What do you do when your brain just won’t compute anymore? How do you cope when your coping mechanisms take a holiday? What if they were never there in the first place?
When I was at my lowest, I took an all-night joy ride and considered driving into a bridge abutment. Fortunately, I was too cowardly to do it. Some people’s pain transcends their fear, and escape is all that’s on their mind.
A friend’s youngest son was in that state decades ago. He parked on the turnpike shoulder, hid behind the car, and jumped into the grill of an oncoming semi. That was preferable to him against the mental pain he had.
I heard of a man who accepted Jesus after surviving his attempt to check out by jumping from a very high bridge. One of the Coast Guard responders told him he was very lucky. Most people they pull out of the water are dead. One interesting note; he says that the moment he let go of the railing and started dropping he realized he didn’t really want to die. That’s when he called on Jesus and began speaking about his experience.
A lot of people don’t go that far. They self-medicate. Some people choose alcohol, others take drugs, and still more use both. They haven’t been driven to death’s door to stop the pain. They’re just looking for anything to numb it.
All Simone Biles did was withdraw from at least some of her Olympic events. That’s all. She has received a lot of good wishes and prayers, but she also has her critics. To the critics I say, “Shut up! You have no idea what you’re talking about. You’ve never experienced her situation.”
I’ve been in situations that take a lot of mental focus. After some time, the brain starts begging for a break. The white-hot glare of the Olympics plus competing in a sport that can kill or main you with one mental lapse certainly takes a toll. Is it any wonder she withdrew?
I heard Michael Phelps talking about this in an interview about Biles decision. If anyone could understand, it’s him. He said that he never felt like a human being, just something on display. He wasn’t treated as human so much as a zoo animal or museum piece to be critiqued.
Mental health is something that is hard for others to deal with. You can’t see the injury. You can’t even get an X-ray of it. There is no limp, no cast, no deformities…nothing but behavior that we might find hard to understand. Even the victim has a hard time trying to explain it. They can’t even point to a joint or muscle and say that’s where it hurts. They just know they hurt.
Have you ever heard of Austin-Riggs? It’s a world-famous mental health facility in Massachusetts. It specializes in treatment-resistant mental problems. It means that the body adapts to drugs that normally help someone and become ineffective. Austin -Riggs teaches people how to deal with their problems when drugs don’t do it for them. Judy Garland, James Taylor, and a crowd of others have gone through there.
Mental health problems are more devastating than even my heart surgery! I got past my double bypass. My body eventually regained its strength and I could go back to an almost normal life. You can’t say that about mental health problems. They can’t be surgically removed. All one can do is find ways to cope with them, destructive or not!
Simone Biles. She had the courage to remove herself from danger despite what others might say. She even found it in herself to stand tall and support her teammates on the sidelines. She didn’t jump in front of a truck or off a bridge. She didn’t resort to drugs or alcohol. She had the presence of mind to remove herself from the cause of her pain.
I’m encouraged that there have been more supporters than critics. Still, the critics are too many. Thanks to Jerry Springer, Judge Judy, and more of their kind, our society has become ever more judgmental and snarkier. Society has made self-righteous criticism a sport when sympathy and mercy are needed.
Where do you fall in that range between concern and condemnation? For Simone? For anyone? Wherever you rate yourself, do you suppose that you have room to move farther to sympathy?
From William Shakespeare:
The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes the thronèd monarch better than his crown.
And from St. Paul in Philippians:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.