Beth Dobbin: British 200m champion talks seizures, PTSD and Olympic goals
“Slowly, the sunshine began to exit. I bear in mind pondering ‘I’ll die’, so I simply wished to let it occur.”
As an adolescent, Beth Dobbin suffered an epileptic seizure so extreme it left her unable to stroll, speak and even recognise her personal father.
Years of tension and “brutal” post-traumatic stress dysfunction (PTSD) adopted – “I simply had no management over it,” she says.
But 11 years on, the 200m sprinter has smashed a 34-year Scottish report and been topped British champion.
Final week she donned a British vest for the primary time at the inaugural Athletics World Cup in London, and can accomplish that once more in August on the European Championships in Berlin.
Right here, 24-year-old Dobbin tells BBC Sport about her seizure, pondering microwaves had been cabinets and issuing parking tickets to maintain her Olympic goals alive.
Seizure within the schoolyard
I bear in mind taking a look at Dad pondering that I had seen him earlier than, however I did not know who he was.
Tuesday, 13 November 2007 was simply one other college day for 13-year-old Dobbin.
She’d struggled to place her mascara on that morning due to a twitch in her hand however, other than that, all the things appeared regular. Then her day took a drastic flip at break time.
“I used to be simply stood with my mates, and rapidly my head began rocking and my eyes began rolling again,” she says.
“I bear in mind pondering ‘this does not really feel good’, so I grabbed my finest good friend. Nonetheless now, to this present day, I can image her face, she appeared terrified.”
Dobbin fell unconscious for 15 minutes and paramedics initially thought she had suffered a stroke as she had misplaced all motion down her left aspect.
Her mum Jean and Scottish dad Jim – a former footballer for Barnsley and Grimsby amongst others – rushed to her aspect.
“I awoke with all of those individuals round me and I had no clue who any of them had been,” she says.
“I could not speak, I could not stroll, I could not transfer the left aspect of my face. I could not recognise my mother and father and I had no reminiscence.”
Is it a microwave? Or a cabinet?
I’d get confused about various things, and folks did not perceive that I simply could not communicate.
Dobbin spent per week in hospital following the seizure, and her capability to stroll began to return slowly however her issue with speech proved extra problematic.
“I’d get confused about various things, and folks did not perceive that I simply could not communicate,” she says.
“I bear in mind all the time calling the microwave the cabinet – I used to be attempting to say ‘microwave’ however ‘cabinet’ was popping out.”
Athletics, understandably, went on the backburner and Dobbin was placed on medicine to manage her situation.
She got here off the medicine in her late teenagers, however then started what she describes because the “hardest a part of the entire journey”.
“It has been such a battle as a result of your medicine is your security web. You already know it really works for you and you are not going to have a seizure,” she says.
“Once they take that away from you, it is so psychologically laborious since you’re all the time pondering ‘am I going to have one other seizure?'”
‘I used to be in denial however I had PTSD’
There have been all these feelings that I simply put to the aspect, as a result of I felt that I could not specific them.
Dobbin, who’s teetotal, was on an evening out with mates whereas at college when she had a “humorous flip”. She thought she was going to have one other seizure nevertheless it turned out to be an allergic response.
However that one evening in town was sufficient for all the things to unravel. Years of tension got here spilling out and years extra of torment adopted.
“I used to be identified with PTSD, nevertheless it had been happening for a very long time earlier than that. I used to be in denial,” she says.
“Once I first developed it, I used to be having so many flashbacks to that day in school. It was bodily flashbacks, so I wasn’t simply seeing it in my thoughts. My hand would really feel prefer it was curling up prefer it did that day, or it might really feel as if my head was rolling again. It was actually scary.
“I did not cope with it on the time [of the seizure], I went straight again to highschool. I used to be an adolescent, my feelings had been working excessive, and folks weren’t essentially that understanding about it. I felt that I could not specific my feelings.”
Now, Dobbin says her anxiousness “does not management” her life anymore. There are nonetheless days the place she “obsesses” over it however she might “rely these instances on two arms”.
She provides: “Again then, individuals weren’t talking about psychological well being in sport. In sport, you have to be powerful, you have to be courageous. Now individuals are popping out and talking about it.”
The receptionist with Olympic ambitions
My mum all the time tells me I am the strongest individual she is aware of, so for this to occur to somebody like me, it reveals it could possibly occur to anybody.
Regardless of her latest success, Dobbin could be very removed from being a full-time athlete, not like lots of these she’s going to race towards in Berlin subsequent month.
“I am only a receptionist,” she says of her job at Loughborough College’s sports activities amenities, which additionally entails handing out parking tickets and becoming at school visits round her coaching and racing.
However Dobbin is a receptionist with Olympic-sized goals. Even when, till lately, she did not suppose she would ever attain that degree on her personal.
“I’ve all the time mentioned I wish to make the Olympics, however I used to suppose that will be as a relay member,” she says. “Now I wish to be a person runner there, and there is not any purpose why I can not be.”
However there’s one other field Dobbin must tick. After the “heartbreak” of lacking out on qualification for Scotland’s Commonwealth Video games staff earlier this yr by only one hundredth of a second – 4 years after additionally lacking the reduce for Glasgow 2014 – she must make amends.
“I must make a Commonwealth Video games,” she provides. “When it comes round to Birmingham in 2022, I’ve to be there. I can not miss out on a 3rd.
“I am not quitting athletics till I make a Commonwealth Video games.”