It's a tale of suicide attempts, drug binges, sexual abuse as a child and voices in his head telling him to kill his partner, unborn child and strangers.
And now former Huddersfield Giants Super League star Paul Whatuira is sharing his dark past with rugby league audiences across Australia after finally getting his life back on track.
The 35-year-old is hoping his story will prevent others from suffering the same mental anguish as himself. He’s determined to make sure as many as possible hear his story and learn from the harsh lessons of Whatuira’s spiral into deep, deep depression.
In a glittering rugby league career, the ex-New Zealand Test centre achieved so much.
He twice won the Australian NRL Premiership, with Penrith Panthers in 2003 and Wests Tigers 2005, and was a member of the Giants side that reached the 2009 Challenge Cup final at Wembley. That was one of 67 appearances in the claret and gold.
But it was soon after that day in August and the defeat to Warrington Wolves that things began to go horribly wrong.
What should have been one of the happiest times of life – the impending birth of his first child – triggered memories of a troubled childhood and a rapid decline in Whatuira’s mental state.
Within months, he was threatening to kill his partner, Vanessa, and their unborn child, Gabrielle, and had assaulted two men early one morning in Huddersfield.
Things became even worse when he quit the Giants early in the 2010 season and returned to Australia, twice attempting to commit suicide.
However, slowly but surely, Whatuira began to get his life back on track – thanks to the support of those around him – and having now returned to the Tigers in the role of the education and welfare co-ordinator, he’s in position to help others.
“It’s been quite a unique journey to get myself back where I am,” said Whatuira, who was speaking to the Australian Rugby League Week magazine and joined the Giants from Wests Tigers for the start of the 2008 top-flight season.
“I’ve been through a lot, and I know some current players also go through hard times.
“My story is not pretty, It’s raw but real and I feel it’s important to let people know how I was – and that no matter how bad things are, there’s always hope.
“If I can just reach out and help one young player or a person in our society, I feel I’ve done my job.”
And Whatuira knows that telling his own personal story could hold the key.
“For some reason, expecting to be a father triggered memories of my childhood and all the skeletons started to come out of my closet,” he explained.
“My parents did their best to raise me, but I was surrounded by alcohol, drug abuse and domestic violence. Then at the age of six I was molested by a 12-year-old boy.
“That was when I was at Huddersfield in 2009, and I went down a six-month spiral suffering from depression, which led into seven days of hell without sleep. I was terrified ... my past demons were hitting me left, right and centre.
“It was then I started to hear voices, telling me to kill my partner at the time, Vanessa, and our unborn child, Gabrielle.
“They were in real danger and I had to get away, so I checked into a hospital. The same day, the voices became more powerful and were telling me to take myself out of this misery.
“I broke out of the hospital filled with rage and anger, and that’s when the assaults took place.
“Fear brought out jealousy and hatred and it was then I assaulted these people.
“I was tasered by the police and taken to a secure unit where I was locked in for four weeks on heavy medication and under surveillance 24/7.
“I feel terrible about the assaults and feel sympathy for the victims, but I had no control over my actions and I’ve learnt to forgive myself and to move forward.
“In the end, I wasn’t convicted because under the Mental Health Act in England I was labelled mentally unwell.”
Although Whatuira did eventually return to competitive action with the Giants at the start of the 2010 season, he admits he was still in a fragile state of mind and it was inevitable he would have to retire and return to Australia – plunging him into another dark period in his life, when he became addicted to cocaine and attempted to take his own life.
“I tried to play on at Huddersfield, who were great to me, but I was heavily sedated. I had to retire,” he added.
“I had been on heavy medication for five years since the 2009 episode. I felt they were poisoning my body, but in truth they were poisoning my mind.
“I believed the world was against me. I cut all ties with my family and friends and lived alone in a bubble, hiding away in fear.
“I regularly thought about ending my life. Twice I tried.
“After four years of marriage, me and Vanessa decided to go our separate ways. She loved and cared for me, but how could I love her back when I couldn’t love myself?
“It was then I turned to drugs. My choice of drug was cocaine. In my apartment by myself, for two months I abused my body.
“I needed help badly. I called Aunty Chrissy (former West Tigers teammate Bronson Harrison’s mum) and she was the only person I trusted.
“She was great throughout. We talked and I stopped with the cocaine experience.
“It was then I started to make decisions for my own good once again.
“I began to learn how my own mind worked and starting educating myself, reading endless self-help books, completing well-being courses and surrounding myself with positive people and reconnecting with family friends and former teammates.
“I understood when I isolated myself that loneliness is toxic and I had five years of toxic thoughts.”
And it was then he was handed the lifeline of being offered the education and welfare role at former club Wests Tigers.
“I don’t have a degree in psychology, but I do have a degree in pain, which is why I’m qualified for my role at the club, alongside (club education and welfare manager) Debbie Brewin, who is a great mentor for me, and Paul Heptonstall (Australian NRL well-being boss) has been awesome in guiding me,” he continued.
“Justin Pascoe (the West Tigers CEO) has also been helpful in giving me time off work to travel around Australia to do my public speaking to help inspire others, and given me opportunities to speak to schools.
“I now appreciate that in life there’s always hope. I believe the more people who share their journeys through life’s battles, accomplishments and values, the better this world will be.”