The Bravery of Ian Thorpe

As I write, I’m watching Ian Thorpe’s interview with Michael Parkinson. I’ve always loved to watch swimming. I swam competitively myself, not at a particularly high level, but high enough to understand what he meant when he talked about ‘having a relationship’ with the water. Our kids swam, and the swimming is the one bit of the Olympic Games that I love, and I watched his victories in the pool with great enjoyment.

For the last forty minutes, Ian Thorpe has spoken about his life as a swimmer, his relationship with the water, coming out as gay, and more importantly, how he’s been living with depression since his childhood.

The interview has been promoted heavily, with nearly all of the advertising focusing on the ‘Are You Gay Question.’

I wasn’t sure if I’d watch it, but I have, and I’ve been astonished at Ian Thorpe’s honesty, integrity, and most of all, bravery.

Mental illness is a horrible thing and an enormous struggle for so many. Depression affects not only the depressed, but all of those around them, and is often misunderstood by well meaning friends and family, which makes it even harder for the person dealing with it in their life. Ian Thorpe has spoken so frankly about his struggles, that I’m sure his story has resonated strongly with many.

Mental illness is common, but often hidden. At Continuum X, the Sci-fi convention I attended recently in Melbourne, a very brave group of people put themselves out there and allowed authors and others to question them about their sexuality, their lives and mental illnesses so that one day, we might write characters experiencing those things and get it right. I’m still astounded that they were so brave.

I’ve just watched the Australian 4*100m freestyle relay team win Olympic Gold, while reliving it through Ian’s commentary. So much elation, national pride, and joy. Well done Ian Thorpe, and best wishes for your future. Thank you for talking so frankly about your struggles with mental illness.



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