I’m sure you’ve all heard the news by now coming from the Olympic world.
Simone Biles is probably one of the most recognized and celebrated Olympic athletes in the world today and a true mental health warrior in my eyes.
I one thousand percent support and admire Simone’s decision to step away from the podium for now in order to focus on her mental well-being but her decision to do so has been met with so much ridicule by the naysayers who are sitting on their butts, most likely from the comfort of their couch, hidden behind their smartphone screens, tweeting out and calling her a quitter or worse.
It brings us right back to the same place we keep ending up because had Simone broken her ankle during her Olympic performance we would not be having this conversation and instead we would all be empathizing with her and cheering her on as she rehabilitated and got back to the vault. But taking a step back to focus on her mental health never seems to be a good enough reason to the naysayers.
Mental illness and PTSD can creep up on you ever so slowly and often out of nowhere. She deserves to be recognized for her strength and courage and not criticized and judged.
You don’t get to the level that Simone Biles has without being mentally tough. She is far from a quitter. She is taking care of her mental wellness and that makes her worthy of an Olympic gold medal in my eyes.
And when she returns, and I believe she will, she will show all those naysayers sitting on their butts from the comfort of their couch what it takes to be a real winner.
Many people may not fully realize or ever truly understand the trauma and possible triggers (including performing in the Olympics) that Simone has had to overcome being that she was one of MANY young athletes who suffered YEARS and YEARS of sexual abuse at the hands of their “trusted” Olympic Team Doctor “Larry Nassar” who is now thankfully serving a prison sentence of over 100 years for his crimes.
Mental illness and PTSD are both VERY real and VERY serious. If she is not mentally strong enough to be able to focus on her performance then she could most definitely hurt herself physically and possibly destroy everything.
Self-care is mental wellness and it doesn’t matter if you can’t physically see her injury; it still matters, even more.
Sadly though, we live in a world where people judge others on how much money they have, what kind of career path they choose, how big the house is that they live in, how smart they are and even by the amount of medals they may have sitting on their shelf.
But what if for just one second we all took a “step back” and focused on a world where people didn’t see it that way and instead only cared that you are happy, healthy and kind.
Don’t we all deserve that kind of gold medal treatment?
Earlier this week, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka announced her decision to withdraw from the French Open.
In doing so she has opened up some very important and very necessary conversations that need to be had.
Athletes, whether in College or on a professional playing field are put on a pedestal, made to perform to perfection and always expected to be at the top of their game.
That kind of pressure can certainly take its toll on anybody’s mental health and well-being, even that of a professional athlete. They may be our heroes but they are also human.
I give Naomi (who at 23 years old is wise beyond her years) a standing ovation for her courage to step away from the podium and look after her mental health. A decision I’m sure that was not made easily.
Why is it that when an athlete gets hurt on the ice, or on the field or on the court they are given all the time they need to heal but when their injury is invisible to the world they are criticized and made to feel as though they are weak?
Naomi is here to show the world that our mental health matters too.
Her courage to take a stand and step away from the podium for now in order to take care of her mental health and knowing that it could potentially destroy her career in doing so, I have no doubt in my mind that she is going to come through this stronger and better than ever.
She is showing the world that it’s okay to not be okay and that by choosing herself over her career, asking for help when needed and creating healthy boundaries in order to begin the healing process that she is a human being first; a perfectly imperfect one just like the rest of us.
*I’d like to give a special shout out to Nike and Mastercard, along with several other corporate giants who have sponsorship deals with Naomi for not hesitating to show their loyalty and support to her. Their statements to the press praising Naomi for her courage in sharing her struggles with depression and social anxiety boldly acknowledges that our mental health does matter. Thank you for standing with Naomi. I couldn’t agree more.
A big thank you to Founder @silkenlaumann (four-time Canadian Olympian Rower) and @unsinkablestories for sharing my story with your audience.
Unsinkable is a Not-For-Profit Organization whose mission is to “connect and empower people to achieve better mental, physical and spiritual health”. They “share stories, amplify voices and offer a community of support, resources and programs built with your wellbeing in mind”.
Feel free to follow them and their youth chapter (@unsinkableyouth) on Instagram and Facebook where my story is also featured: https://weareunsinkable.com/finding-my-purpose/
Here is my story below!
FINDING MY PURPOSE
It’s been a pretty bumpy few weeks for me which kind of feels like being on a roller coaster of emotions with many steep slopes and sharp twists and turns and has caused me so much pain and anguish leading to a mixture of scary and intrusive thoughts. The thing is though, I’m used to it by now because you see, I’ve been on this same roller coaster ride for the last six and a half years which equates to 2,372 days, 56,928 hours and approximately 3,415,680 minutes (so it’s no wonder why I feel nauseous all time).
It began on a beautiful Spring day in early April, 2014 when I headed out the door for work that Friday morning. It started out like any other seemingly normal weekday, but by five o’clock that afternoon my entire world came crumbling down and I have been trying to put the pieces of my life back together ever since.
That Friday morning, April 4, 2014, I was doing what I had been doing for several months; heading to a job that I hated. A job that made me doubt my self-worth. A job that made me uncomfortable. A job that made me question my integrity. A job that made me compromise my morals. A job that made me feel unsafe and a job that made me feel like I no longer had any purpose. Ok so it wasn’t so much the job itself that did all that, but in actuality it was a boss who did.
I was so excited when I started working for him earlier that year and I thought I had finally found a job that I could build into a thriving career but instead I fell head first into his trap (stupid, stupid me) and on April 4, 2014 after he asked me to do something that I felt was both morally and ethically wrong I packed up my belongings one last time and high-tailed it out of there. I got into my car shaking and completely terrified and by this point in time, completely broken and defeated. I drove around for hours on end as my entire family and many of my friends frantically drove around the city looking for me because the last thing I did after I left my office that afternoon was text my husband telling him I wanted to kill myself before turning off my phone.
It was on that day that I lost my will to live. It was on that day that I became overwhelmed and hopeless. It was on that day that I felt worthless. It was on that day that I realized I was a failure in every sense of the word and it was on that day that I discovered just how much of a burden I truly was. Something inside of me snapped that day or so it might’ve seemed like at the time, but what I didn’t know then was I had truly been suffering in silence for a very long time and didn’t even know it.
I have since learned so much about myself through the help of my wonderful therapist (who I have been seeing now for almost 3 years on a weekly basis) as I slowly began to delve further into my past with her and I now have a much greater understanding of my pain and suffering.
I’ve come to realize over the past few years through my weekly therapy sessions that many of the regrets I’ve had in my lifetime or the wrong paths I should never have taken or the lack of empathy and guidance I had during my formative years led me to that very moment. Over time these emotions built up inside of me and finally broke me that day back in April, 2014 which very soon after, led to my diagnosis of Major Depression and Severe Anxiety and a roller coaster of a journey toward Mental Wellness ever since.
My journey has been long and burdensome which has included daily thoughts of suicide, several attempts of suicide, numerous hospital stays (one of which was over three months in length). I’ve tried over twenty different concoctions of medication, all of which caused severe physical and mental side effects and a weight gain of 100 pounds, at which time I needed to stop taking traditional medications all together and was further diagnosed with Treatment Resistant Depression.
I completed 8 sessions of ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) back in 2015 during a hospital stay which proved to be unsuccessful and has left me with memory loss and other issues as well. Some other attempts at treatment have also included Ketamine through a clinical trial, Neurofeedback, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and the list goes on and on.
During my very first hospital admission back in the fall of 2014 I began to journal daily and I fell in love with it. I’d forgotten just how much I loved to write as a child and teenager and eventually through my writing I started to share my story on Social Media which I eventually turned into a Blog called YouAreEnough. Right away I received an overwhelming amount of support by so bravely sharing my journey and it has allowed me to identify my purpose along the way.
I’ve been given a voice (one that I do not take for granted) to help others understand that Mental Illness is not a weakness and has also allowed me the opportunity to become an advocate for change and help reduce the Stigma that still surrounds Mental Illness today.
Continuing to share my journey on a very regular basis has felt triumphant and has shown so many individuals that it’s okay to not be okay, giving them permission to start important conversations themselves about their own struggles with Mental Illness. My story has also allowed many individuals and their loved ones some much needed strength and courage to ask for help and to feel less alone.
Last summer I took my love of writing and my passion for helping others one step further by self-publishing one of my pieces of writing into a children’s book which helps guide parents, caregivers and loved ones how to help children cope with and understand their feelings when someone they love is suffering with Depression. It is titled “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” and it’s a labour of love. It’s a story that affects millions of families each and every day, including my own.
My children are now 22, 21 and 18 years old but six and a half years ago when I first became ill they needed more than anything to know that they were not to blame in any way for my illness and that they were safe and loved no matter what. The story was written (in rhyme) through the eyes of a young girl who like millions of other children may need to hear that they too are not to blame for their loved one’s illness and that more than anything, they are safe and loved no matter what, which are the three vows I promise to keep to my own children until the end of time.
Everyday is a learning curve for someone like myself and their loved ones when battling a Mental Illness and finding the right strategies and tools to help get me through the difficult moments in my day and reach mental wellness are imperative. I have had to accept the fact, as difficult as it is to follow through with sometimes, that taking care of myself first and creating healthy boundaries will help to minimize many of the stressors in my daily life.
Self-Care is not selfish, in fact, it’s selfless. I have learned that for me self-care includes writing, journaling, taking bubble baths, going for long walks, finding a safe place when I am feeling unsafe, always keeping open communication with loved ones as to my thoughts and feelings and having a great therapist to talk to on a regular basis who can give me important tools and resources to help with my daily struggles.
These strategies and tools allow me the strength to continue to fight but there are many, many other ways for individuals to make self-care an important part of their daily lives as well and below are just a few more to add to my list above: Regular exercise Proper diet Practicing good hygiene Getting a good night sleep Escaping in a good book Staying away from drugs and alcohol Reaching out to a loved one
Bio: Kim Fluxgold lives in Vaughan, Ontario with her husband, 3 children and her precious dog. She is a Blogger, the Author of the children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” and Mental Health Advocate. You can continue to follow her journey at: youareenough712.wordpress.com or on her Instagram (www.intstagram.com/kimfluxgold) and Facebook pages. If you would like more information about her book please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.