St Helens ace Bunting looks on (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Former Lakeside World Champion Stephen Bunting has revealed he has been battling depression and says a psychologist has saved his career.
Bunting has enjoyed a return to form this year after a rollercoaster 18 months which almost saw him walk away from the sport.
An emotional Bunting, 33, told Live Darts : “Away from the oche I was getting really depressed. It was something I really needed help with.
“I was turning up to venues and I thought everyone was looking at me and laughing at me. That’s how bad it got. It was a dark place.
“I’m a happy guy and turning up with my manager Jon Archer in the car, not being my normal self. I was really off and my manager is my best friend. Without his help and a sports psychologist I wouldn’t be here playing now.
“Darts can be a very lonely place especially when you’re on the stage and there’s no one else who can help you.
“I’ve been in a dark place but now I’m back. It’s possibly the best thing that’s ever happened to me, you see the down side of the sport. When you’re losing games and your confidence is down, it’s so hard.
“I’ve been on that much of a low for six to eight months, I think I can take every single positive over the lows. I can make them into confidence builders. I’m really proud that I feel like I’m back to my best.
“I might stand here like an emotional wreck but I’m just so happy to be back. I feel confident again and now I believe I can win again. I was turning up and forgetting I was a world champion.”
The world number 22 bowed out at the first hurdle in the Gibraltar Darts Trophy at the weekend but admits it was a big step to go back after almost quitting at the same tournament 12 months ago.
He added: “It’s been a really difficult year to be honest. I was thinking about retiring, packing it all in and looking for a new job. That was about a year ago when I played in Gibraltar around March.
“I think confidence is a massive thing in any sport as soon as you take a knock it’s hard to deal with. I’ve been very successful in my time at the BDO, I used to win a lot, I wasn’t used to losing.
“This was my first big hurdle. The more you start losing the more you start doubting yourself, I was looking at different things, I went to a sports psychologist and that really helped me.
“I started looking at the positives of life again. I was sat at home feeling really depressed, I became reclusive. I didn’t want to go out, turn up to tournaments. It was really hard.”