It’s been over six years since Olympic silver medalist Michael Jamieson of Great Britain dove into a pool, but both his successes, as well as his hardships, still impact him today.
As an advocate for the Mental Health Foundation’s awareness week, Jamieson, now 34, recently revisited his battle with mental health which affected the breaststroker throughout his career.
“I was 19 the first time I became aware of my own mental health. Although I had already been living away from home for three years, I wasn’t yet a funded athlete and was putting myself under immense pressure to become a professional swimmer,” Jamieson recently told The Sun.
“I’d have intense periods of high anxiety and stress followed by days of really low mood, when I didn’t want to be around anyone.
“But I didn’t have enough understanding of my mental health — what triggered me, what symptoms I should be aware of or how to manage them.
“This continued throughout my career as my whole identity was wrapped up in being an athlete. I was determined and completely focused on my performance, constantly pushing to be faster, fitter, stronger.
“If a training session didn’t go as planned, I’d feel like a failure and it would really impact my emotions and wellbeing.”
Jamieson’s career peaked when he took 200m breast silver at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, an accomplishment which made him the tip-of-the-spear for the British breaststroke revolution which now includes Adam Peaty, James Wilby and retired Ross Murdoch.
In the past, Jamieson talked about how he struggled to maintain the level that found him on an Olympic podium and wound up injured.
“There were weeks I couldn’t go out,” Jamieson said at the time. “I was living on a diet of anti-depressants and sleeping pills, and just even more destructive behaviour. Not speaking to anyone, completely closed off.”
Reflecting on his struggles, Jamieson now recognizes, “I swayed between the idea that all pro athletes had the same experiences and there wasn’t any point making a big deal about it, to thinking I was all alone and no one else would understand.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m keen to support Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme this year is anxiety, something so many people experience but might not know how to deal with.” (The Sun)
Jamieson’s story is helping spread mental health awareness, a topic for which the most-decorated Olympian of all-time Michael Phelps is also a vocal advocate.
JAMIESON’S INTERNATIONAL MEDAL HAUL
- 2012 Olympic silver medal – 200 breaststroke
- 2012 World Short Course silver medal – 200 breaststroke
- 2013 European Short Course silver medal – 200 breaststroke
- 2011 European Short Course silver medal – 200 breaststroke
- 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medal – 200 breaststroke
- 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medal – 200 breaststroke
I was very much moved by the honesty and the depth of emotion contained in this. We often view these athletes in terms of their superlative physical accomplishments but fail to recognize that The mental challenges are even greater than the physical challenges which they overcome.I can’t say enough that is positive about this article
Swimming is very different today..before money and sponsorships, there was a point when swimming ended..for most after high school, and for the elite college..now pro swimmers can continue into their 30s..IF they continue to perform. For some that pressure is too high..and their identity and future outside of swimming gets delayed. Swimmers also compete year round..they don’t have the luxury of pro team sports that have an OFF season where they can recharge..