Elise Christie: Livingston skater gives message of hope after battling anxiety and depression

LIVINGSTON speed skater Elise Christie says she “ended up broken” from “debilitating” anxiety and depression, but has now recovered.

Elise Christie. Pic: Steve Bardens/Getty Images
Elise Christie. Pic: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

The 28-year-old also revealed she resorted to self-harming as a way of coping with her emotions.

In a BBC Sport interview, Elise insisted she is now looking to the future after coming off antidepressants.

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“I want to show people it’s OK to feel that way and that it’s OK to use medication,” she said.

Last week, Elise 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.”

After a conversation with a psychologist in the summer of 2017, 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,” Elise 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.”

Elise says medication helped her to manage “dramatic emotions” in the run-up to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

At South Korea Games, she fell in the 500m final and 1500m semi-finals, and raced with an injured ankle in the 1,000m heats, where she was disqualified.

She reached her lowest ebb after separating from her boyfriend – Hungarian skater Shaolin Sandor Liu – after the competition.

“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,” added Elise.

“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.”

She now hopes people can be more open about mental health and dispel any stigma around the use of medication.

“There are a lot of other athletes going through this. There are 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.”