The 32-year-old has endured a horror run with a neck injury and then a broken arm, and even required three knee operations this summer.
However he made his return in pre-season against Newcastle on Friday night and the South African-born prop is ready to emerge from the dark periods of the last two years.
“I must say the missus and the kids were good around me, they really helped and being surrounded with good people helped me get through the last 18 months,” he said.
“It was tough, there were some tough times but it made me stronger, I’ve learned a different side of it.
“I’d not been injured that long in my career so there were totally different learnings to take. I think I’m stronger and know more about myself so hopefully I can take that into the new season but you can’t prepare for everything that will happen in the season. I want to feel fresh, I feel good and the body feels good so let’s see how it goes.
“There was a bit of doubt with my neck, there were some stages when I thought, is it really worth it but people around you give you a different perspective of the game and life so they helped me through it and helped me a lot. I’m here and ready to go again.”
In Nel’s absence both Edinburgh and Scotland have enjoyed a resurgence, with the former qualifying for the Champions Cup for the first time since 2014, and the latter finishing third in the Six Nations.
Cockerill has been the catalyst for Edinburgh’s success, masterminding a play-off push in his first year in charge.
And Nel has enjoyed working with the former Leicester and England hooker.
He added: “The team did well last year, they bought into a good structure and Cockers has done really well with the squad that he’s got so hopefully as a team we can look forward and build on last season and go better.
“He brings something different to the table, he played in a different era so it’s awesome to have somebody like him around us. His mentality to the game, and his structures, it’s up to us to buy into what he wants in the game and we saw it works, so why not.
“He creates a good mentality among the boys and what he’s done has been really good and everyone has bought into what he wants as a coach.
“It’s awesome to be back in the Champions Cup. I had a taste in my first two years and it’s where you want to be. You want to test yourselves against the best players so it’s awesome to be back in the competition and it’s a different challenge for us as Edinburgh again.”
Mitsubishi Motors is proud to support Edinburgh Rugby and welcome WP Nel as an Official Mitsubishi Motors ambassador