Justina Šveta-Ersetic.  At first there were tears

Getty Images/Srdjan Stefanović/Pictured: Justyna Cveta-Ercetic

David Gora

– When my husband saw the door through which I was entering, he realized that it was dangerous, – recalls Justina Cveta-Ercetic. Poland’s funniest athlete was suffering from depression. Today he is preparing to return to the world stage.

On July 4, it announced the end of the season. The main reason for this decision was an Achilles tendon injury. The distinguished runner admitted in a statement that she was going through a crisis. She did not write about the details on social media.

She announced on the “Games Time” program on RDC Radio that her health problems contributed to her suffering from depression.

Święta-Ersetic even considered ending her career. But later she decided to take a break. Currently, he wants to prepare optimally for the Olympic Games in Paris.

The Polish runner is not alone in her battle against depression. He often talks to psychologist Małgorzata Szewczyk.

Davut Gura, WP SportoweFakty: Do you wake up with a smile on your face?

Justina Cveta-Ercetic, multiple Olympic medalist: She’s definitely in a much better mood than she’s been lately. I hope that the most difficult period in my life is over. I want to enjoy what has given me the greatest pleasure for many years and gives me huge doses of adrenaline. I can’t imagine myself without sports.

Are there any memories of difficult times?

Of course, I sometimes think about depression. It was a really difficult time. I couldn’t participate, I watched everything that mattered most from the sidelines. The media suggested that I was done and that I should give up. This wasn’t nice. I have dedicated a large portion of my private life to sports, and it is difficult to find yourself in a situation where others think I have marginalized myself. Especially since I spent several months trying to be in good shape during the season. I fell off the track on the last line.

Are you worried about online comments?

For most of my career, I had no interest in them at all. I haven’t actually read them. It was difficult for me to know if negative comments actually existed. I only started to notice them as I rounded the corner. Even though I knew not everyone could be happy. There will always be someone who doesn’t like the decisions I make.

I can’t imagine there being a fan who doesn’t like you. I don’t know if there is a player on the world stage who smiles more than you.

Maybe there will be someone. I recently heard that I was probably born with a smile on my face. It’s true that I always try to enjoy what I have. Although I don’t always smile.

It is difficult to find a photo of yourself without a smile in photo agencies.

I recently did a photo shoot for a calendar. In some photos I had to pose with people with disabilities. The other pictures were supposed to come from one of my starts when I was on the treadmill. I tried to find one that showed motivation, seriousness and focus on the face. And I admit – it was a problem. Most of them made me smile. Although in the last few months there have definitely been fewer reasons to be happy than I’m used to.

What could you want from your sporting life when you are an Olympic champion, or a European champion, when you have almost everything you can get?

If I didn’t have more dreams and goals in sports, I would have stopped training a long time ago. Appetite grows with eating. I may not be able to achieve more than Olympic medals, but I can still improve in individual races and fight for more Olympic medals.

There are also European Championships and World Indoor Championships on the way. For health reasons, it is difficult for me to say whether I will participate in the indoor race. After getting out of the hole I was in, the Olympics became my biggest goal.

Who can you rely on in the most difficult moments?

My family and coaches played a big role. He was just there with me, inviting me to talk, even about something trivial. He did not pressure me to return.

I’ve heard questions: “How can you talk about depression when you’re a smiling person?”

naturally. I don’t know what people think of me, but positive images on the internet don’t mean I’m like that all the time and everywhere. That’s why I’m so glad that I found people who understand and help me in the most difficult moments.

The psychologist played an important role. I was in constant contact with her. The initiative didn’t even come from me. You took the first step and made my job easier. I’ve waited too long to see a specialist. If it weren’t for her, I might still be waiting. From conversation to conversation our relationship developed. At first there were only tears. I could not even describe my condition and well-being. As time passed, I started talking. Not in a chaotic way, but in a calm, balanced and logical way. Right now, I’m happy with what I have. I want it to stay that way.

However, I realize I still need to work on it. I am still in contact with the psychiatrist. It is important that you do not collapse during difficult training sessions and that everything does not come back.

This means that without a specialist there will be no way to return to your old life.

It will be very difficult. Especially since I had already started working with psychologists, but it did not suit me. I felt like she didn’t contribute anything to my life. I have been a person who has always solved my problems on my own. Finally, the moment came when the problems began to weigh on me, becoming harder and harder. That’s when the psychologist herself spoke up. In my case it was the perfect solution.

Does treatment depend on conversation or also on pharmacy?

And also in pharmacy. This is nothing to be ashamed of. I even noticed that when I admitted to taking the medication, the reception was very positive. People are happy that someone like me is speaking out about it. Many people withdraw into themselves, and then the illness becomes more difficult to bear.

When did you call your feelings depression?

There was no specific event. Everything has been coming together for a long time. In many ways I felt like I was against it. I couldn’t come to terms with it. Going to training no longer gives me as much happiness as it used to. There was also an injury. I was tired, dissatisfied. I took out my frustration on the person closest to me, my husband.

I didn’t immediately admit that I was depressed. I kept the information about my terrible condition to myself. I don’t like feeling sorry for myself or talking about problems. When I went to see a therapist for the first time, my husband drove me. Except he didn’t even know where we were going. I only gave the address. When he saw the door I was entering through, he realized it was serious.

Do you remember what he said?

He didn’t know how to act. He was aware that slogans like “It’ll be okay” or “You’ll be fine” affected me like a bull rag. However, as I was getting more and more excited, finally getting over my fear of the end of my sports career and having no idea what to do with my life, my spirits remained high. Was with me. He said I could always handle it, I just needed to give myself some time. I should have just relaxed, distanced myself, and simply rested. He was right.

When I talk to sports psychologists, they often stress that the key to mental balance is knowing what to do with your life after your career is over. Do you already know that?

I agree with this, and at the same time this statement scares me. For me, I don’t have many ideas about what to do after sports. I have a few, but I’m not sure about them. I didn’t plan my future 100 percent. Every thought that comes to my mind, after a while I replace it with another thought. The question about the future after my career is one of the hardest questions I ask myself.

Is office work no longer possible?

it’s not mine. I don’t want to close the door, I like to always have an open portal to use when necessary, but I definitely wouldn’t go in that direction at first. I always thought I would live for sports. I have been living it for 19 years. The breakdown I went through made me realize that it won’t be like this forever.

Some female athletes become coaches.

You have made all necessary permissions. I have the proper papers but the training itself doesn’t appeal to me. My life then would not have changed significantly compared to my life now. I used to go to training camps and think about preparations for competitions. And I would like, at least at first, to stay home for a while and catch my breath.

You value your free time. Even when arranging this interview, you emphasized that we will not talk on the weekend because Saturday and Sunday are reserved for your loved ones.

I used to not be able to say no. I took everything that was offered to me. My schedule was full of conversations from Monday to Sunday. I was tired of it all, and I had no balance. I didn’t even have time to go to my parents. That’s when I decided I had to learn to say “no.” It’s time to not let yourself get carried away.

Thus, from Monday to Friday, I willingly participate in various activities and projects to which I am invited. However, I try to reserve Saturday and Sunday for myself and my loved ones. It doesn’t always work, but it gets better.

What’s the next step in your career?

I just want to enjoy everything again and go to training smiling. It may hurt, it may be tiring, but I don’t want to deprive myself of my smile. That’s why I need health. If all this goes well, it can still be beautiful. I will fight for medals in the most important events.

And also during matches. Although I only have one left. I will not participate in the next one, but this does not mean the end of his career immediately after Paris. I plan to participate in a few events.

With a smile on the face.

The interview was conducted by Dawid Gura, a journalist at WP SportoweFakty


Where to look for help?

If you are in a difficult situation and want to talk to a psychologist, call the free number 116 123 or 22 484 88 01. You will also find a list of places where you can seek help here.

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