Olympic Silver Medallist Siobhan O’Connor Reveals Impact Of IBD On Her Mental Health

Siobhan O'Connor; Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Olympic 200 IM silver medallist Siobhan O’Connor has revealed the impact ulcerative colitis has had on her mental and physical health.

The Briton has had ulcerative colitis – an inflammatory bowel disease – for eight years, the diagnosis coming in the same year she turned 16 and competed at London 2012.

O’Connor, who won bronze at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia, has been unable to train on several occasions and her longest unbroken spell of preparation was ahead of Rio 2016 where she dipped inside 2:07 with a British record of 2:06.88 behind Katinka Hosszu.

Siobhan-Marie O'Connor

Siobhan O’Connor; Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

The 24-year-old, who trains under Dave Hemmings at the National Centre Loughborough after switching from long-time coach Dave McNulty at Bath, underlined the physical and mental repercussions of ulcerative colitis in a post on social media.

The post underlined her anguish and feeling “completely infuriated” at being unable to “control her own body,” exasperating for an elite athlete who represents the peak of human physical performance.

It read:

“Today is world IBD day ?

I’ve had Ulcerative Colitis for 8 years and the disease predominantly affects my physical health, but I have definitely underestimated the affect that it has had on my mental health sometimes too.

“I’ve had some really tough times during flare ups but one of the biggest hurdles for me was picking myself back up mentally after being really ill.

“During a flare I felt completely isolated, emotionally drained and scared. I was completely infuriated that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do and I wasn’t in control of my own body. This has put me in a really bad place in the past.

“I’ve had to work very hard on accepting certain things about my UC and learning to love my body despite its flaws.

“I’ll be honest I’m not quite there yet but I’m still working very hard on it.

“To anyone else struggling with UC, it’s okay not to be okay. But the best thing you can do is talk to those you love and that are there for you.

“There’s no way I’d have been able to pick myself up from a flare without my lovely family and friends being there for me.

“And although sometimes they won’t be able to understand or see what you are dealing with fully, it really does make all the difference.

“Let’s continue to make IBD visible #ittakesguts #worldibdday @crohnsandcolitisuk