Athletics

David Gillick Courageously Opens Up About Having Suicidal Thoughts

David Gillick Courageously Opens Up About Having Suicidal Thoughts

David Gillick has opened up about the depression and suicidal thoughts which haunted him following the end of his athletics career.

"That was the dream, that was all I wanted to do: represent Ireland at the highest level of my sport," the 2005 and 2007 European Indoor Championships 400m gold medalist told RTÉ's Claire Byrne Live.

"I really felt that I was alive, I was kicking every day, every week, every month, every year; there was a focus, there was something that I really wanted to go after and attain, and next thing I got injured.

"I went from one day running with the world's best, competing in big stadiums in front of 80,000 people to one day sitting at a computer, at a desk thinking, 'This is the rest of my life'."

As he struggled with his post-sports identity, Gillick fell into a spiral of depression.

I was constantly fighting mentally: I'd have positive thoughts, I'd have negative thoughts. Then suddenly, the negatives started outweighing the positives.

I could always remember that some people knew I was struggling and they'd say, 'Come on for a cup of tea' and you'd sit at a table - they're on the other side of the table and you'd look straight at them - they'd ask, 'David, how are you?' The minute that question came out, I'd be like, 'Yeah, grand, fine'.

Inside all I wanted to do was cry. All I wanted to do was, 'This is how it is' but I couldn't do that, nothing put a smile on my face. I was depressed, I always had this knot in my stomach, this anxiety in my stomach about what I was going to do; that stress, that pressure, I broke out in psoriasis all over my body. I couldn't sleep When I slept, I'd sweat. It was strange, I'd feel horrendously bad about myself.

Even looking back at my career, any successes, I didn't even want to look back because I hated it.

When I was by myself, I used to drive around with the radio off and I would literally - out loud - tell myself how shit I was. I used to punch the steering wheel, I used to hit myself. I suppose when I was at home, I wouldn't talk, I'd just go silent. In a fit of rage, you might throw something around the house. It might be something from a cup to a chair to punching the wall.

It just came out in many ways. I would shout, I would argue, I would get so frustrated with myself, clenching fists. I wouldn't be in control.

That depression soon turned to suicidal thoughts.

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"One particular Sunday, I just hit rock bottom. Charlotte at the time was eight months pregnant with Oscar and she's sitting at the kitchen table and I have a complete and utter panic attack. She breaks down in tears and I remember thinking, 'What am I doing? I can't bring a child into this world if I'm not right'.

"I left the house in a fit of rage and unfortunately news broke that someone had taken their life on the M50 - Charlotte thought it was me. I picked up my phone and I had about 20 missed calls from Charlotte because she thought it was me; that was my fame of mind if you like.

"I just didn't want to be around. There were a few little incidents where I thought about doing things. I just thought about, you know what, moving on; just stopping this hate for myself.

"I can remember driving, I was coming back from Derry one day and there was a truck coming the other way and I just thought, 'I'll put the car into the truck, just get it done'. That was probably one of the lowest points because I could have done it, it was real. When you think about it, it's just a sleight of hand, turning the wheel that one way and that could be it. That was rock bottom.

"I can remember pulling the car on the side of the road and just breaking down and thinking, 'I don't like the way I'm talking to myself here' but I didn't know what to do. I didn't know who to talk to, I didn't know where to turn.

"You just think, 'It'll pass, it'll pass'. The suicidal thoughts were always there, they were there for a while.

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"I'm just so glad I didn't."

Gillick said that his situation has since "improved immensely". Though dialogue and counseling, his mental health is now in a far better place.

You can watch David Gillick speaking on Claire Byrne Live below.

If you are having troubles, and need someone to talk to, here are some useful numbers. Find the one that's best for you.

Samaritans: 116 123

Childline: 1800 66 66 66 or Text "Talk" to 50101

Aware: 1800 80 48 48

Pieta House1800 247 247

Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

PJ Browne
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