekdays from 9am to 10pm, on weekends from 2pm to 10pm, and on bank holidays from 2pm to 10pm. You can also email [email protected] or text 07786 209 697.
- The Nightline website allows students to see if their university or college offers a night-time listening service. Nightline phone operators are all students too.
- Switchboard is there for people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and can be reached on 0300 330 0630 from 10am to 10pm every day. You can also email here or use their webchat service. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+.
- The Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L). is available for those who live in Wales and can be contacted on 0800 132 737, which is open 24/7. You can also text 'help' followed by a question to 81066.
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