Out Aussie Olympic Gold Medalist Matthew Mitcham Reveals He Tried To Stop Being Gay
Australian Olympian Matthew Mitcham relived trauma from his past during an interrogation on SAS Australia by Anthony Middleton on Tuesday night’s episode.
Trigger Warning: This story discusses suicide ideation, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.
The Olympic diver, who became the first out gay athlete to win gold at the 2008 Games, shared with Middleton the deep emotional pain he endured during his childhood while struggling to hide his true sexuality.
“I was the only child in a single-parent household and obviously [my mum’s] life was difficult so the easiest way to make me be as easy as possible was to control me through fear”, he said.
Mitcham expressed, “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 reflected on his long-standing struggles with low self-esteem, stemming from what he described as “ridiculous childhood trauma”.
Cruel Post-Games Comedown
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The Olympic diver described feeling a cruel “Post-Games comedown” after his Olympic gold win, sharing the brutal effects of trauma and drugs on his self-esteem that almost ended his life.
“In 2008, I won an Olympic gold medal with the highest-scoring dive in Olympic history. But after that, I began a bit of a downward spiral. I was using a lot of drugs, particularly crystal meth. But even though I’m an addict in recovery, I am still ruled by self-doubt and fear.”
“I was retired for 15 months with no intention of ever returning to the sport. I got the opportunity to start diving again, but I had a drug problem. I went cold turkey, but I never really addressed any of the underlying causes of why I was just wanting to escape”, Mitcham added.
The Olympic diver knew that he liked boys from the age of five, and endured feelings of shame through primary school and religion.
Wish The Gay Away
Mitcham acknowledged that during his childhood, he grappled with self-hatred, which drove him to engage in self-destructive behaviours.
“I put a rubber band around my wrist and every time I had a gay thought I would snap the rubber band against my wrist to try and associate pain with it to try and train myself out of being gay.”
“I just didn’t feel good enough. I got overwhelmed with feelings that I couldn’t keep on the inside. After one particular episode, I went far too far, and I had to call my grandma to take me to hospital.”
Mitcham revealed that he tried to take his life once, “I just wrapped it up in the same thing. It’s just that whole self-esteem stuff, you know, and it got too much and luckily it didn’t work.”
Celebrating Seven Years Sober
The Olympic diver celebrated his 7 years of sobriety in January this year, describing his mental health as the “happiest and healthiest” he’s ever been.
“It has been seven years since I put anything stronger than a Panadol in my body… Not everyone needs sobriety, but I did because I was dependent on external things to solve internal issues. And though I still have internal issues, I now have internal solutions”, he wrote on Instagram.
“I hope everyone has had (or is still having) a fun-filled festive season, and if one day you wake up and think “Enough’s enough” like I did seven years ago, just know that there is lots of help available if you ask for it”, Mitcham added.