Thu. May 19th, 2022

The closer I got to the competition, the bigger the spectrum overwhelmed. When I got to race day, I was almost catatonic with fear. I mechanically reviewed all the techniques I had learned from the psychologist, sports psychiatrist, thought coach and meditation seminar. It took all the skills I had acquired and decades of training and race training to get me through; muscle memory kicked in and carried me to the wall. I managed to qualify.

When I left the pool after my last run, there was no joy. No exhilaration. Not even relief. There was only terror. I should do this again in five weeks. Not only that, but it would be on a much larger stage with more pressure than I had been under for the experiments. “I will never do this again,” I said to my coach after my run, disguising the truth of the statement with a laugh. “I will never want to like this again”.

Listen to Mia Freedman interview Cate and Bronte Campbell on No Filter. The post continues below.

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Despite my best efforts, a single tear escapes my eye and runs down my cheek, “I will never feel like that again,” I mumble, looking up at my doctor. “I think I need some medical attention.” Her smile is so kind that it almost breaks my heart. “I think we can help you,” she says. Her words wash over me like a cool breeze on a suffocating summer day. For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful.

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Four weeks before the 2021 Olympics, I started taking medication to treat my anxiety and depression. The reason I share my story is not to invite pity or apologize for my performances in Tokyo. I share my story because I want to remove the stigma around mental health, especially around seeking medical or pharmaceutical intervention. Before I experienced mental ill health, and even as I struggled with it, I believed it was something I could overcome through sheer willpower and determination. Choosing medicine was the ‘easy way out’ and if you were strong you could arrange yourself with therapy, meditation, yoga, breathing and exercise. I refused to admit that I could not correct a chemical imbalance in my brain through something as simple as breathing – I just had to try harder. How naive, how ignorant, how arrogant.

Cate Campbell. The picture is included.

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