Article by Kelly Webb, Intern
Simone Biles did. Over the past couple of weeks, the world has watched the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with excitement and anticipation. An Olympics delayed an entire year, due to a 100-year pandemic. We’ve watched the anxiety-filled moments, heartbreaking endings and the glory of an athlete becoming an Olympian.
As a spectator, we watch from the comfort of our homes, maybe even doing our own “judging” of how that high diver could have pointed his toes more or how that gymnast would have “stuck” her landing if she had just turned a bit more. Those athletes often make it look so easy. But when you remember the years, even decades, of rigorous training, countless early morning practice sessions, and the limitless boundary pushing of their physical bodies, we know it is in fact, not easy.
So what happens when all those years of training, the opportunity to be on the worlds stage again, having already proven to everyone around you and to yourself, you are in fact a many-times over Gold Medal Olympian, and STILL find yourself struggling to complete a single flip for fear you might actually land on your head, instead of on your feet? That is what Simone Biles had to figure out.
The “twisties” as Simone called the phenomenon. Simone found herself doing routine gymnastic stunts that she had been doing for YEARS and realized she could not tell “up from down” in those stunts, and found herself feeling confused and anxious about performing. Not to mention the overwhelming pressure of being on the worlds stage again and the expectations that come with it.
“We’re human beings, nobody is perfect. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to go through ups and downs and emotional roller coasters … I felt like I was carrying, as Simone (Biles) said, the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s a tough situation.” – Michael Phelps, 28 Olympic Medalist, Swimming. Has battled anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts throughout his swimming career.
Most of us might agree, it takes amazing courage and awareness of self for Simone Biles to complete some of the most complicated and difficult routines any gymnast as ever attempted. It turns out, it took the very same courage and awareness of self for Simone to realize she needed to step back from competition and not only listen to her body, but to her mind.
Mental health is physical health. Simone showed herself grace, and to the world: humility, strength and awareness. Focusing on her mental health was just as important as focusing on her physical health.
So, the next time you are feeling like you have the “weight of the world” on your shoulders or maybe even a bit of the “twisties,” listen to your body and mind, and then reach out to someone to talk to about it. A trained counselor can help you unravel what’s going on for you and help you lift that weight off of you.