Speed skater Elise Christie speaks candidly on mental health struggles

Scottish short track speed skater Elise Christie has revealed how her pattern of self-harming led her to contemplate suicide.

Elise Christie arrives at the red carpet during the BT Sport Industry Awards 2018 at Battersea Evolution. Picture: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for BT Sport Industry Awards
Elise Christie arrives at the red carpet during the BT Sport Industry Awards 2018 at Battersea Evolution. Picture: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for BT Sport Industry Awards

In an interview on the My Sporting Mind podcast, the 30-year-old spoke candidly about her struggles with mental health brought on by abuse and death threats on social media.

Christie shared how her father’s terminal cancer diagnosis, injuries and money problems had impacted her life and how it almost became too much when her relationship with fellow speed skater Shaolin Sandor Liu ended.

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“The first time I self-harmed was pretty much when I was going through the break-up with Shaolin. It wasn’t what caused it, there were a lot of things that led to that point,” said the three-time world champion.

“It got to around Christmas in 2018 and I’d just had enough. I don’t know what happened but I made it out of the other side, luckily. But it’s not been easy, it’s been hard.”

That year began with huge disappointment at the winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Christie headed to South Korea a hot favourite for multiple gold medals but returned empty handed after falls in both the 500m and 1500m and a disqualification in the 1000m. Christie, from Livingston, who received death threats from South Korean fans following her collision with Park Seung-hi at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, explained: “It was after Pyeongchang when I noticed something was really wrong.

“I’d received abuse online and through social media after Sochi and it was happening again,” added the Scot, who was also disqualified in the 500m and 1500m at those Olympics.

“I began to question things, question myself and start thinking that maybe they are right, maybe what they are saying is right. Why was it happening to me?

“It was like a numbness. I’d sit there and feel absolutely nothing and I needed to feel something. It’s a stupid thing to explain because why would you want to hurt? But it takes the pain away inside, it was like a release of emotion.

“By this time I had also gone through some manic phases where I’d spent loads of money I didn’t have and I’d built up some debt. When I couldn’t spend any more money or train because I was out injured, then I would cut.

“I would have never said I was someone who was suicidal but I’d had enough of life and I did nearly do it because I’d got into such a bad cycle of self-harm. I just remember being there that day thinking I’d had enough and I was going to press as hard as I can and do it.”

Two years on, Christie has found ways to turn her life around and is targeting Olympic gold in Beijing in 2022, after which she plans to retire from the sport. “Talking to people helps so much,” she said. “Instead of picking up the blade, pick up the phone. There is always someone who will speak to you.”

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