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BT Excel Orome: “I think even if you are aware of your anxiety, it’s not optimal to put it on social media or openly talk to people about it because you might fear for your career”

BT Excel achieved a historic spring for the NLC in the European Masters, and a big contributor to that is toplaner Orome, who has had some standout performances.

Orome joins us to talk about the EU Masters and opens up on his anxiety issues, and what he thinks esports teams can do to help struggling players.

Thank you for accepting this interview. Sorry to bother you during your off-season, so let’s start off nice and easy. How are you enjoying it?

Orome: It’s been a rough off-season because right before the EU Masters semi-finals, I broke a ligament in my knee. I wasn’t aware of it at the time but it was really painful, and as soon as I got back to Romania, I started doing investigations and MRI scans which pointed to surgery. I’m now mostly doing physiotherapy and the like. So the off-season… isn’t going as nicely as planned.

Other than that, I’m just relaxing. I was watching MSI and spending some time with my family and my girlfriend.

Godspeed on your recovery. The EU Masters ended about three weeks ago and BT Excel made the finals. Even though you lost 3-1, you guys put up a very valiant effort. What were your preparations like going into the finals against Karmine Corp considering that you fought them twice in the group stage?

Orome: I think our first game in the group stage came down to something very close and the second game, we kind of threw it through the Nami pick and it snowballed a lot from there. To be fair, that game didn’t matter too much and I don’t think anyone was really tryharding. So I think going into the finals, we knew that we could beat them.

They showed up better on the day and I do think they’re also a better team, but just because another team is better than you, it doesn’t mean that you cannot beat them. You can have a better day, get better drafts, and get a better read on what you need in the series. I think everyone went into the final with the idea of ‘alright, we got this far, might as well do our best and see how it goes’.

You have faced Adam in the finals, who is an up and coming rookie that has signed with Fnatic now. What was it like playing against Adam and what are your impressions of him?

Orome: I think Adam has a lot of potential but it might be a really rough first LEC season for him, because he said himself that he still has some problems with nerves. In the finals as well, it kind of showed. It was a bit obvious to me as a more experienced toplaner that he made some mistakes that with experience you don’t make, but it was also really obvious to me that he has insane potential.

As a player he gives you no breathing space, especially in the lane. Adam always goes for the kill and he always chooses the option that puts the most pressure on the enemy. So in that regard, he’s going to be fine in LEC, but I think he’s going to be lacking in the experience side of things like roaming from your lane, map rotations and the like. This is something that you learn with time. You don’t just go from solo queue to LEC level, have perfect macro movement and know every weak side scenario in the game, that’s where he’s going to be lacking.

Adam should shine at solo-killing enemy toplaners, getting advantages in lane, popping off in teamfights. He’s going to be really good at that. He’s going to be worse on the macro side of things, which he’ll learn over time.

Well, I hope he reads this interview, then he’ll get some help from you! Even though you lost against Karmine Corp, Excel made finals and it’s historic for the UK & Nordic scene. But for you personally, were you satisfied with your journey from NLC champions to EU Masters finals? Did you expect to make the finals for EU Masters?

Orome: Going into the season everyone was expecting to get a good run in EU masters but I think it’s really hard to say at the start of the season. You never know how a team is going to interact and you never know how good the other regions are.

I would say I am pretty satisfied with my individual performance and with how well I played in the NLC. I’m also pretty satisfied with how I played in the second part of EU masters. I could have played a lot better in the first week but overall, I think it was a fine tournament.

May 10th to 16th was Mental Health Awareness week and I’d like to touch the topic of anxiety, an issue you’ve been quite public about on Twitter. Walk me through it from the top, when did you find out that you’re suffering from anxiety issues?

Orome: I don’t want to make it sound really grim, but the first time that I was aware of it was after I heard the news that I was not going to be playing on MAD Lions anymore. I went back to Romania and it wasn’t depression but it was just a state of well… I don’t want to die, I don’t want to leave, I want to just be here. I just wanted to do nothing. Obviously my girlfriend and my parents were telling me this is not fine and I have to go see a therapist because this is not normal.

I did go to see one and my therapist helped me a lot in accepting anxiety and being aware of it because before I wasn’t aware of it, it was just emotions that came to me and I had no idea where they’re coming from or why they are there. I was also on anxiety medication since autumn, since Worlds. I think the medication helped me get through the worst parts of it, but I stopped taking it because I got through it.

So that means you found out after your time in MAD Lions then, and the staff and players were not aware that you were suffering from these issues?

Orome: No. And neither was I.

You’ve mentioned also very openly how you still might be experiencing bouts of anxiety. Did it ever resurface during NLC? When it did resurface during EUM, how have you dealt with it since then?

Orome: Basically, anxiety is not something that you get rid of. You will always live with it. If you have anxiety of some sort, you will always have it and there’s nothing that you can do that cures you from it. It’s not like an illness and it just goes away, you have to be aware of what triggers it and what helps you lower the stress levels when it does happen.

It never happened during NLC because there were no high stress situations. I don’t think we ever were in a position where we were like ‘we’re going to lose, what are we going to do?’. So it never had any reason to trigger. As soon as we got to EU Masters, especially after we lost our first game in the first week and we lost it in a manner where I got camped, I played badly and I think I lost the game for my team, then it resurfaced. But the way I got over it was with the support of my team, and also being aware of what’s happening and talking openly about it, because if you just keep it to yourself, it will never end well.

If you actually talk to the people that matter about it, they will give you their support and reassure you that it’s going to be fine no matter what happens, and the trust is not broken just because of one game. Because of this, I didn’t feel it anymore the second week.

I definitely want to touch on the point of people that you came to trust in the next question. If you are willing to share, what triggers or exacerbates your anxiety?

Orome: For me, it’s rather simple: My anxiety is triggered when I fear that I’m going to disappoint people or that I’m going to be made fun of by people. This comes from my childhood, it’s not something that’s developed recently. It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a long time, I just never realised it. For example if I play badly and feel I lost the game for my team, I will feel like I disappointed people. My anxiety will trigger and I will start overthinking and this is obviously not good.

So this is why I talk with people because it stops overthinking. If I feel that I disappointed people, I tell them: “Look, I feel really bad about this, I feel like I disappointed you guys. I lost the game and I’m sorry about it”. If they are a supportive team, they will try to make you feel better and they will give you their honest opinion such as saying: “It doesn’t matter, it’s just one game. Even if you played like this all tournament, I would still trust you because I know this is not how you play normally”.

That was most of the responses that I got from my teammates after the first week of EU Masters. Having heard that, it made me feel a little bit better in terms of anxiety, but that’s just my personal thing since anxiety can come from a lot of different reasons.

That’s fair enough. So in that regard, I also know that you’ve been open on social media to help people who might be suffering from the same issues or maybe the same kind of anxiety as yourself. What is your advice for people or those working in the esports scene who are struggling with it?

Orome: About that message, I replied to about three quarters of the messages so far. I got so many, it’s just actually insane. I didn’t even get to reply to them all! The main advice that I kept giving throughout all the situations that I’ve read, because there were a lot of walls of text between all those messages, is that you need to accept it as part of yourself and not take it as something that you fear.

Accept it as part of yourself, and not someone else putting this feeling on you. You can’t be scared of getting it, otherwise you’re going to be scared that you’re going to get anxiety, and that’s going to give you anxiety too. Just accept that it will come at some point and accept that you can deal with it in some ways. This is the mistake that people make the most: They fear it. You can’t fear it. If you fear it, it will take control of you.

Do you think that maybe because of this fear that you mentioned, pro players and people in esports at the moment, since it’s such a young space, are afraid to talk or open up about it?

Orome: Yes. I think acceptance is the first step and it’s the most undervalued. A lot of people don’t accept it and if you don’t accept that you have anxiety, then obviously you’re not going to talk about it, so you’re not going to ask people for help. You’re not going to admit it because you think there’s nothing wrong with you. But when it comes, you’re going to be unprepared, right?

if you don’t accept that you have anxiety, then obviously you’re not going to talk about it, so you’re not going to ask people for help.

I also think even if you are aware of your anxiety, it’s not optimal to put it on social media or openly talk to people about it because you might fear for your career. I don’t know what effects anxiety will have on my career, especially now that it’s public. Imagine you are a team and you want to get the player, but he has anxiety and you’re scared that when it matters, the anxiety will trigger and he will choke. It can be really career damaging. So I don’t think most people will want the public to talk about it because of this reason.

In your opinion then, because of this issue where a pro player might be very good, but he could have an issue that the organisation might be burdened with, how do you think esports organisations, especially at a top level, can make a better environment to help deal with potential or existing mental issues?

Orome: I do think that every team should have a psychologist on-site. It helps with the team atmosphere even if no one has any issues, because there are certain social cues and subtleties that most people won’t pick up on but a psychologist will. He/she can talk to the coach and the coach can then make things happen to make relationships between players more open and better in general.

I think that’s the first step for organisations that right now, I don’t see people taking. In MAD Lions, we did have a psychologist, I have to say, but I don’t think most teams do have one. In BT Excel, our coach is like our psychologist. He’s really gifted with people and I really respect him for that.

He’ll be very happy to know that. Moving on to more cheerful topics, you’ve been playing for a decent amount of time. You’ve achieved many things, you’ve won ERL titles, you’ve gone to worlds. What has been your best memory so far of your playing career?

Orome: Honestly, it has to be my first year playing, when I was playing in KIYF eSports Club. It was my first time going to a gaming house and meeting Carzzy, Labrov, ZaZee and Aesthetic. It was my first gaming house experience and I will always remember my first split there. There’s nothing that compares to your first time doing something esports related.

KIYF was quite a while back! From then till now, how has the player ‘Orome’ developed through that time?

Orome: I’ve gone back and forth between styles these three years, but now, I feel like I finally found the style that I want and that I play the best. After three years, this is the first time that this has happened because, let’s be honest, I was a really different kind of player before MAD Lions. I was a carry oriented player, like Fiora, Camille, Aatrox and Irelia. And then I got to LEC and I played in a completely different style than what I was normally used to.

I think this is mostly due to anxiety, because with anxiety comes loss of confidence, and if you’re not confident, how can you play carry champions? Then you have to play something you’re not comfortable with, which makes you feel bad, and it makes you look bad, which turns into more anxiety. It’s like a never ending cycle, which I finally got rid of this season. It was during EU masters where I really understood what I wanted to do as a player.

Before we end, you’ve said in this interview as well that you’re taking time to manage your anxiety. So in that regard, what is your personal goal? Is it to return to LEC as swiftly as possible, or are you just happy to be in the European Regional Leagues (ERLs) and work on yourself?

Orome: I didn’t consider the last EU Masters to be my peak at all and I want to have a season in the ERLs where I can say I’ve reached my peak and now I want to move on to LEC. I’m obviously not going to say no to a good offer, but unless an offer that’s right for me arrives, I don’t mind staying for another season and focusing on improving myself as a player and as a person, because the anxiety is not just something player related.

I believe we’ve come to the end of the interview. Is there anything else you’d like to say or any shoutouts you’d like to give?

Orome: During my time in MAD Lions, since I didn’t know I had anxiety, I would play well for a time when I didn’t have anxiety, like in scrims for example, and then I would go on stage and they would just play different and I would have no idea why or how that happened. So it was really, really hard to pinpoint any things that I could do better or things that I did badly, because they’re just not consistent. And if they’re not consistent, it’s really hard to improve.

I could have done better, I could have known about this anxiety earlier. There were a lot of things I could have done to make it not end like how it ended.

I think I went through this a lot in MAD Lions and I never publicly apologised about my year there, because I have lots of regrets regarding last year. I could have done better, I could have known about this anxiety earlier. There were a lot of things I could have done to make it not end like how it ended.

Maybe MAD Lions could have had a better run at Worlds for example, maybe we would place higher in the spring and summer. I feel really bad for my colleagues and my coaching staff so I would like to publicly apologise to them regarding last year, if that’s okay?

That’s perfectly fine. Thank you very much for the interview Orome and all the best on the recovery of your torn ligament.

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