Burnout and depression of an Olympic medalist. “I was shedding tears from my swimming goggles”
Photo: Bartłomiej Zborowski/PAP
She did not expect that the crisis, the mental one, would come just after achieving success in life. She was tired of deceiving herself and the people she worked with. Every cell in my body screamed no. I forced myself to train instead of saying “let me alone, at least for a moment” – modern pentathlete Oktawia Nowacka, Olympic medalist, talks about the problems she faced.
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The year 2016, which is to host the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, is fast approaching.
In the achievements of Oktawia, born in 1991, there are medals of the world championships – gold in the team, bronze in the mixed relay and bronze in the relay. She is missing the most valuable Olympic medal, which she has been working for for years, about which she started dreaming already in kindergarten.
He practices a difficult, complicated discipline that requires versatility – modern pentathlon consists of fencing, swimming, horse riding and cross-country running combined with shooting from a pistol.
Before the Olympics, a very troublesome foot injury occurs, dark thoughts appear, doubts and anxiety appear. The medal, the one in bronze, he wins anyway. He does not suspect that this is the beginning of problems, these serious, huge ones. After catching up with his childhood dreams, he is unable to train, he sees no point in training. Before entering the pool, he cries so much that he has to pour tears out of his goggles.
Today, Oktawia talks openly about burnout and depression, what’s more – as a mental coach – she helps other players and players. He cooperates with the Graj z Głową foundation, dealing with mental health issues in sport. He supports the Yellow Ribbon March #PoGodność scheduled for June 18 in Warsaw, which this time will be held under the slogan “SOS for children and youth psychiatry”. She will not take part in it – she is at the camp in Drzonków, she trains again, she enjoys physical effort again.
Rafał Kazimierczak: You are standing on the Olympic podium, receiving the bronze medal, you are moved. What does complete happiness look like?
Oktawia Nowacka: Then, seven years ago, I was sure it was. Today I can say that it was pure joy. Pure and temporary. Joy is just an emotion. An emotion that passes. And that’s right – it was only after my experiences that I understood that happiness, but the kind of happiness we carry inside, is a state, not an emotion. This is a constant state during which – even if we encounter difficult situations – we have the balance to deal with such situations. Happiness, today I can say it, is for me a state that needs to be built, rather longer than shorter. And those seconds or minutes on the podium in Rio were momentary joy.
Every athlete dreams of such a success, many fans would like to be in your place. And you’re talking about momentary joy.
People often think that if they finally buy something, something they have been putting off for a long time, they will be happy. Or they’ll do something they always wanted to do but didn’t have the time or the courage to do. And so on and so forth. And it’s not like that. The trick is to be happy regardless of whether I get something, buy something or pass an exam. Achieving the goal is just a nice icing on the cake, adding a thrill to everyday life. It’s never going to give us long-term happiness, because the work on that long-term happiness is between peak moments, between achieving goals, that’s how I see it.
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