Dame Kelly Holmes reminds us that hitting rock bottom is no barrier to success

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Anna Brech
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Double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes

Even when you reach your lowest point, you can still succeed beyond your wildest dreams – just ask Dame Kelly Holmes

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life” – so said JK Rowling

It’s a sentiment that Dame Kelly Holmes wholeheartedly agrees with, as she launches a new podcast tackling mental health this month. 

The double Olympic gold medallist hit her lowest point after her athletic career was marred by a series of debilitating illnesses and injuries in the early noughties.

“I thought: ‘Why me? I’m so committed, so dedicated, why the f**k me?’ I just looked in the mirror and hated myself,” Holmes tells the Guardian in a new interview

“I wanted the floor to open up, I wanted to jump in that space, I wanted it to close and I didn’t want to go back out. I was in such a bad way. 

“Then I started cutting myself,” she says. “I was just so annoyed with my body, so annoyed with everything going wrong. In your head, you’re screaming so loud. 

“That’s what people don’t understand, the scream inside. I was hurting my body because it was really letting me down.”

Dame Kelly Holmes wins the Olympic women's 800 metres final, Athens 2004

Dame Kelly Holmes wins gold in the 800-metre race in Athens

Incredibly, Holmes continued to compete during this horrific period, and covered up her scars so no-one would know what she was going through. 

And then, just a year after she first broke down, the athlete scored her biggest career triumph, winning the 800-metre and 1500-metre gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics. 

For days after the victory, she slept with her medals beside her, and woke up to kiss them in tears. After her titanic struggle, she felt vindicated. 

Now, Holmes’ mission is to spread awareness of mental health issues, so that people who grapple with self-harm and suicidal thoughts, as she has, know that they are not alone. “I’ve been to the lowest point and to the highest point and everything in between,” she says. 

And, at a time when mental illness can still trigger feelings of shame and low self-esteem, she wants the world to be aware that you can achieve anything that you want: even with, or perhaps because, of a mental health issue

Presenter Davina McCall

Davina McCall is a guest on Holmes’ new podcast about mental health 

Holmes’ new 11-part podcast is titled What Do I Do? Mental Health and Me. Launching on 22 March on Audible, it features interviews with celebrities who’ve hit their own rock bottom, from Davina McCall talking about her heroin addiction to Alistair Campbell describing how he recovered from his breakdown. 

“It shows we can go through life and have struggles and still actually achieve, ” Holmes says. “If that is empowering for other people that would be really nice.”

Do you struggle with mental health issues? Seek confidential help and support at Mind

Images: Getty


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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.