British short track speed skater Elise Christie says she “ended up broken” from “debilitating” anxiety and depression, but has now recovered.
The 28-year-old also revealed she resorted to self-harming as a way of coping with her emotions.
In a BBC Sport interview, Christie explained how she is excited about the future having come off antidepressants.
“I want to show people it’s OK to feel that way and that it’s OK to use medication,” said the Scot.
Last week, Christie used social media to announce she had taken antidepressants for two years but had since stopped the medication.
The three-time Winter Olympian said she developed anxiety after receiving death threats at the 2014 Games, and that over the course of the next couple of years various personal issues and injury problems led to depression.
“It was quite debilitating,” said the triple world champion. “I was in bed a lot. I was struggling to keep up with normal life. I couldn’t get things done.
“I hit a massive low when I got injured in [the last] Olympic season and I just ended up broken.”
It was in the summer of 2017 that, after a conversation with a psychologist, she decided to seek further help and was prescribed antidepressants.
“People are scared to say they’re on medication. I don’t know why but I was the same,” Christie added.
“But people are on them because they need it. I couldn’t function without them at that point.
“People were saying how strong I was the way I handled both Olympics – but I actually wasn’t coping and I didn’t want to admit that because of how people perceived me.
“Some people feel weak to admit it. But depression is an illness, not just sadness, and I want people to think it is OK to speak about it.”
‘I just couldn’t deal with how I felt’
Christie says medication helped her to manage “dramatic emotions” in the run-up to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
She separated from her boyfriend – Hungarian skater Shaolin Sandor Liu – after the competition and said she reached her lowest ebb.
“At my lowest moment I did self-harm – not badly, but I was still doing it because I didn’t know how to cope without it,” said Christie.
“After everything that had happened – and I was on my own – I just couldn’t deal with how I felt any more.
“Because you have a physical pain, I guess it just takes away the emotional pain. I would never have shared that, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to know.
“And that’s the point: you can get to these points and you can get out of it – because I have.”
Christie says that by speaking out she hopes more people can themselves be more open about mental health and dispel any stigma around the use of medication.
“There is a lot of other athletes going through this. There’s a lot of normal, day-to-day people going through the same thing,” she added.
“It’s fine to be on the medication. I felt at times I was never going to get off them or feel better. But I just knew when I was ready to come off the medication, because I was ready to accept the emotions and accept that I was going to feel up and down at points.
“I’m going to feel sad emotions but I told myself I was going to try to focus on the good emotions. And now here I am.
“I’m excited about skating; I’m excited about life. I’m not scared any more.”
Why do people self-harm?
Self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body. It is usually a way of coping with or expressing overwhelming emotional distress.
Sometimes when people self-harm, they feel on some level that they intend to die. More than half of people who die by suicide have a history of self-harm.
But the intention is more often to punish themselves, express their distress, or relieve unbearable tension. Sometimes it’s a mixture of all three.
Self-harm can also be a cry for help.
For further information about self harm, click here or visit: