Gracie Gold Says She Was the ‘Perfect Ice Princess’ in Public, Faced a ‘Mental Health Crisis’ in Private (Exclusive)

“I was portrayed as this perfect ice princess and had to navigate my mental health crisis as someone who was part of that stigma,” Gold tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue

<p>AP Photo/Mark Zaleski</p> Gracie Gold skating in the women

AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

Gracie Gold skating in the women's free skate program in 2022

Gracie Gold is breaking the ice.

“Close your eyes, and picture a figure skater,” the 28-year-old tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Typically everyone has the same image in their head—a thin, White, pretty skater in the middle of the ice. If they do picture an Asian figure skater, it’s Kristi Yamaguchi or Michelle Kwan. If you don’t fit these very specific parameters, it can feel like you’re not welcome.”

It is stereotypes like this that first sparked Gold’s ongoing eating disorder, one of the battles—along with depression and sexual assault—that she discusses in her new memoir, Outofshapeworthlessloser: A Memoir of Figure Skating, F---ing Up, and Figuring It Out, available Feb. 6 from Penguin Random House. “A lot of people in skating don’t really know me at all,” she says. “This book dives deeper into [who I am].”

After being called a “fat cow” by a former coach, even though her BMI was on the lower end of normal at the time, Gold resorted to eating one tomato a day to lose weight. “It was something that dominated my life every single moment of every single day,” she says. “And in some ways it’s still ingrained in me.”

Related: Skater Gracie Gold 'Overwhelmed' After Emotional Routine Returning from Depression Struggles

That feeling of unworthiness only intensified after Gold was sexually assaulted by a fellow skater, a story she reveals for the first time in Outofshapeworthlessloser. “I never found what I felt was the right time to share this story,” she says.

Gold writes that while she survived the assault, it left her drowning in severe depression and anxiety. “When I consider [photographs] from before it happened, I barely recognize the trusting person staring back at me.”

“Out of shape worthless loser” is the name Gold gave to the voice in her head that made her want to disappear, and it soon got too loud to let her hear anything else. After her twin sister Carly and her coaching team intervened, the figure skater sought help. She spent 45 days in inpatient treatment in 2017 at the Meadows in Arizona and turned her life around.

The cover of Gracie Gold's new memoir
The cover of Gracie Gold's new memoir

These days, while recuperating from hip surgery at the Colorado Springs U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, Gold is focused on taking care of herself and her “chosen family.” While Gold does not have a relationship with her father, Carl, a longtime addict, and is only in occasional contact with her mother Denise, because, in part, of their “explosive fights,” she says she is still “thick as thieves” with her sister. Along with Carly, Gold spends her time with her boyfriend, English figure skater James Hernandez, 22, and a close circle of friends.

Related: After Her Secret Depression Nearly Ended Her Career, Olympic Star Gracie Gold Eyes a Comeback

The relationship she is still working on mending, though, is with skating. As she continues to recover—“I just got off the crutches,” she says—Gold spends her time coaching rising skaters and plans to serve as an “ice athlete ambassador” at the upcoming U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Does she plan to return to the ice herself? “We will wait to see if these hips still got it,” she jokes. “I found myself resenting skating, but I realized through treatment that if I didn’t love it, it wouldn’t bother me if I just left," the skater explains. "There are definitely things that, if I could go back in time, I would do differently, but I don’t think in [any] reality or universe I wouldn’t have picked skating.”

For more on Gracie Gold's revealing new memoir, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, out Friday, or subscribe here

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