Matthew Mitcham has opened up in a heartbreaking interview about when his life hit its lowest point.
The Australian Olympian is taking part in the latest series of SAS Australia and on Tuesday night opened up on the torment he suffered while battling drug addiction and the self esteem and anxiety issues that almost ended his life.
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After claiming the 10m platform gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Mitcham was on top of the world.
He knew from an early age that diving was going to be his ticket to success and he threw everything he had at it.
“It was my ticket to being special. Because I could do it really well and that’s all I kind of wanted,” Mitcham says.
“Since I was like 8 or 9 I thought that if I do something really good then I get this positive validation and if I’m the best in the world at something then I’m going to get everything that I need. Like I’m going to feel good about myself.
“That was a real driving force.”
Mitcham talks about having a “really low self esteem” which stems from his childhood where he was an only child to a single mum.
It’s when he’s asked to go back through his childhood that the emotion begins to pour out.
“Obviously her life was difficult so the easiest way to make me just be as easy as possible was to control me through fear,” he says.
SAS instructor Ant Middleton asks the Olympian what that made him do to himself and whether or not he hates himself.
“Yeah. I just didn’t feel good enough.”
He opens up to reveal he used to engage in bodily harm, cutting himself “out of anger” when feeling overwhelmed.
“Because then I felt like the problem was dealt with. It was some sort of release for me. And after one particular episode, I went too far and I had to call my grandma to take me to the hospital.”
It’s then that Mitcham reveals, after being asked what the worst thing he did was, he had once tried to end his life and how it all stemmed from childhood trauma.
“I tried to take my life once. … luckily it didn’t work,” he says as tears pour out.
“I kinda knew from (the age of) five that I liked boys. Through primary school and religion, that’s when shame started getting put on to it.
“And so then I put a rubber band around my wrist – because I knew that being gay was such a bad thing – I put a rubber band around my wrist and every time I had a gay thought I’d snap the rubber band against my wrist to try associate pain with it to try and train myself out of being gay.”
The Aussie Olympian is currently seven-and-a-half years clean and sober after struggling with a crystal meth addiction.
Mitcham discussed his troubled past with drugs and suicidal thoughts, which were typically triggered by a “post-Games comedown”.
The Queenslander battled depression in his teens, becoming dependant on alcohol and binge drinking to help him cope with mental illness.
“I would literally block my nose and drink, drink, drink because the aim wasn’t to get drunk, it was to throw up and pass out quicker than I did the week before,” Mitcham told the BBC.
“It was relief, escapism and a way of shutting my brain off for a few hours, but it kept escalating.”