I’m sure most of you heard that Simone Biles, considered by many to be the best gymnast in the world, elected not to participate in most of her events during the Olympics because she was suffering from the “twisties”.
The “twisties” in gymnastics refer to a phenomenon wherein an experienced athlete suddenly loses their sense of where their body is in space – a sense that is crucial to the sport and the sudden loss of which could result not just in an Olympic loss but in serious bodily injury or even paralysis.
Its a mental thing. She didn’t twist her ankle, she had an injury to her mental health. She chose to take care of herself and give herself the time and space to heal. A psychic wound needs “wound-care”, just as a physical wound does. She was criticized by some for backing out, being weak, or being a quitter and trying to cover-up a poor performance. Biles defended her choice to take care of herself and many applauded the example she set. Her voice was powerful.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly have felt the “twisties”. I can’t even do a somersault, but sometimes I don’t know where I am in space. Where is up and where is down? How will I land? On my head or on my feet? I don’t wear a bandaid on my psyche, but I have been injured and struggled. Even though I feel I am the only one who gets the “ twisties”, now I know I’m not alone. Mental illness hurts, pain can be rated at 10, and therapy is often needed, just not of the physical therapy kind. Should we all “just get over it”? Push it down, put on a brave face and don’t let them see you sweat. Sometimes I have been able to keep it together, but the glue ended up being toxic. There is a huge cost to denying the truth about our mental health. It is far easier to fix a wall when only one brick is out of place than when half the wall has fallen down.
For me, one “wonder” of aging has been my increasing unwillingness to stoically disregard my emotional health, and my increasing willingness to accept my imperfections and recognize my emotional needs. I’ve often said and thought “I won’t twist myself into a pretzel to get you to like me, to meet expectations, to people please, to impress you …etc., but now my actions are usually consistent with these words. I’m much more aware of when I may be getting sick with the “twisties” and take actions like self-care to boost my immunity to this malady. Self-awareness can be bolstered, so I can better judge where I am in space, stay in the moment and live my life by my own rules.
Trauma, like grief or excessive stress, can destroy equilibrium and throw anyone’s life into chaos. This is not the time to expect optimal performance from ourselves. Do not operate heavy machinery or do the Yurchenko double pike vault as Biles did in May, making her the only woman to ever complete this vault. If we pay attention to our state of mind and emotions and allow ourselves to focus on healing what needs to be healed, emotionally and physically, then we will overcome our “twisties”. The gymnastics of living are very difficult, and thank God we do not receive a score for our performance. There is no perfect 10, and believe me you do not want to see me in a leotard!