British short track speed skater Elise Christie has revealed how her pattern of self-harming led her to contemplate suicide.
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.
“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, 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.
— Elise christie (@Elise_Christie) July 8, 2020
“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.
“If you are sitting there at home numb or thinking about doing any self-harm or you’re struggling mentally, go and see the doctor. I’ve been on medication now and also routine in life helps, I’m finding I can live life as me as well as living life as a skater.
“I know there is going to be pressure on me again by the time the Olympics come round but I am much better prepared to deal with it. I will not be on social media six months before the Games – so don’t try to abuse me because you can’t!
“I want to win a medal in Beijing, 100 per cent. I will be focused on one or two distances instead of all three this time. I’m going to do everything I can to give myself the best opportunity to win, but if I don’t I know the whole world won’t hate me and I won’t hate myself.
“Either way, whatever happens, I am going to retire after that and hang up the skates.”