Golfer Bubba Watson Details Hitting 'Rock Bottom' in Anxiety Battle: I Was 'Envisioning Death'

Bubba Watson gets candid about his "darkest hour" in his battle with anxiety — and why he's sharing it publicly — in his new book, Up & Down

Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson. Photo: Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty

Three years removed from what Bubba Watson refers to as his "rock bottom," the golfer is focused on his growth and not afraid of revisiting the hard times.

In his new memoir, Up & Down — which was released earlier this month — Watson gets candid about grappling with severe anxiety so intense and debilitating that at one point he lost a significant amount of weight and wondered if his life was ending.

"I can try to share my story, talk about the things that help me, and hopefully shine a light on the mental side — not only from an entertainer, a sportsman like myself, but people in general — because we're all going through something, I believe," Watson tells PEOPLE.

The two-time Masters winner, 43, says everything came to a head in 2017, after "years and years of buildup." Seeing hurtful and negative comments about himself on social media, Watson explains, slowly chipped away at his mental health.

"And so all this build-up, now it leads into chasing [being No. 1 in the world] and you just keep adding and adding," he recounts. "So I'm letting my job dictate how I feel. And so now '17 hits and I was losing weight. So I went to the doctor, checked on my heart. I was having stomach pains, all these ailments were going on. But the doctor said, 'There's nothing wrong with you. Your heart's fine. You're breathing. Your lungs are good. Your liver, your kidneys. Blood work is good. So I don't know what to tell you.' "

Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson in 2017. Matthew Lewis/R&A/R&A via Getty

The unexplained 30-pound weight loss was especially alarming for Watson, as he watched his dad Gerry Watson suffer through cancer leading up to his death in 2010. "When I looked in the mirror, when I saw 162 lbs. on the scale, I envisioned my dad and envisioned me dying like my dad," he admits.

"I fell to my knees in 2017, after seeing that weight and I said, 'Lord, take me,' " recounts Watson. "It wasn't that I wanted to end my life. It was that I wanted my family to not go through this. I know what my mom went through. I know what I went through. People around me went through with seeing my dad. So I don't want my wife to go through this or my two kids [Caleb and Dakota]."

Candidly, the golfer tells PEOPLE he was "envisioning death, envisioning I'm just dying, eating me away inside. And so I had to voice it to get better. And that's what I did."

Talking with his wife Angie Watson, he says, was freeing and helped him realize that he was holding onto anxiety and stress, so much so it was leading to stomach pain and, eventually, weight loss.

Exiting that challenging year, Watson says, he was on an upward march and prioritized communication more and more. He battled the stigma that men shouldn't talk about their emotions and feelings, learning that it was okay to speak to his loved ones, friends and colleagues about the good and bad moments in life.

That, Watson explains, ultimately led to Up & Down. He'd been approached for years to write about his successes on the PGA Tour, but didn't feel like he could achieve anything in sharing his story. It was after that "dark time," that Watson realized he was ready to truly introduce his fans to "Bubba, the person."

"And so now talking to you, sharing my book, this is really easy for me because what I'm getting out of it is positive feedback," he explains. "It's not like hitting a bad golf shot and you see the bad result. I know from experience that by talking about it and discussing it, it helps me, but hopefully in return, it helps other people."

Up & Down is available to purchase now.

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