Kelly Holmes on fighting depression

It doesn’t matter who you are or how successful you’ve been depression can hit anyone at anytime. Kelly Holmes, who won two gold medals at the 2004 Olympics, suffered from depression after injuries left her feeling low just one year before her double Olympic triumph. Kelly told Newsround her story: 
How did your depression start?

The year before the Olympics was a really tough time for me. I’d been contending with a lot of injuries again which I’d had throughout my athletics career. I think a combination of not wanting to go through all the pressures and strains of being injured and wanting to achieve the best I could as an athlete really got on top of me. Basically what it lead to was depression and self harm.

What is depression?

The main feelings when you have depression are feeling like you can’t get out of a cycle of crying, feeling like the world’s ended and that there’s nothing positive to strive for. It’s really hard to describe why you get to that stage and as I’ve always been a really positive person I never thought I could get as low as I did. A combination of being in tears and not knowing what to do about it. Trying to fight those feelings but just being out of control and there is nothing at that stage that you think you can do.

People would probably be surprised that someone who’s achieved as much as you could feel down.

I think everyone has always seen me as a motivated and determined person. But there are some things in life that hit you very unexpectedly. I was at a stage where I had fought through so many injury problems and gone through low times but always thought it doesn’t matter I’m still going to fight for it. I’m still going to go for it and try and strive again. I had that for over seven years and by the time I got the depression it was just one year too many of trying to fight.

What did you do about it?

I realised that the only way I could break the cycle would be to do something for myself and try to get out of it but first of all I did speak to somebody. It was actually somebody who didn’t have a close connection to me, they weren’t a friend or family it was somebody who just seemed sympathetic. She was a lady, a doctor I’d seen while I was away training and I was having a massage at the time and she came in and she was really calm. She’d dealt with different women’s problems and I thought she’d understand a part of what I felt. Just speaking to somebody made me open my eyes to what was happening because I was just in a rut before.

How important was your exercise at this time?

Although I got depression, having a focus and direction was something that really helped me to beat it because I still had goals. The time that I was depressed was just before the World Championships in 2003 and I still had that to focus on. Even though I’d been through depression just before I still came home with a silver medal from the World Championships!

How do you look back on being depressed now?

I think that it’s just something that I went though in my life and I’m pleased that I could come through it. I believe that it’s probably made me stronger. A year later after the lowest point in my life I had the highest point in my life by winning two gold medals at the Olympic games and now I’m very very happy!

Is there something you do now to stay positive?

I always go back to what I’ve always believed and that’s to always be happy with whatever I’m setting my sights on. Always have goals and always try my best to be the best I can be in my life. I have some really great friends and family who didn’t know what I went through but now they know and they’re really proud of me for coming through it.

What advice would you give to kids?

Always believe there is someone there for you. No one is ever entirely on their own and even when you do feel like you’re on your own there’s always someone you can talk to. And try to think of something you can try to strive to be. Also find a friend who can give you laughter and you can go out and have fun with and believe that other people want you to be happy.

Do attitudes towards mental health need to change?

People should be more receptive to problems that others have no matter what. Depression can hit anybody at anytime. It’s not something that you suddenly get struck down with and you think you can control. There’s a reason behind why people get depressed. People need help to find that reason and to try and change it. Perception of being depressed is just not known. People often don’t realise how many people they know are going through bad times and depression because a lot of people keep it to themselves

How could more information help?

It should be widely available especially to children. I think there’s a lot of pressures in life as it is. The more information that can be given and the more awareness to mental health and depression the better it will be for everyone. Then people will realise they’re not on their own and there are people to help you out. You don’t need to suffer on your own as there are millions of people who go through the same problems.