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The Mental Health Of Competition

As the whole world reels from Simone Biles removing herself from the Olympic team gymnastics competition, there’s a bigger conversation to be had here. It’s one I’ve been pushing for since creating Integrated Yoga Healing (& before, even). and think about that, what have you ever done that the whole world would reel from??

Our mental & emotional health is the single most important thing we have and have control over. It determines the course of our lives because the way we feel, react, and respond makes up our life choices. It’s the reason I created IYH and the reason I was even able to; after working through my own mental & emotional health issues that I didn’t even know were there for 35 years but, did ultimately, determine every life choice I made and it has not at all been an easy life because of those choices. In fact, those choices actually compounded my own complex traumas, making them worse.

Back to how this applies to the Olympic athlete community, though…

Michael Phelps has long been a voice for athlete mental health and if you haven’t watched ‘The Weight Of Gold’ on HBO, I highly recommend that you do. In this doc, the mental health of athletes post-Olympics is discussed and it’s very much ignored by everyone, including the US Olympic & Paralympic Commitee. The pressure these athletes endure followed by the “What the fuck now????” after an athlete retires is, from what I can asses, tremendous. I reached out to the IOC to offer my help, for free, with no response.

I only have the experience of this from a much lower standpoint, but still the experience of “What now? What is my life??” I was a ballerina for 20 years and was very, very good at it in the younger years. It was all I ever wanted to do…ever. But, after taking two years off in high school to explore other options when my talent was not fostered and excellent teachers were not available where we moved to in Ohio from NY, I began a slow decline in ability. Injuries and an ”aging body” for a dancer took over. At the age of 23, I had to make the difficult decision to call it. That was the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my whole life and I’m 41 now. It’s all I ever wanted and loved. Now what?? It took me years of mental & emotional decline, self-sabotaging & destructive behaviors, and just feeling so lost. To even begin to create something else for myself was unfathomable for years…which also did not work out for well me. Nothing ever gave me the joy, passion, and love that dancing did. Until now…18 years later, and it’s been an incredibly hard road leading to this.

Now amplify that by 10,000. That’s what I imagine Olympians’ deal with once the main event is over or, more importantly, after they choose to retire. That’s millions of people worldwide that have dealt with the super extreme fallout of “being the best”. They need help. They need resources. They need real methods to assist them with moving into who they are without the tremendous pressure and drive to beat everyone else, be the best, and make their country proud.

It’s easy to grasp the smaller-minded idea that “these people had way more than I did, they should be grateful.” But that is an ignorant and ugly way of thinking. What’s more accurate is “With great power comes great responsibility.” And we, as a society, need to help these people of this great responsibility to heal and work through the demands placed on them at a very young age. There is a whole life after athletic peak performance, and they (as we all) deserve to live that optimally.

Thank you, Michael Phelps, for being a leading voice for athletes worldwide.

Now it’s time for the International Olympic Committee to do the same. Support your people that you would be nothing without.

To all Olympians (and everyone else), I wish you the best of luck and a happy, beautiful life following the one that does not define you as a human person. ❤️

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