Beasted: How Eddie Hall Saved Strongman Luke Fullbrook's Life
Poisonous fumes flood Luke Fullbrook's lungs. A hosepipe connected to the exhaust of his car is pumping carbon monoxide into the vehicle.
The 22 stone strongman has created a gas chamber to fill his body with fatal levels of the dangerous chemical. And it's starting to take hold.
Starved of oxygen he starts to feel dizzy and nauseous. A few minutes more and he'll have a seizure, causing the blood vessels in his eyes to burst.
But his survival instincts take over, forcing him to open the door and let a life-saving gasp of clean air surge down his windpipe. Coughing up the lethal toxins, Fullbrook stumbles out of the car.
He's numb. For days. Then his inner voice starts to attack. 'You fucking pussy, you couldn't even go through with that, you're pathetic.'
Then he's hit by the remorse. 'How could you do this to your wife and your kids? What's wrong with you?'
Destructive voices assume control of his mind. Sapped of hope, he's consigned to his bed, until The Beast knocks on his door.
"If it hadn't had been for Ed during my last breakdown, I definitely wouldn't be here now," he tells SPORTbible. "He saved my life."
Eddie Hall, the world's strongest man 2017, knew his friend and training partner was on the edge. There was only one way to rescue him.
"I'd been lying in bed for four or five days and he asked me if I was coming to the gym and I said, 'No mate, I'm not coming' so he turned up at my house with my two sons and dragged me out. He turned that day around."
This was the fourth time the 40-year-old had tried to kill himself and this time he wanted to break the taboo of talking about the experience. "In the movies, they put the pipe in the car and they slowly drift off," he says in his Staffordshire accent.
"Let me tell you mate, it doesn't happen like that. It's fucking horrible." Now, 18 months on, Fullbrook is determined to come out of the shadows and help save the lives of other people suffering from mental health issues.
Fullbrook struggles to get through doorways. He's wider than wardrobe and thicker than a bank vault door. Or, to put it more simply, he looks like The Thing from Fantastic Four. It's hard to imagine anyone pushing him around, but they did. Bullies ripped away the joys of childhood.
"My dad is a 6ft 2in fighter and alcoholic," says Fullbrook. "He was abusive so I was always anxious at home and then I got bullied at school.
"If we walked some grass into the entry that he'd swept he'd smash the house to bits but then sit in silence. You didn't dare move. You'd be sitting there thinking, 'What's he going to do next? Is it me he's going to grab around the throat?'
"He beat my mum, broke her nose and kicked her down the stairs. "
This drove him towards his first attempted suicide. "I was 16 and it's been recurring ever since," he recalls "I can go four to five years and then it will happen again."
The trauma of this experience could have imprisoned Fullbrook, destroying his self-belief and ambition, but he fought back.
Once he escaped the toxic environment at home he built his own telecommunications business and sold it for a substantial fee when he was 30.
Awash with cash, he tried to buy happiness, but drugs, alcohol and fast cars couldn't break the destructive grip of the past.
Isolated from his family and consumed by pain he sought salvation in the gym, where he would evolve into a formidable physical specimen - no one was going to push him around again.
He met like-minded people and discovered a passion for competing and training, which inspired him to start his personal training company - Full Strength. Soon he had a client list full of bodybuilders and strength athletes.
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His work ethic impressed another gym-goer, who shared his passion for pushing the human body to its limits.
"I met Eddie (Hall) in the gym and he said, 'Do you fancy having a leg session?' I said 'yeah'," recalls Fullbrook.
"He tried to break me and I tried to break him. We were both absolutely fucked, but neither of us would give in.
"The next day I told him, 'I'm fucking ruined' and he said 'yeah, well I tried to break you, but I ended up breaking myself too'. It was one of the hardest sessions we've ever had."
A friendship was forged. One that would save Fullbrook's life and help Eddie Hall break the world-record for a deadlift.
"His mindset sets him apart from the rest," says Fullbrook. "It's the way he attacks things. It's like the 500kg deadlift. Everyone said, 'Oh it's not going to happen', but watching him train for it and never, ever wavering, exactly how he did for the world's strongest man, was incredible."
Mentors usually take the form of an older, more experienced figure, but Hall is 10 years younger than Fullbrook. Age, as they say, is just a number.
"He's got a very solid head on his shoulders," explains Fullbrook. "When I was his age (30) I was running around spending money on fast cars, drugs and women - he doesn't do that - he's very sensible.
"He's always been there to check I was ok. Ed doesn't judge he'll just sit there and listen to you.
"Even though he's younger than me, he's like a mentor."
Fullbrook would have loved to have emulated Hall's success at the World's Strongest Man championships, but a combination of timing and injuries have held him back.
The Stoke native failed to make the podium at this year's World's Strongest Masters in Florida, awakening feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing.
"I didn't do as well as I wanted to and old thought patterns started to creep back in," admits the father of three.
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"It's like you're in a room with all these demons and all the windows and doors are shut and you can't let them out.
"It stays like that for a bit, but I'm starting to feel better." Now he's targeting glory at England's Strongest Masters in April as retirement from the sport looms.
"My career has been plagued by injury so to actually win some national and international titles next year would mean a lot," he says.
"I keep doing it because I want to show my kids you never give up regardless of what life throws at you."
Flipping cars and launching kegs of beer into orbit are superhuman feats of strength that reinforce traditional perceptions of what strong is.
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Through counselling and experience, Fullbrook has discovered strength comes from being open and honest - in speaking candidly about his struggles with mental health and the effects of bullying - he has learned to be kind to himself and use his experience to help others.
Rather than internalise his negative thoughts, he emptied them on Facebook, posting about his fight with depression.
By making himself vulnerable, he empowered his audience to speak up. "I got messages saying, 'Seeing a big, strong, bloke like you talk about your emotions has let me know I'm not alone'," he says.
"Depression tricks you into thinking nobody cares, but that's not the case. When people see others posting about it, it shatters that illusion their brain has created.
"So many people want to talk and I help them best I can."
This is why Hall recruited Fullbrook to Team Beast, a crack team of personal trainers who helped him transform the lives of eight everyday guys for SPORTbible's new show, Beasted!
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So this is my #throwbackthursday to the weekend where I competed @officialstrongman_ Europeans strongest master. I won this event with 10 reps @ 290kg. Not quite back to my peak, I've done 10 beltless at 300kg, but I'm getting there. I know my head is stronger than it was back then for sure. Thankyou for all the love and support I get from my sponsors @strengthasylum , @pivxcrypto @pivxsports , @mjscarsales and all the followers I have. I'm truly grateful for all of you. #strongman #officialstrongmangames #officialstrongman #wsm #uksstrongestman #back #deadlift #strengthasylum #personaltrainer #lukefullbrookpersonaltraining #personaltrainerstoke #fullstrength #videooftgeday #PIVXSports #pivxcares #purpleroad #PIVX #PurplePower #KeepItPurple #Cryptocurrency #ProofofStake #Private
Over the course of six weeks, Eddie and his team devised workout and diet plans to inspire physical and mental change. Fullbrook's empathy and encouragement proved invaluable.
"My experiences helped me relate to some of the participants on Beasted!," he says. "I'm a strong believer in talking and getting it out there and that's why I was able to connect with people on a deeper level.
"Life is always trying to teach you a lesson and counselling has taught me you're exactly where you need to be. Every failure is a step closer to succeeding."