I have enjoyed watching the Olympics this week, even though I haven't really seen a lot of events. I watched as every possible commentator expressed an opinion regarding Simone Biles and her health issues. The world's best gymnast pulled out of the competition due to what was later described as "mental health" problems. And the best take on Simone's situation came from 24 time gold medal winner Michael Phelps, who expressed sympathy for her and said, "It's okay to not be okay."
Phelps has a unique perspective because he has been there many times before. There can be few things in life as grueling as what Olympic athletes go through with practice, training and competition that leads up to the Olympic Games. Simone Biles decided she had had enough and has now pulled out of at least two events so far. On social media this week, she posted that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. When that happens, it's time to stop and reevaluate.
The 24-year-old Biles has been through a lot in her lifetime. Forget about the grueling training it takes to be an Olympian. She was one of the many athletes who fell victim to the sexual abuse of Dr. Larry Nassar. And of course she is like many other Americans who have suffered through 18 months of the pandemic. There are literally millions of people who are still having depression over the events of the past year and a half due to COVID. All of that may be finally catching up to her and I would imagine it could be at least part of the reason she withdrew.
Depression is an ugly, evil thing. People who have suffered from depression for years can feel wonderful one day and in less than 24 hours will be in the pits of life. You sometimes feel worthless and can become physically sick due to depression. Medication works to a point for some people but very few can just take a pill and get over it. It also can happen to anyone. No one is immune from the effects of depression.
Mental health issues are extremely difficult to get control of. Unlike physical health problems, treatment is more complex and you can't be diagnosed with just an x-ray or blood work. It's a battle that some people have to fight for an entire lifetime. I hope that's not the case for Simone Biles. She is the greatest gymnast to ever appear in the Olympic Games. She has so many fans who are pulling for her to get through this and return to competition and we all want to tell her, "It's okay to not be okay."
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Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com