Eddie Hall may have caught Covid-19 a week before the World’s Strongest Fight, but that wasn’t his first or last experience of the disease. Back in 2020, coronavirus hospitalized Hall after his wife discovered him slumped over, unconscious and with a dangerously-high temperature.
To this day, Hall is still struggling with the symptoms of long covid – insomnia, chest pain, anxiety and depression. He’s also been struggling with the loss of three friends to suicide, including that of his best friend, who killed himself on Facebook Live.
Hall has always been open about his own mental health issues, sharing how he began suffering from anxiety as a teenager. Eventually, he learned to use fitness as a tool to keep his mental ill health at bay, but he knows first-hand that some people never find the tools to help themselves. The covid pandemic, he says, certainly hasn’t made it any easier for people to get access to the support they need.
Hall was dealing with all of these issues in the lead up to the fight with rival Hafþór ‘Thor’ Björnsson. Here, he explains exactly what the last few months and years have been like.
Men’s Health: So you got Covid the week before the fight, how bad was it?
Eddie Hall: I first got Covid in January 2020. I was ill, and I mean seriously ill for at least three-and-a-half months. I had a temperature, I couldn’t sleep and I lost 30 kilos in body weight. Since then, I’ve got the symptoms of long Covid, and that includes insomnia, anxiety, depression. I’ve also had the worry about what’s going on with the pandemic, and everything’s just such a big worry these days. I’ve been through it, and I’m still going through it.
Have you been diagnosed with long covid?
I’m working with loads of doctors at the minute, so yeah, pretty much I’ve been diagnosed with long Covid. It’s been horrendous. I’ve been having real trouble sleeping and everything. You can hear, it’s still on my chest now. It’s not really going away. It’s been a real struggle for me, and I know people that have had Covid and just never recovered. They get heart palpitations; they’re not sleeping; they’re getting anxiety and all sorts.
This is a new disease, and I just think we’ve got a hell of a lot of health issues coming up. The heart and stroke percentage has gone through the roof. Male suicides have gone through the roof since Covid. Whether that’s related to Covid or the current situation, I don’t know, but I think it’s something like 90 men a week at the minute commit suicide in the UK. That’s like one every two hours. That’s fucking horrendous. You think about that. Every two hours a man in the UK is killing himself, and Covid is not helping that. I think we need to open our eyes to it. I’ve had it, and I’ve had it bad. It nearly killed me. I ended up in hospital. It’s out there. People think it’s a breeze. It really isn’t. It’s really putting people through a lot of hell.
So you were in hospital with it. What was that like?
I ended up in hospital because I couldn’t get my temperature down. My temperature rose to 41 degrees centigrade, and I think anything over 41 is when your brain starts to boil. You can get some serious implications like strokes and parts of your brain die and all sorts. So yeah, I was at home, and I was struggling with it for months. I was at home watching TV, and then I just fell unconscious. My wife came in and shook me to wake me up. She was like that’s it I’m ringing an ambulance. I had to get an ambulance to the hospital.
How long were you in hospital for?
A couple of days, and that was just to get my temperature down. As soon as I got my temperature down, I was thrown out. Go and deal with it at home. That’s literally their attitude. As long as they think you’re going to survive they chuck you out.
So you first got covid two-years-ago and then you got it again before the fight. That must’ve been a scary time, right?
Yeah, I was on my back with a temperature for a week. And it was literally to the point I had to ring the promoter up and say I don’t think I can come. I don’t think I can get on the flight. My temperature’s through the roof. The day before I flew, my temperature came down and I just managed to get on the flight, so very lucky.
How are you now? Are you struggling to exercise with the long covid?
After the fight it’s been tough, but I’m just taking my time with it. I think one of the things I did the first-time round was I had a burnout. I had covid, and with the fight coming up, I tried to get back to training too quickly. I burnt out several times, and you just end up in a right mess. You’ve got to take your time. You’ve got to build up very, very slowly. That’s what I’m doing now really, recovering again.
How has all this affected your mental health?
I think the main principle of the book is for mental health really. I really do want to help people because everyone I speak to at the minute is suffering. Absolutely everyone. Fucking hell, I’ve had three quite close friends in the last two years kill themselves. One of my best friends killed himself. He hung himself on a Facebook Live. I just think the mental health side of things is getting really out of control at the minute. People might just think – and literally I’ve seen it and I’ve heard it – ‘just snap out of it’ and ‘pull yourself together’. I wish it was that fucking easy for people, but it really isn’t.
People need help, and the infrastructure in the UK is fucking diabolical at the minute. Someone wants to go for a mental health appointment, you’re talking 12 weeks before you can get an appointment to see a psychiatrist or to even get assessed. So that’s why I think all the talking and stuff like this book is a great way to start helping people, in the meantime, until they get help.
How is it for you as the friend of people who are committing suicide? How do you deal with something like that?
I mean, one of my best friends committed suicide in July 2020, and that was one of the hardest points in my life. I just had to deal with it, and I had to get back to training and crack on, but fuck me.
How do you deal with that? What do you do?
Just carrying on really and keeping busy, getting on with the boxing match, doing the TV shows, and I think that’s it really. You’ve just got to crack on with life. That’s it.
This article was first published in Men’s Health UK.