I am sure you have all heard about Naomi Osaka withdrawing herself from the French Open last week, continuing to bring to light the importance of mental health.
If you haven’t, I will give you a brief update. Naomi Osaka, ranked number two in the world in women’s tennis, declined to do any press conferences after her matches during the French Open, citing mental health reasons. French Open officials tried to discourage her behavior by fining her $15,000 for her first missed press conference. Naomi agreed to pay the fee and any additional fees due to her absence in front of the media. French Open officials went a step further and threatened to disqualify her from the tournament. Naomi then withdrew herself from the French Open saying, “The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”
It is not easy to stand up and communicate what is best for you, whether you are in the public eye or not.
Being honest about where you are mentally and emotionally can be hard to admit, even to yourself.
Identifying what was right for her at that moment and the impact these issues might have on others, Naomi said, “I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for players, press and fans.”
We may not all have the public platform that Naomi has to bring awareness to mental health, but standing up and communicating what is right for you can inspire others around you to do the same, finally stripping away the taboo around mental health.
Unmasking the Taboo
By unmasking the taboo around mental health, we can start to address the issues in an open and honest manner, just like Naomi did. No one person experiences life the same or handles pressure or challenges the same. We are all doing the best we can and some times it is easier for us to deal with stressful circumstances and sometimes it is not. It is just that simple. There is no shame in asking for help be it from a professional or a friend.
You wouldn’t hide a physical issue that was limiting your life like a dislocated shoulder, so why would you hide a mental or emotional issue that is also limiting the quality of your life?
We can be advocates of therapy or counseling when it comes to other people, but some times our vision gets blurred when it comes to helping ourselves.
I have always been open to the idea of therapy as a beneficial approach to dealing with challenging mental and emotional issues. I went to a therapist for almost a year when I lived in Switzerland. I wasn’t embarrassed about it and I found it really helpful to get back on the right mental track. But strangely enough after I gave birth to my daughter years later I experienced what I would classify as postpartum depression (never having been properly diagnosed). Whether it was hormonal, the lack of sleep, the sudden isolation, the physical drain on my body from breastfeeding or a combination of some or all of these factors I do not know, but what I do know is that I was afraid to voice how I felt and instead suffered in silence.
Asking for help made me feel like I was already failing as a mother. As open as I had been to asking for help in the past, in that moment, I judged myself for what I was going through. Instead of simply viewing my challenges like I previously had and reaching out for help, I equated help with failure.
There is so much “mommy shaming” that an honest desire for help can be stifled by the fear of being labeled as “unfit”. Having dreamed my whole life of becoming a mother, the last thing I wanted to do was admit that perhaps I couldn’t live up to my own expectations.
And that is where we go wrong! Expectations!
Expectations do not assess the current situation. Expectations do not take into consideration unforeseen circumstances. Expectations are rigid and uncompromising. And unfortunately life is anything but. Expectations require us to adhere to a predisposed set of rules which may not apply…which usually don’t apply.
Giving ourselves the permission to release our expectations and to do what is right for us in each moment can help dissolve the stigma of “needing to be strong” or “not wanting to be seen as a failure”.
Life is about growing, developing and learning and trying to become a better version of ourselves. Challenges help us to do just that. And asking for help in any way, big or small is a part of life.
Trust Yourself and What you Need
No one else knows how you are feeling and what you are dealing with. We can’t all be mental health advocates, but we should have the freedom, without judgment, to openly communicate what we need.
To be honest, most people, myself included, could benefit from better mental health. From the extreme circumstances in dealing with Covid this past year, to the increasing stress in our everyday lives, mental health is more and more vital.
There are numerous approaches that can help us take better care of our mental health. Don’t be afraid to research, reach out and ask questions until you find what works best for you and your situation. From professional help like a counselor or therapist to making lifestyle changes with the help of a life coach to integrating a hobby, sport, yoga or meditation into your daily routine, the choice is up to you. Sometimes we just need a good massage and other times we need the guidance of a doctor. Only you can choose what is right for you.
Trust yourself and what you need and know that we are all unique individuals and our approaches to mental health will be unique as well.