The Olympic mental health games

Brigitte Pellerin
5 min readAug 16, 2021

Treat yourself well, and others will, too

Photo by good friend and amazing fighter Brigitte Blouin. Three months post-kidney-liver failure, I managed to score one (1) point against champion Corina Balan, who was less than half my age at the time. She scored all the other points and won that fight handily. But I wasn’t going to give up. Now I treat myself with more kindness, which isn’t saying much.

The cold tile felt painful against my sweaty shoulder. But I needed the support so I endured. I was trembling, my face a most unhealthy shade of green, my lungs unable to do much other than gasp for air.

I sat on the floor of the toilet stall, gripping the porcelain with all the might I no longer had, waiting for liberation. I knew nothing except throwing up would let me get to the other side of whatever hell this was, and it was bound to feel better.

When liberation came, I closed my eyes and let my body do what it had to do. The spasms were hurting my back and twisting my stomach into a uncooperative pretzel.

Simon Biles, who needs no introduction, stunned the world by pulling out of competition at the Olympic Games in a deliberate act of self-care. Like most people, I did not understand what it meant for a gymnast to have the “twisties” but even before I understood what those were I was prepared to respect her decision and not bitch about my being deprived of televisual entertainment. Now that I do know how terrible the twisties are, I’m turning into a bit of a zealot in her defence.

It is particularly rich for people who couldn’t possibly do a front-facing tumble without spraining both ears to criticize the greatest gymnast of all times for being “weak.” Me, I look stupid trying to cartwheel but I do feel I can comment on this, having won not one but two world titles in karate competition – in my late 40s no less. I do know what it’s like to train like a maniac and push your limits.

Brigitte Pellerin

Writer | Ottawa. Books include Épître aux tartempions, Le national-syndicalisme, Down the Road Never Travelled, Not Just for Kicks and Le livre Uber.