David Gillick talks depression and his lowest points pre-comeback in incredibly honest interview

400 metre sprinter chats to Off The Ball about what spurred his return to athletics

David Gillick,

David Gillick ©INPHO/Karel Delvoije

David Gillick has opened up about the frustration that spurred him to make a comeback to athletics.

The 2005 and 2007 European 400 metre indoor champion in June 2014 after numerous injuries but made his return to track and field last month in time for the European Athletic Championships in Amsterdam, taking part in the relay team that agonisingly missed out on Rio qualification.

"If I'm honest, I struggled quite a lot with the whole transition out of sport," he told Off The Ball, adding that at the time he retired he "was sick of it" and "hated athletics".

"About four months after [retiring], I fell into this kind of hole where I started idolising my past. I started realising the things that I've done," he said, quickly beginning to "worry about the future".

"That's when all the stress came in... the anxiety, the frustration, the anger and I was doing various bits and bobs but it wasn't fulfilling." 

He summed it up as "deep down a part of me was missing" and an "element of me that was very lost" which then exacerbated the frustration.

"Then I might do something where I'd almost feel like I was a fraud because I wasn't doing it myself," he said.

"There was a day when I was giving a talk about healthy eating and stuff like that, all relevant, big into it. But it was a day where I was struggling - struggling quite a lot - and it involved. I remember pulling in for a diesel and I came out without about two muffins, a sausage role and just sat in the car and just pigged out. Then I gave a talk and then I'd get that guilt and frustration and anger at myself for what I was doing. There were days like that where I just struggled quite a lot."

He added that "I wasn't a great person, I was always negative, I was lethargic, I was tired." 

Gillick explained that not worrying what others thought about him as well as talking helped him, particularly chat with a friend last December where he poured out his frustrations and the "scary thoughts" he had been having.

"I was having a bad day and I don't know why I did it but there was a mate who's gone through stuff as well and I just said 'you know what, I'm just going to ring him,'" he said, while also explaining that going to a counsellor subsequent to that was the best thing he's ever done.

"When I came back from America in 2011, I was injured and things weren't great then and that's when I was diagnosed with depression. But I went to a counsellor then and I went once, grand. That was it. I literally went once," he said of that 2011 visit.

"It was only when I realised when I went in December, I was like this is something now that arguably I'll have to manage for the rest of my life. I'm comfortable with that. I'm beginning to learn a little bit about myself, little things that happened maybe in the past that have contributed to the way I feel or the way I think now." 

He then detailed the path which has now led him back to athletics and falling in love with the sport again.

Gillick also commented on the controversy regarding the International Olympic Committee's decision not to impose a blanket ban on Russian athletes after a recent doping scandal, describing the situation as a "mess".