The Olympics ended yesterday and thus came to an end a spectacular show of human abilities, honed to perfection through years and years of practice and training. The Indian victory has brought much joy indeed. But players at Tokyo Olympics have had to grapple with staying in bio-bubbles for months on end, frequent covid testing, away from family and friends and a stadium without spectators. Amidst all this , the news of ace American gymnast Simone Biles deciding to quit the competition just as she was about to begin, was a bolt to many. She said she was under tremendous pressure to win and chose to put her mental health above the medals and the victory. One can perfectly understand her concern. She was in fact lauded for the courage she showed in putting her mental health first.
Videos of Neeraj Chopra’s grueling regimen are making the rounds. We heard Mirabai Chanu crave for Pizza which she hadn’t had in perhaps years. Such training, sacrifices, constant focus and the pressure to win can definitely be a huge burden. But sports persons overcome this pressure with determination. A few years ago, leading actress Deepika Padukone opened up about her fight with depression. She helped remove the stigma associated with mental health. Just like you get fever and typhoid or your back or neck hurts, the mind can hurt too and needs treatment. It’s perfectly normal to feel mentally unwell and seek professional help.
Even before Biles, Naomi Osaka, the tennis legend who stunned the world with her win over Serena Williams, English Cricketers Ben Stokes and Marcus Trescothick, Australian basketball star Lizz Cambage all decided to care for themselves and dropped out of competition. That brings us to some crucial facts.
Mental health is our emotional, social and psychological wellbeing that impacts the way we think, feel and act with others. Everyone, including you and me, would have faced some problems in their lives when we have felt overwhelmed, helpless, depressed, directionless or lost.
But we can’t quit because quitting is never an option.
I am a trained psychologist and I fully understand it must not have been easy to quit for these sports persons. But I also realize that sportsmen are methodically trained to sustain pressure. The pressure to perform will always be a part of a sports person’s life. It’s a chosen field. In the case of Biles, with due respect to her health and her decision, I began wondering what was the worst case scenario for her? She would not win the gold medal perhaps. But mature nations do not vilify when you try and yet don’t succeed. It’s all part of the game.
That made me think, can our doctors quit at the operating table citing too much pressure about the patient’s life? Can soldiers quit citing pressure to safeguard a post and constant enemy threat? Can students quit at the examination hall because of pressure to score marks? They don’t. They fight it hard. Yes the pressure is always there, but one can face it with some practice and help. When you quit at the helm, when it matters the most, it means you have not trained your mind first.
A parent is under pressure to feed the family, the medical bills, the education, the rent and the work. Parents never quit. Farmers never quit. When a crop fails or the field is inundated with water, they wait for things to get better and sow again. Students never quit, they face pressure. Even at the age of 16 and 18 when they face the 10th and 12th board exams. Who has trained them? No one. They just know one thing, quitting is never an option.
Things may get tough at times. It may look dark everywhere. No one to help, nothing positive in life. But life is a golden chance in itself. Look out for opportunities. If you’re not prepared for exams, study harder. When even that’s not possible, take a year’s gap, but don’t quit. Poverty, health, marriage, kids, income, natural calamities, responsibility, everything can seem a burden if you think that way.
Don’t focus on the problems, look out for solutions.
Reach out to people you know.
Seek help when you feel helpless.
Talk to social workers, counselors, teachers or friends.
If you have debt, look out to generate more income, see how the whole family can contribute.
If you have health issues, approach doctors or the govt. hospitals or charitable institutions if you can’t afford treatment.
If you can’t afford education, seek out loans and scholarships.
Don’t keep quiet. Speak out. Reach out. You are not alone. There are people who are willing to help. We are humans, not stones. Solutions will appear only when you move. Trust me, life is what you make of it.
Look at our Indian players. None of the players from the Indian Hockey women’s team come from wealthy families. It was their sheer grit and determination that took them this far.
When family problems, health problems bog you down, seek professional help, but don’t quit.
When you feel lonely and helpless, reach out and talk to a friend, but don’t quit.
Yes it is dark today, but things change with effort. Look at how bright life can be when you work through it.
If you know someone who is facing problems, talk to that person. Don’t be judgmental. Offer to help if he/she hesitates to seek help. Take him/her to someone who can help. Belagavi people have a heart of gold, they help even by going out of their way. Don’t suffer alone.
I know it’s a big poem, but I must quote two stanzas here, this one by Edgar Guest.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low but the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
You can never tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.