This past week, the story that Simone Biles withdrew from competition due to mental stress was the headline of the Olympics.
Other athletes have come forward as well, some even before Biles, but none quite had the punch.
Watching her withdraw, but still cheer on her teammates shows the true character of this champion.
Listening to the talking heads on TV and radio pontificate about mental health, has made me think about my own athletic career.
I am not a novice to mental health education. As as mother of a son with autism and ADHD, I am well aware of the benefits of therapy and asking for help.
Let's just say, I understand a little about what she is going through.
I've been there myself.
When we are young athletes, our most influential cheerleaders are our parents. They drive us to practices, buy our equipment, and are our biggest fans.
For some kids, their abilities are substantially greater than their contemporaries, and parents continue to encourage them to reach for the stars.
This may mean the kids will go to different schools, travel to other places to train, or even leave home and live far away to continue their sport.
Their coaches are now their surrogate parents. And unfortunately bad things can happen.
I am fortunate that I was never put in those situations. My abilities were pretty good; I played Division III college softball, but I knew that I was never Olympic material.
I have mentioned my father in previous posts. He was very competitive, and could be considered "old-fashioned".
He strived for perfection, and pushed his kids to do the same.
It was quite stressful, but I didn't realize it at the time.
As a doting daughter, I tried to make him proud. And when I failed at perfection, he let me know in only "his way".
He would motivate in a way that today would be frowned upon. Some may even say it was close to crossing a line.
He would tell me how bad I did, and that I could always do better.
Get an A on a math test...Why not an A+?
Make a diving catch to end a rally and win the game...I didn't "need" to showboat and dive for the ball.
Instead of shrinking into a corner and crying, I would "suck it up", and in some cases, push myself even harder, just to "show him." It made me angry that I could not do well enough to receive his praise.
It was a different kind of stress...a constant pushing of myself not for a Gold Medal, but for a "good job."
It took me an awfully long time to get his perfectionist voice out of my head, telling me all the things I did wrong, and could have done better. To realize, that what he did was not healthy.
It took a DNF in a Half-Ironman distance triathlon for me to figure it out. It was not healthy that I heard him in my head that, "you're a quitter," as I limped back to T2. And for a week or so afterwards.
I'm still working on it, but I am definitely in a much better place.
I no longer need to be perfect, or "give it 125%". I just do my best, and be happy with that. And if that doesn't measure up to his high standards, too bad.
Plus he's been dead for 30 years, so I definitely don't have to worry about him criticizing me...although it was only within the last 5 years that I stopped trying so hard to be perfect, and live up to his unrealistic expectations.
Today, the stress that we put ourselves under is great. We strive to be the best wife, mother, daughter, employee, volunteer, etc.
I can only imagine the added stress of the Olympics during a pandemic.
Throw in social media, and you have a recipe for disaster.
So the fact that athletes have stepped up to admit that they are in need of a mental health day/week/month means a lot.
I would have thought that with the pandemic, that we might learn to slow down a little, reflect on what we have, relish the time that we have been given.
I feel like instead we have speeded everything up, because we need to seize the day now!
Unlike my father, my husband and my sons don't expect perfection. They just want me--the peri-menopausal, slightly grumpy, not liking to be touched, always training, swim, bike, running me—to be happy.
It also took me a while to figure that out too.
They love my flaws. They love my sass. They love my attitude. And, they are my biggest cheerleaders.
That right there helps my mental health.
They recognize that when mom is getting a little cranky, that a bike ride or run will probably help.
They are ok that they laundry is clean, but not folded.
Perfection is not required. I hear praise all the time.
I hope that the world will recognize that we all need a mental health moment. The past year has been crazy...and it's not over yet.
The whole world needs a deep, cleansing breath. And to laugh more at ourselves.
Instead of seizing the day, just taking it one day at a time. And enjoying the day for all that it is!
With a ”Delta variant surge” looking likely, I hope we can be a little more appreciative and respectful.
Lord knows we could all use a little break from “the real world”.
As a good friend says all the time, “ Be good humans.”
I think I may turn off Facebook for a while, and work on my mental game, and being a good human.