Leaving the game wasn't meant to have felt like this, and no matter how he tried, Bryan Young couldn't break into open country.
He felt lost. He felt angry. He was occupying a gradually darkening place where he loathed rugby, and probably himself, while also keenly feeling a sense of loss at being permanently outside the safety net of the group.
He had no soft landing. He had gone straight from playing to the family farm outside Ballymena, a wholly altered environment without team meetings, group coffees and general banter.
Getting to the problem's core was about realising he was now facing his most difficult opponent: himself. And that wasn't straightforward.
For a while, he wasn't sure how it was going to go. Then a chance phone call became an unforeseen ignition point for Young to begin the slow process of turning the corner.
Strangely, salvation came through the game he was estranged from when former Ulster assistant coach Allen Clarke asked him if he would be interested in helping to identity and nurture new front row talent.
It was really only then that he realised that somehow staying involved in rugby was the key - it would assist by not only giving him direction and lifting him mentally, but by helping him progress towards finally coming to terms with post-playing life.
Young's decade-long professional career came to an early end in 2012 when the then 30-year-old prop's body essentially gave out on him a year after he had, not exactly willingly, parted from Ulster to seek new adventure in Italy.
The damage went deeper than just physical discomfort. It's a well-trodden path many will recognise.
"You get to a point and you don't know what's wrong (with you)," admits the player, who made 132 appearances for the province and was on the Celtic League-winning side of 2006.
"I came home from Italy and just threw myself into the farm.
"I was so angry and confused about the ending, especially at Ulster, and it had a massive knock-on effect for quite a while after that.
"Trying to find a new purpose and contribute to society, it's taken me a long time.
"(Back in 2012) I felt I was done with rugby and, you know, I couldn't even watch a game on TV."
Young, now the director of rugby at Dalriada School in Ballymoney, did bring himself to attend Ulster's winning Heineken Cup semi-final against Edinburgh at the Aviva Stadium, but it was uncomfortably unsettling.
"I was so happy for them, but I just couldn't go down to see them afterwards and it was difficult not to break down, really," explains the player, who propped eight times for Ireland and was in the World Cup squad of 2007.
The leaving of Ulster in 2011 was the trigger. With no deal and matters coming to a head late in the season, not much was available for the experienced prop, who could play either side of the scrum.
"I couldn't get out any quicker because it felt really sour at the end," emphasises Young, who made his Ulster debut back in 2002.
The Cavalieri club offered a new start and all might have been well but for Young not being physically right. And that was it. Retirement.
As he readily admits: "It's difficult and you want to feel that it was all for something.
"You think, 'Did I fulfil my potential? Honestly, no, I didn't'.
"I now at least understand that that's me just being harsh on myself.
"The mental health aspects are really important.
"Now, thankfully, things are different and there is a support network there and so much more awareness for guys coming out of the game."
That wasn't the case eight years ago. He was moving in ever decreasing circles on the farm when, out of nowhere, came Clarke's call. It changed everything.
"He asked me if I'd be interested in joining the IRFU scrum programme to try and solve the issue of our front row stocks coming through. I nearly snatched his hand off.
"That's when I realised that rugby was really so important to me."
He then bit the bullet and called his former club Ballymena, who also brought him on board both as a coach and an occasional player, which was manageable at an AIL level.
The soon to be 39 year-old isn't exaggerating when he describes what all this meant for him.
"Rugby actually saved me at that time. Just getting into a group of guys and having a laugh with them and also starting to coach."
Being officially brought into the Ulster Academy in 2016 allowed him to work with a large number of young players who have now broken through, including props Tom O'Toole and Eric O'Sullivan.
He loved it, but then he was told he was departing in 2018. It was another shock, but he was better equipped to handle it. He also moved on from Ballymena.
"For the second time, I sort of fell out of love with Ulster but, look, Ulster is a business and it's just one of those things."
With some coaching experience banked, he found his way to Dalriada.
"It's been fantastic and there's a great culture there."
Young is especially proud that pupil James McCormick has made next season's Ulster Academy.
He seems to have finally discovered some post-playing equilibrium, though it's still a work in progress.
"You know, in lockdown I've actually really enjoyed connecting back into the farm. Everything is in a great place."
When rugby returns, he will be ready to keep giving back.