Silence has been more than golden for Georgia Wilson — it probably saved her life.
In the grips of a depression fuelled by her high hockey hopes, serious injury and a family break-up, the young Hockeyroo turned to meditation treatment, which included not talking for three days at a camp in Bali last year.
Before flying out to London to watch the Hockeyroos play in the World Cup this week, the 22-year-old opened up on the most intimate parts of her journey in the hope of helping others face and conquer mental health demons.
“The ordeal has been quite sad when you look at it,” Wilson said.
“I like to think I’m doing quite well for what I’ve been through and I want other people to know that in times of hardship you’ve just got to be persistent and have some hope,”
Wilson is watching instead of playing because of the knee reconstruction she had in January, costing her a spot in the silver medal-winning national team at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April.
It is the continuation of an often torturous young life she has endured in her pursuit of glory in hockey, a sport she hated when she started playing in the Perth Hills at Mahogany Creek.
When Wilson was 16, her mum Sandra was diagnosed with breast cancer and her parents split just a week after her mum had finished her treatment.
Wilson, the second eldest of four sisters, then worked as a waitress, motivational speaker, tutoring children with disability and coaching to help ease the family’s financial burden as she continued to hunt her hockey dreams.
She suffered from depression while studying at university and often felt isolated and overwhelmed and struggled to sleep. That, with performance anxiety in her sport, led to what she said were multiple breakdowns.
“I was feeling very lost and didn’t read the signs that I was struggling,” she said.
She then made the bold move to confront a WAIS sports psychologist to say her dark feelings were in stark contrast to what she wanted from a life in elite sport. She experimented with forms of meditation, including the Balinese camp in Ubud.
“My family and friends were all laughing about me staying quiet for that long and I actually got bone bruising from the sitting down,” she said. “But I really tried to commit to it and my meditation reminds me that I’m in control and understand there is more outside of sport.
“When I speak to schools or young groups, I tell athletes or any adolescents to take the time to do it because your mental health dictates everything else in your life.
“It’s amazing what sitting and spending half an hour a day by yourself just to think about nothing can do and the breath is always with you.
“I really hope in the long run all these things have contributed to me as a person and ultimately as an athlete.”
Wilson, who has done a science degree in human biology and wants to become a gynaecologist, wanted to be a Hockeyroo for as long as she can remember.
With her teary mum in the stands in Holland last year, that dream finally came true in the World League semi-final that secured the team’s position in the World Cup she now, ironically, is consigned to watching.
Unlike her solo rehabilitation in 2016 from a 15cm hamstring tear, that cost her a place at the Junior World Cup, she has called on an army of different training partners for her knee rehabilitation with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics her ultimate goal.
She has even been training with the elite gymnasts at Perth’s National Centre of Excellence to strengthen her return to the game.
“I’m determined to get back,” she said. “I’m learning to self-love and understand I’m always going to want to excel and not undermine myself when I’m not seeing results as quickly as I want ... just mentally knowing where the balance is and not tipping the scale
“The big dance is in two years time and I’d like to think that when I get there, I will have inspired a lot of people as well.”
Originally published by Steve Butler, The West Australian, Monday 23 July
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