Helena Bourdillon has survived and triumphed over chronic depression and now freedives to depths of -76m. She has 7 National Records for depth and has represented GB at the World Championships four times. 20 years ago she was on the verge of suicide. Today she leads a life that she could never have imagined possible. This is her story.

"I Didn't Notice Until Things Were Very Wrong"

"It's a photo of me when I was maybe seven. I look free, I look home. I remember my dream as a child was to represent Great Britain at the Olympics. I was around eleven-twelve when I first noticed that things weren't quite right, but it wasn't until I was around 26 that I realized it was depression. It crept on so stealthily but I just didn't really notice until things were going very wrong. When did I first start self-harming? It was in a bar, after work, with my colleagues. I had gone to the bathrooms, sitting in a cubicle and I saw a broken glass in the corner and I picked it up and I started cutting. I wanted to feel something, I wanted to see if I was actually still alive, it made me feel like a freak, it made me feel embarrassed. I wasn't able to talk to people about it. I was ashamed of what I was doing because I began to realize that it wasn't acceptable behavior. I felt totally isolated".


"When I started freediving I was struck immediately by the silence. Maybe because you're holding your breath underwater, for what seems like an incredible depth, it brings you totally into focus and every second is fresh and completely separate from any other second. I could hear my heart beating,  I could feel it in my chest, in excitement and fear and amazement. I'm free-falling, it's getting darker, I am feeling the water on my hands and on my face. I have an alarm in my head that's telling me I'm about to get to the bottom plate. I grab the tag, I've got it, I need to secure it in my hood and then I head back to the surface but I can't rush. If I rush I will use too much oxygen, my muscles will burn  and I'll run out of oxygen and then be in trouble. I have to keep a constant pace, I'm beginning to feel the urge to breathe, I keep my kicks constant, my I know my safeties are about to appear and escort me back up to the surface, for potentially the most dangerous part of the dive. There are cameramen around, I have to ignore all of that and focus on changing my breath. I break the surface and get fresh air into my system".

"Anything Is Possible"

"I started free diving at age 39, just because you might be older it's never too late. Your negative voice may tell you you're worthless, you're a failure, you shouldn't bother, you're unloved, you're unwanted, maybe you should cut yourself, maybe you should take your own your life. Keep fighting, because anything is possible, for anyone".

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