Béryl Gastaldell: “Happy to still be alive” after bout with depression


In an interview after her record-breaking 50 backstroke swim on Wednesday at 2018 French Elite Nationals in Saint-Raphaël, Béryl Gastaldello told the French sports daily newspaper l’Equipe about the deep depression she went through in her final season at Texas A&M. Asked if her goal for these French Nationals was to punch a ticket to 2018 European Championships in Glasgow, Gastaldello responded, “Non, I’m here to enjoy myself and to have fun. The time, it’s a little bit unexpected and it’s a bonus for me. I’ve had serious health problems and, three weeks ago, I didn’t think I would be able to be here.”

The interviewer then asked, “what were you afflicted with?” to which Gastaldello confided, “At the end of December-beginning of January, I was in a deep depression with severe anxiety, like other swimmers before me: Michael Phelps, Allison Schmitt, etc. I was at the bottom of a hole. It’s been five months and I just came out of it. I didn’t even know that existed, you don’t realize what it is where you’re not in it. I see a psychiatrist, a psychologist, I take medicine. I didn’t have the choice, I had to get help. Now, everything is getting back to normal little by little so that makes me look at life differently. It happened rather suddenly, I didn’t realize [it was happening] and it exploded. I am very happy to be alive, that’s already wonderful, so the sport, that’s a plus.”

Gastaldello went on to explain how it began. “During the one-week break at Christmas, in the United States we are supposed to continue to swim a little because there are the NCAA Championships in March. It’s very intense, we never really stop. We can go home for a week to be with the family but I couldn’t because it’s too short [to travel home to France]. That’s when I began to cough; I was coughing more and more. I had trouble breathing, I was having panic attacks in the water and it turned into a vicious circle. I was having obsessions. It was crazy. It’s hard to explain and [hard] to believe. I had at least 20 nervous tics, I couldn’t talk, I had music in my head and I still do, a little. I didn’t sleep for two weeks. I went very, very deep. And I went home to France urgently.

“I didn’t swim for two and a half months and then I was able to get back in the water, for 45 minutes, 1 hour… and I succeeded in going to the NCAAs for my team. It was very hard but I went my best times there. Mentally, we build ourselves up. You have to be strong to get out of this. After the NCAAs I stopped swimming again and for the last six weeks I was just doing dryland training and CrossFit because I still couldn’t get back in the water. It’s only been six days since I’ve been back. So for me, even being here is already…”

L’Equipe finished by asking Gastaldello what’s next? “You can’t be ashamed, we all have problems. I realize that nearly everyone goes through that in their lives. There are degrees, you don’t have to go so deep. You have to take care of yourself, pay attention and ask the right questions. Swimming, it’s a sport. But I was looking [at it] as black or white and I realize there is also gray. Taking a break doesn’t mean quitting. If I go back to training again it will be to come back stronger. Otherwise, I’ll do something else.”

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