I'm sitting here thinking about the recent situations surrounding athletes Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles The long and short of it is that they decided that, for the sake of their own mental well-being, they would remove themselves from their respective competitions. Osaka, a young tennis player, removed herself from The French Open Tournament, and Biles, a gymnast, removed herself from the 2020 (2021) Tokyo Olympic Games.
Surprisingly, not so surprising, people are looking at these athletes and are criticizing them for, get this, taking care of themselves! Can you really believe that we are THERE as a society?! We are demonizing people for taking care of themselves.
Let me say this once more: We are demonizing people for taking care of themselves!
Once again, in case you missed it: We are demonizing people for taking care of themselves!
For this, I decided to search for "Athletes who played hurt" and for this article from 2013: https://www.businessinsider.com/athletes-who-played-injury-2013-5
That's 11 examples, but if you don't wanna think about that, let me bring a couple of points that might bring this concept home: Have you, or another co-worker called out on your job and when you or they returned, had someone question you or them? Or better, hit you with that, "Oh that's all? Hell, I've come to work sicker than that!" Or maybe you had that co-worker just dragging themselves into work or school, sick as a dog (I don't know why we use this expression... are dogs sick that often? Were they?) and you just look at them like, "Why are you even here?!" Or maybe someone used their illness or injury as a boost of pride, like Kurt Angle - Olympic Gold Medalist in Wrestling and a multiple time professional wrestling World Champion, who boosted about winning his Gold medal with a "broken freakin' neck".
None of this is healthy. Far too often, we at work or our kids at school encounter others who, with no regard for the health of others, show up to the office or to class with a transmittable disease. More adults and students will subsequently miss days in class, miss days at work, or worse, show up anyway because they can't afford to stay home or for the bravado of "working sick" which get translated into "Dedication".
These are physical ailments that can typically be objectively observed from the outside. Osaka and Biles stepped anyway from the World Stage for the sake of their mental health.
Let me be clear: At no point should an athlete just "Shut Up and [insert objective of their sport here] just because YOU don't like it. Being on a team or part of a league NEVER negates a person's rights over themselves, including their thoughts, feelings, opinions, physical health, mental health, and/or emotional well-being, PERIOD! The very concept that people would be mad at a person for putting themselves first is so backwards. Some comments I've found include: "Simone Biles quit on her team and the Left celebrates it" and "she a narcissist who branded herself as the "goat" of women's gymnastics" and a true champion excels under pressure not folds under it". Similar comments were made about Osaka for leaving the tennis Tournament. I had a conversation myself with someone online who said that she was under contract to do the press conferences and should have done them anyway, despite her not wanting to for, again, her own reasons.
I feel like I might be going in circles here, but we as a society, have demonized people for wanted to take care of themselves. We view a focus on mental and emotional well-being as a sign of weakness. The expression of emotion and the open communication that accompanies said expression is looked down upon and ridiculed. Why is that? Why is it considered "strong" to completely ignore one's own needs for the benefit of others? How can we "fill another's cup" if we allow ours to run empty?
This entry isn't to answer the question as to why we do this. I don't know. And honestly, it really doesn't matter. What does matter is that we collectively realize that it IS a problem and that it CAN be changed. With that acknowledgment, we can do the work of normalizing the taking care of ourselves AND the acceptance of such practices.
I was a walking example of first that put too many other people ahead of myself. Moreover, I put the wrong group of people ahead of myself. I put work ahead of family and it took a pandemic to keep me home and make me realize the effects of my choices. The pain that my absence caused my children because "Daddy had to work". I'll never do that again.
In the last year, I've witnessed the effects of poor mental health care on numerous people including myself. Anxiety, depression, self-doubt, worthlessness, hopelessness - all of which I've personally experienced within the last calendar year and I can tell you that these things are way more common than we may believe. This also leads me to believe that this collective "we don't care about mental health" mindset we've adopted is causing, or will cause, far more trouble than we're ready for.
If this entry is too all over the place for you, let me sum it up with this: Your state of mind is important to manage. The brain is an organ of the body, like any other, and must be cared for. Learn to love yourself. Learn to accept your faults. Learn how to drive your life in the direction you want it to go. Learn to ask for help. Learn to accept it when it's offered. Check-in on your friends. Stay active and involved. Stay Alive, but don't just stay alive, learn to live.
If you or someone you know has or had recently considered suicide or self-harm, you can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or you can report to your local Emergency Room for help. Resources do exist. It's always darkest before the dawn, you just have to wait for the sun to come up.
Take care of yourself so that you can be better equipped to help others!
- The Moon