athletes, mental health, rants

The Olympic Games are not just about winning medals, Joe…

Yesterday, it was in the news that super talented American gymnast, Simone Biles, has decided to attempt her balance beam routine. I was glad to hear the news, not so much because I’m concerned about the gymnasts winning another gold medal, but because I think it would be important to Simone’s morale if she competed. Of course, if she had decided NOT to compete, I’d be okay with that, too. I think the decision to compete or NOT compete, is entirely up to Simone Biles. She’s the one who has put in the blood, sweat, and tears to get to where she is. And she and her parents (or grandparents) have certainly made financial and personal sacrifices for her to be able to perform at the level that she does. She doesn’t owe America a thing, as far as I’m concerned.

In 2016, Simone Biles went to Rio de Janeiro and won four gold medals and a bronze in women’s gymnastics. She’s four years older now, and at age 24, is quite seasoned for a gymnast. I think it’s amazing that she still competes at all, let alone at the Olympic level. And she has been performing at a level that is unattainable by the vast majority of humans, even though she’s no longer as young as most of them are when they reach the pinnacle of their careers. Simone Biles is the very picture of a winner on many levels.

But to see some of the shittiness leveled at Simone Biles since her decision to withdraw from most of the Olympic events in 2021, you’d think she was a national disgrace! I notice a lot of the comments come from white, conservative males who probably get winded climbing a flight of stairs and are only capable of winning beer guzzling contests. These self-important pricks have the nerve to criticize Simone for putting her needs first and taking care of herself. I’ll bet that if Simone had competed and hurt herself, these same guys would have no sympathy for her and would call her a “loser” for that, too.

Last night, I came across a comment thread on Facebook involving a mansplainer named Joe… Here’s what Joe has to say about Simone Biles and the idea that her decision to withdraw may help “transform sports”.

Quitting is not transforming.

Plenty of people responded to Joe. One lady wrote this:

Thanks for weighing in from the couch. I’m sure Simone will be so grateful for your helpful opinion.

Joe came back with this comment.

Her example let down the team. Understandable for her but certainly not positive for the team.

More people responded, including yours truly. I wrote this:

By not performing when she wasn’t well, she serves as a positive role model to others who might feel like they have to perform when they aren’t well.

I would rather see Simone and other athletes withdraw from competition than have accidents that kill or paralyze them. No medal is worth that.

And Joe, who seemed to be gleefully arguing with all comers wrote,

Letting down your team is not positive no matter what the reason. Understandable but not positive.

I thought about Joe’s comment for a moment, and responded thusly:

They did just fine without her, Joe. Another American won the all around. Another American won gold in floor exercise. Another American won silver on vault. Another American won bronze on the uneven parallel bars.

It turns out they didn’t need Simone, and if she had gotten hurt or killed, that would have put quite a damper on things, don’t you think? Wouldn’t she have let down her teammates by forcing them to witness a potential horror show? No one is 100% all the time. Not even Simone Biles.

And she was there to cheer them on, too, which I am sure was very helpful in these weird times of performing with no roar of the crowd.

Kindly pull your head out of your ass. The Olympic Games are not just about winning gold medals, nor should they be.

I stand by that comment. A lot of people are focused only on winning at the Games, but not everyone can win a medal. If the Games were just about winning medals, why would countries that have little chance of winning anything send their athletes? Why would they bother having opening and closing ceremonies, complete with the Olympic torch being carried? Why have people give speeches and musicians and dancers perform? Why speak about sportsmanship or friendship or competition?

The Games are, in part, about making money, promoting politics, and selling books, music, and movies, and that’s a fact. But there are also many stories that come out of the Olympics, and not just about people who win medals. There’s a human interest aspect to the Games that is important. Watching the Games and learning the stories of its participants is one way for the people of the world to learn about other countries and cultures.

Olympic Belarusian sprinter, Kristina Timanovskaya, is currently in the news because she criticized her coaches and she claims her safety was threatened. Belarus has been in the news lately because its leader, President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who’s been in power since 1994, has a habit of jailing people who criticize the government. In May, Belarusian authorities, under Lukashenko’s direction, forced a Ryanair plane bound for Vilnius, Lithuania, to land in Belarus. This was so that one of the passengers, Belarusian Roman Protasevich, could be arrested and jailed for criticizing the Belarusian government. Timanovskaya no doubt knows what could happen to her if she goes back to her homeland. She just got political asylum from Poland.

That’s just one example of a human interest story from the Tokyo Games. There have been so many others over the years, particularly during the Cold War era. When I was growing up, I remember watching beautiful figure skaters and gymnasts from the former Soviet Union. I always marveled at their talents, and curiously caught a glimpse of people from a place where Americans were, at that time, mostly forbidden to go. A few years later, when I did move to the former Soviet Union, I remembered those athletes and some of their stories. Although none of the athletes I remembered were from Armenia, where I went to live, they still somehow made me feel a connection to a place that was once Soviet.

I remember looking up flags and finding places on maps as I watched the Games and a particular athlete caught my eye. Those explorations always led to learning about other places and piqued my wonder about the world. Although I’ve never been one for watching most sports, the Olympics were always different to me. As someone who loves to hear and tell stories, I always enjoyed the stories that inevitably came from the Games.

Even if some people think that Games should solely be about winning, I think that’s the wrong attitude to take. They should be about athletes doing their best, making friends, and being good sports. I think Simone Biles and other athletes who have put their needs and well-being ahead of winning medals should be commended. Being allowed to compete at the Olympic Games is a real honor, and one that Biles proved she deserved. But no medal is worth losing someone’s health or life.

As we’ve seen in the recent women’s gymnastics scandals involving sexual, physical, emotional, and mental abuses, the relentless focus on winning is both unhealthy and unwise. So many women gymnasts were so terrified to speak up for themselves that Larry Nassar got away with sexually abusing hundreds of them in the name of providing “medical care”. And I’m sure I don’t need to get into the many stories of gymnasts who have tragically permanently injured or killed themselves trying to become Olympic legends. I recently covered that subject quite extensively.

I’m sure that Biles’ teammates worried that they wouldn’t do as well without the so-called G.O.A.T.’s performance. But, as it turned out, they did just fine without her, and the United States has had an excellent showing in the women’s gymnastics competition. Moreover, two young women now have had the chance to be gold medalists. Had Biles been on her game, they might not have had that opportunity. They did themselves and the United States proud, and we should be celebrating their amazing accomplishments, not criticizing Biles’ brave decision to take care of herself.

It wasn’t so long ago that U.S. women’s gymnastics weren’t all that impressive, but a U.S. woman has won the gymnastics all around at every Olympic Games since 2004. Thanks to Suni Lee’s awesome all around performance, that’s still true in 2021, even without Simone Biles. And Jade Carey won the floor exercise gold, too. MyKayla Skinner won silver on the vault, and Lee won a bronze on the uneven parallel bars… These young women are also champions, and they had a great chance to show everyone that. But even if they hadn’t won a single medal, they still have the extremely rare honor of being Olympians. No one can ever take that away from them.

I wish Simone Biles all the luck as she performs on the balance beam. I, for one, am proud of her for sharing the limelight, and for making sure she survives her years as a gymnast in one piece. I’m sure she has had many injuries over the years, some of which will always plague her. But she’s likely to be able to walk away from the Tokyo Olympics with her head held high, rather than rolled out on a stretcher because she had an accident. We can’t put a price on that.

Standard
mental health

The “twisties”… a world class gymnast is smart enough to know when to QUIT!

Simone Biles is in the news again. This time, it’s not because she managed to pull off some incredible gymnastics feat at the Tokyo Olympics. This time, she’s in the news because she pulled off a different kind of incredible feat. She knew when to quit.

Dominique Moceanu knows Simone’s struggle.

Regular readers might have noticed that I follow women’s gymnastics. I’m not an obsessive fan, or anything. In fact, I have zero gymnastics talent myself. I could never so much as turn a cartwheel, even when I was a young girl. I just like to watch gymnastics, in part, because of the drama of the sport, and because of the insane violations of physics gymnasts are able to do. I’m impressed by the grace and athleticism of gymnasts, even if I know that there’s a dark side to the sport.

Simone Biles is known as the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time). Two days ago, she proved why she’s the G.O.A.T. by bravely pulling out the team competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games. She also pulled out the the all around competition, and will not be defending the gold medal she won in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Simone introduced the world to a special condition that gymnasts get. That condition is called “the twisties”, and basically it means that while she was in mid air, Simone lost focus and the ability to control her body, putting her in great danger.

Biles’ performance at the Tokyo Games has been notably off kilter. Last week, she qualified to compete in all of the event finals, but her routines weren’t going as brilliantly as they historically have. We didn’t know it at the time, but Simone was dealing with incredible stress that was messing with her mental health. Amazingly enough, it’s a sign of her overall mental health that she decided to leave the competition. She was wise enough not to keep going, despite the extreme pressure she’s no doubt been under for years. Biles not only had the incredible pressure to perform at the Olympics, she also had some personal family drama, as just last month, her brother Tevin Biles-Thomas, was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in a 2018 shooting incident. No doubt, Biles’ brother’s legal problems were an added source of stress for the world class gymnast.

I’ve been watching women’s gymnastics long enough to have seen and heard about some really horrific accidents. There’s the now deceased former Soviet gymnast, Elena Mukhina, who attempted a Thomas Salto just weeks before the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Mukhina had told her coach that she was going to break her neck trying to do the Salto. Her coach told her to get over her fear. Unfortunately, Mukhina knew her limits better than the coach did, but lacked the ability to say “no”. She attempted the Salto, under rotated, and landed on her chin. Sure enough, Mukhina’s awful prediction came to pass. She broke her neck, and spent the next 26 years a quadriplegic. In 2006, Mukhina died at age 46, due to issues related to the paralysis.

A memorial video for Elena Mukhina someone posted on YouTube.

There’s also Julissa Gomez, who was about my age. In May 1988, the fifteen year old gymnast, daughter of Mexican immigrants, had a terrible accident that left her paralyzed. She was in Tokyo, Japan, planning to compete in the World Sports Fair. Gomez was attempting to do a Yurchenko vault, but had never gotten completely comfortable with her technique. Sometimes, when she would try to do the difficult maneuver, her feet would miss the springboard. In those days, gymnasts vaulted on a horizontally placed horse, rather than the table that is used today.

Gomez was warming up on May 5th, 1988, practicing the Yurchenko for the vault finals. She ran headlong toward the vault; then, her foot slipped on the springboard, causing her to slam head first into the vault. From that instant onward, Gomez was paralyzed from the neck down. She was placed on a ventilator, which tragically became disconnected. The lack of oxygen caused severe brain damage. Gomez missed her Olympic dream, and spent the next three years languishing, until she finally died in August 1991, at age 18.

A memorial video someone made for Julissa Gomez.

It should be mentioned that at the time of her death, Julissa Gomez was coached by Al Fong, who also coached the late gymnast, Christy Henrich. Henrich, who was also about my age, died in 1994 at age 22, after she suffered a harrowing ordeal with anorexia nervosa.

You can see Christy shake her head after a disastrous tumbling pass. The commentators say she looks “tired”. It turns out she was actually starving herself.

Gomez was previously coached by Bela Karolyi, who is well known in the women’s gymnastics world for his bigger than life personality, as well as his allegedly abusive methods. It was Bela Karolyi who cheered on Kerri Strug in 1996, convincing her to vault a second time at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, even though Strug was seriously injured. Fortunately, Strug did not end up paralyzed after that historic vault, but I would not be surprised if she still has issues with that ankle.

It turned out that Kerri didn’t even have to do this… the American team had enough points to win the gold without the second vault.

If you watch Kerri do this vault, you can see that she was running on pure adrenaline as she raced toward the horse and flipped through the air, landing on one foot. It’s amazing to see. At the time, people hailed her as a heroine, and she was the talk of the Games. I will admit, this is definitely the stuff of true grit. Since Simone Biles’ decision to pull out of Olympic competition, people have been looking at Kerri Strug’s vault differently. Some have been saying that Biles doesn’t have as much “grit” as Strug did in 1996, but others have noted that Kerri should have been allowed to say “no” to that second vault. She was clearly injured, and doing a second vault with such a severe injury put her at extreme risk.

Moceanu miraculously avoids falling off the beam after missing a skill.

At the same Olympics, Dominique Moceanu clawed her way on the balance beam. She almost fell off after making an error in which she hit her head. She was extremely lucky she wasn’t seriously injured. Moceanu said no one checked her after she hit her head on the beam.

In July 1998, Sang Lan, a Chinese gymnast, came to New York City to compete at the Goodwill Games. During warm ups for the vault event final, Lan, who was known as an excellent vaulter, attempted to do a “timer”, a simple vault meant to help the gymnast familiarize herself with the equipment. She fell, landing on her head, seriously injuring her spinal cord, and she was unable to raise herself off the mat. Lan spent the next year in New York City, paralyzed from the chest down. She remains paralyzed today, at age 40. Through physical therapy, Lan eventually regained some use of her arms and hands.

Connie Chung asked Sang Lan if she knew the vault was “all wrong” when she was in the air. Lan said she knew. She must have had “the twisties”, too.

It really saddens me to read comments from people who say Simone Biles didn’t “belong” at the Olympics. What kind of bullshit is that? She is an exceptional athlete who has proven time and again that no one else can touch her. Now that she’s pulled out of the all around, it’s anybody’s guess who will take home the gold. Although even if Biles hadn’t pulled out, that would be true. I remember in 1992, watching teenaged gymnast Kim Zmeskal slip off the balance beam at the Olympics in Barcelona. At the time, Zmeskal was thought to be the favorite to win the gold. Seconds into her routine, that dream of winning gold was over for her. Her teammate, Shannon Miller, ended up in the spotlight instead.

Poor Kim. She was only 16 years old… and she had the weight of the world on her shoulders.

I also remember Kristie Phillips, who at age 14, was billed as the “New Mary Lou”. By the time the 1988 Olympics rolled around, Phillips had grown taller and gained weight. She wasn’t the gymnast she had been in 1986. And she didn’t make the Olympic team. She was named “second alternate”, which meant she didn’t get to go to Seoul. The devastation of that caused Kristie Phillips to suffer terrible mental health issues, to include suicidal ideation. I was so sad for Kristie, as I had been watching her during the Olympic Trials and really rooted for her.

Kristie’s foot went out of bounds on her floor exercise, shattering her Olympic dream.
Kristie tells Oprah Winfrey how she felt after she didn’t make the Olympics.

Women’s gymnastics is a truly beautiful sport. I love watching it, but I think if I had a daughter, I would not want her to be a gymnast. Besides the incredibly difficult and dangerous skills gymnasts do, there’s also the horror of the sexually abusive former team doctor, Larry Nassar, who molested hundreds of gymnasts under the guise of giving them “medical care”. Simone Biles was one of Nassar’s victims, and I’m sure the trauma related to that contributed to the mental state she found herself in this week in Tokyo.

Because Simone knew when to quit, she won’t be facing a tragic future… or NO future at all. She can move on after gymnastics. And so what if she didn’t win gold for America? She’s already done that! We have no right to demand anything at all of her, but we especially have no right to tell her to keep going when her body and mind have told her it’s time to quit. Because when it comes down to it, after the Olympics, athletes are on their own. They have to move on beyond the glory days. Very few of them become rich and famous from their athletic pursuits, and I’ve read many sad stories of former great athletes who didn’t know what to do with themselves once the Olympic dream was over for them.

Simone Biles is only 24 years old– a baby to most adults. But consider that age 24 is very old for a gymnast. She’s been under a lot of stress for many years– physically, mentally, and emotionally. The Nassar case happened fairly recently– add in the legal battle her brother was recently fighting, the tremendous pressure to win gold for America, and the tremendous physical and mental toll gymnastics places on its participants, and you have a woman who must have been on the razor’s edge of sanity. And yet, it’s a clear sign that Simone Biles is very sane, because she knew when to QUIT! And she no doubt knows there is life beyond the Olympics.

I would love to see Simone Biles compete in the event finals next week, if that’s what she wants to do, and she is fully prepared to do it. But even if she doesn’t compete, I still think she should be commended for being wise. No medal is more important than a person’s life and health. I don’t have a concept of “the twisties” as a gymnast might. My body can’t do what their bodies do. But I do know what it feels like to be mentally unhinged, and I know how disorienting and scary that can be, even for someone who isn’t trying to defy the laws of physics. Simone Biles made the right decision and has served as an incredible role model, not just to budding gymnasts, but to anyone suffering with mental health issues. She is to be commended for taking care of herself and having the ability to say “No”.

Standard
complaints, healthcare, mental health, transportation, travel

Mental health crises are health crises, too…

A few days ago, I read an article about a green haired woman who disrupted an American Airlines flight, trying to open the doors while the plane was en route from Texas to North Carolina. She wound up being duct taped to her seat after she attacked the flight attendants trying to calm her down. Someone uploaded a TikTok video of the woman, still bound to her seat, hands behind her back and chest and mouth taped, as people got off the plane. The woman was rocking back and forth, screaming “You! You! You!” on the July 6th trip from Dallas to Charlotte.

I don’t fault the flight attendants for restraining the woman. She was obviously putting people in danger, and something drastic needed to be done. What I do take issue with is the unkind comments people made about this woman, who is clearly having some kind of a mental health breakdown. I read so many comments from unsympathetic people assuming the woman was in control of her behavior. They were calling for her to be jailed, fined, or banned from flying for the rest of her life.

A video about this situation. Apparently, this person was on the plane when this happened.

I watched the video and it’s clear to me that that the woman on the American Airlines flight was having a mental health crisis. We don’t fault people who have seizures, heart attacks, miscarriages, or strokes while flying on airplanes. Those people tend to get compassion and support, rather than derision and cruelty. Why would a crisis involving someone’s mental health be any different? This lady is clearly not rational. She needs medical help from a licensed physician. It’s the same as anyone having a medical emergency on a plane. Her situation just involves her mind, rather than her heart, lungs, or brain.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

These freaks need to be fined, spend time in a cell, and be blacklisted from public transportation for all eternity.
They’re nut jobs without a clue or a prayer. You know they’re all Republicans, too, I should add.
(I don’t know too many Republicans with green hair, but I suppose it’s possible.)

I don’t understand why this continues to be tolerated. A minimum 20-year sentence, six figure fine and lifetime inclusion on the no fly/no bus/no train/no cruise list should put the brakes on it. (Seriously? Does this person really think the woman in that video has a clue about a threatened ban?)

Is this a problem? Would have voted to duct tape her & toss her off the airliner….mid- flight. (And that would probably result in your being sucked out along with her…)

Act like a lunatic on a plane –> join the No Fly List, permanently. (Could she help it? Can you help it when you have medical emergencies?)

Agree these people should Never be allowed to fly any airline Ever !Create a No Fly List . Simple (Is that what you would like to happen to you, should you ever have the misfortune of having a mental breakdown in public?)

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. I’m sure the entire plane was tired of her verbal vitriol. (What kind of stupid games?)

I keep thinking of that Airplane scene of the nun slapping the hysterical woman… (Ha ha, very funny, motherfucker.)

A couple of anti-mask types were on my last flight. Their anti-vax T shirts and their refusal to wear masks at the gate, as well as their arrogant, spoiling for a fight, defiant and entitled attitudes worried the rest of us. Luckily they behaved in the air, but why should anyone have to worry about this stuff? (But this lady wasn’t an “anti-mask type”. She has a mental illness and needs medical help.)

To be clear, I did not read that this woman had been belligerent, high, or drunk. I didn’t hear that she was refusing to cooperate with pandemic rules by wearing a face mask. Instead, I read that she was nervous and panicky from the beginning of the flight. She said she was claustrophobic and that, in an of itself, would indicate that she suffers from anxiety. I don’t know why she was flying, or if, for some reason, she didn’t take any meds she might have been on. The point is, she is clearly not mentally well.

Instead of realizing that she’s not well and needs medical assistance, apparently many people think she should go to jail. Some of them claim the woman “deserves” to be taped to her seat. I would submit that it was necessary to duct tape her for the safety of everyone on board. She didn’t “deserve” it, though. Saying she “deserves it” implies that she had control over herself and the situation. She obviously did not.

Over the past sixteen months of the COVID-19 nightmare, I have read a lot of lamenting from people about how “entitled”, “babyish”, “rude”, “inconsiderate”, “defiant”, and “stupid” people are for not wearing face masks or getting vaccinated. I’ve read many lectures about how wearing a mask and getting vaccinated is the “compassionate” thing to do for one’s fellow man. And yet, many of the same people who are lecturing others about being “kind” and “compassionate” by cooperatively wearing face masks and getting vaccinated are also calling for zero tolerance policies in situations like the one on the American Airlines flight. It seems to me that “zero tolerance” and “compassion and cooperation” are concepts that don’t blend well.

Instead of stopping to think about the reality of this situation and the fact that this woman was not in control of herself, some of these folks think she should just be tossed out of society. Many of them seem to think that no amount of jail time is enough. They have a “lock ’em up and throw away the key” mentality. Or, they make these kinds of statements and then forget about what they would actually mean.

I have no doubt in my mind that if the green-haired lady gets appropriate medical care for her mental illness, she’ll be alright. I’m sure she didn’t get on that plane with a solid plan to freak out and panic. It’s true that she was biting, spitting, and being violent. Some people say that counts as being “belligerent”. But all you have to do to explain that behavior is think about what happens to animals when they are scared or in pain. Instinct takes over. Even the nicest and most loving pet dog will lash out if he or she is in severe pain or terrified. The same thing happens with human beings who are in a fight or flight mode. Adrenaline kicks in, vision tunnels, and people will kick, scratch, bite, and spit in order to escape. We’re not talking about being “rational” in that state of being. That situation defies rationality.

I wish that people– especially the ones bitching about how unkind and lacking in compassion the “rule breakers” are– would stop and consider that sometimes people who break the rules are in an emergency situation. They aren’t being “rude and inconsiderate” to you when they’re having a mental health breakdown or any other medical crisis. They need competent help, kindness, and understanding. I’m sure that most people would hope and expect for the same, should they ever need medical assistance. Respect, decency, empathy, and compassion go both ways. If you expect it from other people, you should also be willing to give it to others yourself.

I hope the woman from the flight is alright now. I also hope the flight attendants who had to deal with her are alright. I’m grateful that the flight attendants were able to subdue the woman and everyone made it to Charlotte safely. They are to be commended. This story, along with the terrible responses to it, is just one more reason why I’m going to hold off on unnecessary flights for the time being. People are awful.

Standard
celebrities, mental health, money, psychology

Britney Spears says, “I deserve to have a life!”

This morning, 39 year old Britney Spears is all over the news. She went to court yesterday to ask a Los Angeles court judge, Brenda Penny, to end the “abusive conservatorship” her father, Jamie Spears, has had over her affairs since 2008 (a licensed professional conservator, Jodi Montgomery, took over direct oversight earlier this year). At this point, Spears’ financial affairs are jointly handled by Jamie Spears and Bessemer Trust. It’s hard to believe 13 years have passed since Britney’s very public mental health breakdown. I was never a big follower of Britney’s career, but I do remember the dramatic news stories and photos of her shaven head. I heard about her impulsive decision to marry Jason Alexander back in 2004, only to divorce him 55 hours later. Clearly, she did have mental health issues at one time. But does she still have them today?

News about Britney Spears. She doesn’t want to perform while her father is still in control. I don’t blame her.

Based on what I’ve read, which is admittedly not very much, it would seem to me that there are grounds to allow Britney Spears more control over her life. I haven’t heard of any other mental health dramas involving her in quite some time. She’s been quietly pushing to end the conservatorship for years. She was even working as an entertainer, at least until 2019. I wouldn’t have expected Spears to be working last year. Practically no one in the entertainment business was doing live shows after March 2020. But she’s clearly still successfully generating money, and people are still interested in her career.

Britney Spears dropped quite a bombshell in her testimony yesterday, claiming that she has an IUD that she would like to have removed so that she might have another child with her boyfriend, Sam Asghari. However, since she has no rights to make her own medical decisions, the IUD remains implanted against her will. She says she’s been forced to take medications she doesn’t want, such as lithium, a mood stabilizer often prescribed for treatment of bipolar disorder. Britney says the drug made her feel “drunk” and unable to carry on conversations with her family. She wants to do therapy at her home, where she might have privacy. Instead, she’s forced to go to another location, where the paparazzi “stalks” her.

Spears also claims that her management has forced her to perform against her will. She claims that she was threatened with a lawsuit if she didn’t do her shows. She says she felt like she was being “trafficked” and should be able to “say no to a dance move”. She’s claimed that she’s been forced to perform, even while sick with a high fever, and she’s been required to enter mental health treatment facilities against her will, based on exaggerated circumstances. Britney has also said that she doesn’t want to perform again, as long as her father is in charge of her affairs.

Finally, Britney Spears says that it makes no sense that she’s trusted and expected to perform at high level shows that involve millions of dollars in investments, yet can’t make the simplest decisions about personal aspects of her life. Frankly, I can see her point on this. It does seem to me like she should have had control over her affairs a long time ago, once the acute mental health crisis had ended. Or, at least she should have had some of her rights restored. At the very least, her affairs should not have been handled by a family member/authority figure like her father, but by a neutral party. But given that, as his daughter’s conservator, Jamie Spears was “earning” $16,000 a month plus $2,000 a month for office space rent, I guess I can see why he’d be reluctant to give up such a sweet gig.

What a mess! And it appears to be mostly over money, which is a real shame.

It’s concerning to read about some of the alleged personal issues Jamie Spears has had that might have made him a poor choice as a conservator in the first place. Lynne Spears’, Britney’s mom and Jamie’s second ex wife, claimed in her 2008 memoirs that her ex husband “verbally abused and abandoned her” and “exhibited erratic behavior.” In 1980, when Lynne Spears first attempted to divorce Jamie Spears, she filed a restraining order against him, worried that he would harass her, particularly if he had been drinking alcohol. Jamie Spears is evidently a notorious alcoholic. Lynne Spears has also spoken in favor of having Jamie Spears removed from his interests in Britney’s affairs.

In 1998, before Britney hit stardom, the family was struggling financially and on the verge of bankruptcy. When Jamie and Lynne Spears divorced in 2002, apparently things got better– Jamie Spears was not that involved in Britney’s life as she rocketed toward fame and fortune. It wasn’t until she had her breakdown that he was suddenly so interested in her affairs. Mr. Spears also allegedly was involved in an altercation involving one of Britney’s teenaged sons. Britney’s ex husband, Kevin Federline, got a restraining order against Jamie Spears, forbidding him to see his sons with Britney.

What especially sucks for Britney is that she is being forced to pay, not only for her own attorneys’ services, but also for the services of opposing attorneys. According to The New York Times:

As the fight drags on, the bills are piling up — and, in a quirk of the conservatorship system, Ms. Spears has to pay for lawyers on both sides, including those arguing against her wishes in court. A recent $890,000 bill from one set of Mr. Spears’s lawyers, covering about four months of work, included media strategizing for defending the conservatorship.

So… it appears to me that a whole lot of people are on Britney’s payroll, and a whole lot of people stand to lose if she regains the freedom to make her own decisions. It’s a really fucked up situation. I feel sad for her, because it looks to me like she’s being abused by someone who should always be interested in protecting her– her father. But instead, it looks like he’s profiting off of her and, perhaps, even getting a charge out of running her life. He’s allegedly referred to Britney as a “racehorse who has to be handled like one.” And at age 68, it’s not as if he’s likely to kick the bucket anytime soon.

Jamie Spears’ lawyer, Vivian Lee Thoreen assures us that Jamie has his daughter’s best interests at heart. She has stated to People magazine, quite nauseatingly, “Any time Britney wants to end her conservatorship, she can ask her lawyer to file a petition to terminate it; she has always had this right but in 13 years has never exercised it… Britney knows that her Daddy loves her, and that he will be there for her whenever and if she needs him, just as he always has been — conservatorship or not.” I don’t know about that… and while my southern mom always called her father “Daddy”, it seems especially inappropriate, disrespectful, and demeaning for a lawyer to address another adult in such a way, as if Britney Spears is just a child who needs reassurance. No 39 year old woman should be addressed like that, or spoken of or to in that way.

I truly hope that the judge in this case exercises wisdom. I don’t know all the details, of course, but from what I’ve read, it’s high time for Jamie Spears to get back in control and support of his own life. He needs to leave Britney alone. And if she really does need help managing her affairs, it should be from someone of her own choosing, who is neutral, professional, and works for her– and in her best interests. That help should not come from someone like her father, who will always have emotional ties to her, for better or worse. He’s not neutral, and from the sounds of it, he’s not particularly mentally stable himself.

No matter what, it sounds to me like Jamie’s time having any say in Britney’s life should end. I’m rooting for Britney. I hope she gets relief very soon. #Free Britney!

Standard
athletes, celebrities, mental health, psychology, tragedies, YouTube

Partial repost: Christy Henrich and Karen Carpenter, and discovering Dr. Todd Grande…

Recently, I watched a video done about Karen Carpenter by YouTube shrink, Dr. Todd Grande. Dr. Grande does videos about mental health topics in a trademark “flat” kind of way. When I first encountered him on YouTube, I didn’t like his videos that much because his delivery was so dry. But I kept coming back, because he chose interesting topics. After awhile, I realized that I enjoy his videos and even his “flat” style… especially when he throws shade in kind of a bland way. In the video he made about Karen Carpenter, Dr. Grande remarked that in terms of her musical talent, Karen was “like a Ferrari stuck on a go cart track”. He implied that she was much more talented than her brother, Richard, is. I got a kick out of that observation.

Karen Carpenter… Dr. Grande implies that her wings were clipped by her brother… Frankly, I think her mother was more of a wing clipper.

Personally, I disagree with Dr. Grande that Karen’s talent was that much more impressive than Richard’s is. They had strengths in different areas. Richard is a fantastic pianist, and he’s a great arranger. He knew what songs went best with Karen’s vocals. Karen was a magnificent singer and drummer. Together, they worked well. Both of them worked apart with somewhat less success. I do think that Karen and Richard had a very controlling mother, and personally, I think if anyone should be blamed for what happened to Karen Carpenter, it could be her mom that deserves the most shade. Agnes Carpenter was overbearing and overreaching… and she didn’t want her children to be independent adults. Moreover, she obviously favored Richard, which probably took a toll on Karen’s self esteem. Maybe that had to do with her development of anorexia nervosa. I don’t know.

Anyway… I enjoyed watching Dr. Grande’s video about Karen Carpenter and realized he’d done a bunch of similar videos about other celebrities. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on Christy Henrich, a brilliant 80s era gymnast who famously perished from anorexia nervosa in 1994. So I left him a comment. Maybe he’ll read and heed it. I really think it would be interesting to hear Dr. Todd Grande’s deadpan views about Christy’s public struggle with anorexia. She had a tremendous work ethic, which extended to her illness. At one point, Christy’s weight fell to 47 pounds. It’s not that I admire her for being that emaciated. It’s more of a comment on her sheer will power and relentless pursuit of her goals, self-destructive as they were. I’m sure a mental health expert would have a lot to say about her.

A video a YouTuber made about Christy Henrich.

In the meantime, below is a repost of an article I wrote in February 2014 about Christy Henrich for my original blog. It was inspired because Bill and I went on a “hop” to Spain and Portugal in January of that year. On the way back to Texas, we landed in Missouri and drove through Christy’s hometown of Independence, Missouri. I thought of her as I realized how much Missouri reminds me of Virginia. As usual, the repost appears “as/is”.

Remembering Christy Henrich

Back in the late 1980s, I had a brief but intense obsession with watching gymnastics.  I would catch meets on ESPN or Home Team Sports.  In those days, ESPN only had one channel and I believe HTS is now defunct.  I remember seeing very old footage of Shannon Miller when she was just 12 years old.  I remember watching Brandy Johnson and Phoebe Mills.  I could never so much as turn a cartwheel myself, but I really enjoyed watching the tiny girls compete.  I admired them for being so tough and strong.  I was into horses myself, though.

I also remember Christy Henrich, who was less than a month younger than me.  When I first saw her, she reminded me a bit of a soccer player.  Short and muscular without an ounce of fat on her, she didn’t have the long, graceful limbs of the Russian or Romanian gymnasts.  But she was very strong and had an amazing work ethic.  Her coach, Al Fong, even called her E.T. for extra tough. Sometimes, that extra tough work ethic worked against her, as you can see in the video below.

This may have even been the first meet I ever saw Christy in… This performance was not very good. The commentators say she “looks tired” and “doesn’t look right”. They also mention that she was warming up way before everyone else was.

Not being privy to anything going on in gymnastics that wasn’t aired on TV, I didn’t know about Christy Henrich’s eventual slide into anorexia nervosa and bulimia.  Back in those days, I had a bit of an obsession about eating disorders, too.  I knew a lot about them and even flirted with them.  If I had known about Christy, I might have even admired her for her anorexia.  That’s how dumb I was at 16.

Christy Henrich at 17

I remember watching the very intense 1988 Summer Olympics gymnastics trials.  I was kind of rooting for Kristie Phillips, an adorable strawberry blonde who had seemed poised for gymnastics stardom.  A growth spurt and weight gain had sidelined her in 1987 and she was back to try to win a spot on the team.  She placed 8th and was named a second alternate.  She would not be going to Seoul unless someone got hurt.  Christy Henrich missed the team altogether by .0118 of a point.  There was no hope for her at all, unless she set her sights on 1992 in Barcelona.

About Kristie Phillips, who also suffered from an eating disorder.
Kristie Phillips was on Oprah, along with Christy’s mom and boyfriend. Here, she talks about her suicidal ideation after she missed the Olympic team.

In 1990, a judge supposedly told Christy Henrich after a meet in Budapest, Hungary that in order to be a serious contender for the Olympics, she would need to lose weight.  At 4’11” and 93 pounds, Christy didn’t have much weight to lose.  But she took the judge’s words to heart and went on a serious diet, quickly shedding five pounds.  She was praised for the weight loss at first, but then she slid headlong into a battle that would eventually cost her her life.

Christy Henrich in 1990

By January 1991, she had lost so much weight that her coach, Al Fong, kicked her out of the gym.  A week after he kicked her out, she came in to tell him she was quitting the sport.  Though she had a loving family and a boyfriend who wanted to marry her, the eating disorders had taken hold of her.  On July 26, 1994, she died of multiple organ failure.  She had just turned 22 years old and she weighed less than 60 pounds.  At one point, her weight was just 47 pounds.

A clip from a 1995 episode of Oprah in which Christy’s mother and boyfriend talk about her struggles with eating disorders.  

I remember reading Joan Ryan’s book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.  In fact, I read an excerpt of it in the Washington Post just days before I left the country for Armenia to serve in the Peace Corps.  When I got home in 1997, I bought the book and read it.  It was about female gymnasts and figure skaters.  In 2000, Ryan updated the book, including discussion about Dominique Moceanu’s desire to be emancipated from her parents because her father was spending her money. 

I don’t know what made me think of Christy today.  It’s not her birthday or the anniversary of her death, though in July of this year, she will have been dead for 20 years.  That amazes me.  It seems like yesterday, we were 22 years old.  The older you get, the faster time flies.

Last month, as Bill and I worked our way back to Texas from our trip abroad, we drove through Christy’s hometown of Independence, Missouri.  We stayed a night in Kansas City, which is where Christy died.  For some reason, I even thought about Christy’s mother as we passed through.  It was frigid during our brief time there and, looking around, it didn’t look like the kind of place that would excite me.  On the other hand, I did notice how nice and folksy everyone seemed to be.  It seems like the kind of place you could get to know your neighbors.

Christy Henrich in 1987.

I’m sure that the last twenty years have been tough for all who knew and loved Christy Henrich.  What happened to her was just gruesome.  I still like watching gymnastics today, but remember Christy’s story reminds me that the sport has a bit of a dark side.  To read more about Christy Henrich, I recommend the book Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.  

An eye opening read.

Edited to add: in 2014, I still had no idea how dark gymnastics can be… that was before we knew about John Geddert and Larry Nassar.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard