Today started not too dissimilar to any other day. The 5:20 alarm buzzed to wake me, and I was quick to snooze it, bleary eyed and groggy, knowing I still had a brief time left in bed.
I’ve been having a rough week, swimming was the last thing I really wanted to be doing, but I know I have to. In the quest for excellence there isn’t anywhere to hide. Every time you miss a session, you get slower. Everyone else is out there, getting it done, making no excuses, feeling a millon dollars.
The guys I have to race don’t make mistakes, they don’t miss sessions, they never let up.
I finally got out of bed, had a small breakfast and made my way over to the Macclesfield pool. My toe was incredibly sore, my head wasn’t in the moment, I just didn’t want to get in the pool.
The moment I broke the water I had perfect clarity. My mind was clear, all my worries were gone. It’s so easy to hide here, behind the numbers and the work. I don’t have to be myself, I can just become monotonous. I just follow what the numbers say on the board, and don’t think any more than that.
Slowly the clarity began to become hazy and clouded. My toe was letting me know it hurt, conversations from the week creep back into my head, my body is tired, I haven’t really slept this week. What am I doing here?
I pushed on, into the main set and I’m setting the pace. Like normal we start strong, a testing pace that we know we can hold. Except it doesn’t feel like normal – there’s a battle in my mind. I’m not myself. I’m not hungry to go fast, to push myself, to work hard.
In fact, all I really want to do is get out of the pool, and go back to bed. Shut myself off from the world, and sulk.
But that won’t make me faster. That won’t get me where I want to be. If I’m not training, I’m getting slower…. right?
1/4 hard blocks completed. Just.
Into the second and I’m not pulling away like I normally do, I don’t have the will to push, in fact, I’m holding everyone up.
I fought on, it’s just a bad day. We all have those, you can do this.
2/4 done. Every turn was a battle, why don’t I just get out? I shouldn’t be here and I know it. But I just can’t quit.
I was using more mental strength to keep going, than I’d used to get round some races. And that’s when I knew something was wrong.
3/4 and at the half way point, I threw in the towel. I was done. Cooked.
And before I knew what was happening, I found myself on the side of the pool in pieces, genuinely sobbing.
Had you asked them before the session, I’d have been one of the last people pinned to get out early. Resilient, tough, robotic. Training & emotions separate – park it before the session, pick it up afterwards.
But does that mean I’m always ok?
As I’m moving forward through sport I’m realising more and more, it’s so easy to hide our emotions, so easy to lock ourselves away and so hard to just open up.
And it isn’t just restricted to athletes. It goes right across the board.
We can assume that because people are in a better situation than us, they have it easy. They don’t have any battles.
We live in a society where we’re made to feel guilty for having a bad day, a tough time.
Crying is seen as weak. Mental health is dismissed as “nothing” – and before you know it, you can be completely isolated at a time when the planet is the most populated it’s ever been.
On Earth it’s estimated that we can speak over 7,000 different languages. From the moment we’re born, we begin to communicate. You don’t even need eyes or ears to convey your intentions. We can talk to different species, and we’re sending communications to space.
But we can’t even ask the person next to us if they’re ok?
Is it that we don’t want to hear it? Or is it that we’re all so involved in our personal battles, that we forget to pay attention to the people around us?
As athletes we can forget about it all in sport. Numbers, data, training.
But other people can hide in work, deadlines, hobbies. Just hide behind a facade.
We act confident, we’ll tell you we’re fine. You’ll barely know anything is up, just a moderate silence. A quick change of conversation to move on.
And before we know it, it all gets a bit too much. We can’t hide it. And we need to release it.
If an olympic champion had a bad race, but still won – nobody wants to talk to them about the race. Nobody apart from their coach. If they had a tough day between the ears, you wouldn’t believe them & you wouldn’t wanna talk about it.
Everyone else wants to hear how hard it was, how tough they had to fight. After all, they bloody won, how can they possibly feel bad?
If a big city boss is wealthy – but the numbers are down with the business so they’re making £500,000 less… you don’t care cause they’re still rich. They still have money. Even though their life evolves around the business… how could they be sad?
And with social media, the whole situation is elevated. These “perfect” people that live the dream life – do they not have problems? They look pretty, travel the world and have fun. They don’t have issues at all…. right?
Who do all these people turn to when times are tough? Are they any different to me or you?
Why are your problems any different to theirs? And why is this even relevant?! 99.9% of the population, me included, will never be in that situation, but that doesn’t make us any more or less isolated.
Yes, your problems may be different. But that doesn’t make them any worse, or any better. And that doesn’t make it acceptable to just isolate these people. Or tell them to “stop moaning”.
It’s not ok that they feel scared to speak out, feel like they’re being silly or ridiculous, because they know they have it good. And that in turn trickles down the tree.
Cause we’re all lucky, the fact you’ve read this means you’re in a better situation than over half of the planet.
We have a habit of glossing it all over, making it look ok. Telling everyone “we’re fine”. We don’t open up for fear of being judged, fear that they’ll tell you “you’re just a drama queen”. Fear that they just won’t want to listen.
So look after the person next to you, ask your friends if they’re ok. Genuinely ask them – listen to the answer. Find it out. Before it all gets a bit too much. If I can change one thing today, or get one person to check that someone is alright, then this post will be a success.
Even if you think they have it all under control. That doesn’t mean they do.
Because one day you’ll be in their situation – and you’ll want someone to reach out to.
But don’t worry. They’ll be there.