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After raising a child who has an anxiety disorder, I admire Naomi Osaka's self-advocacy

After raising a child who has an anxiety disorder, I admire Naomi Osaka's self-advocacy

If you were to meet my college-aged daughter on certain days, you'd never guess she suffered from a debilitating anxiety disorder. She can be personable, she can appear confident, she can seem at ease and comfortable in her own skin from the outside. She's a musician and she performs beautifully—and even particularly well under pressure. You might catch her belly laughing with her friends. You might see her excel at giving a class presentation. You might marvel at her many gifts.

What you wouldn't see is how many days she has spent barely able to leave her bedroom. How many hours she's spent paralyzed by the "what if" monster in her brain. How many social events she's missed because she just couldn't make herself get in the car. How many emails she's had to send teachers to explain that her anxiety was getting the better of her (and could she possibly get an extension on a deadline?). You won't see how many times and ways she's beat herself up for not being able to function like people who don't struggle with mental illness.

My daughter is smart and talented and capable. She also wages daily internal battles most people don't see, and she doesn't win every battle. Therapy has helped a lot, but it's a lot of work. Raising her has helped me develop a deep respect for anyone who struggles with anxiety because I know how much work it takes to get to a good place. And I know how much work it takes to get your brain to stay there.

That's why seeing tennis star Naomi Osaka announce that she wasn't going to do press conferences at the French Open because they were too hard on her mental health piqued my attention. I don't really follow tennis and only know Osaka's name from headlines, but reading her initial statement felt familiar.


At age 23, Osaka is only a few years older than my daughter. And yet it's clear that she, like my daughter, has learned to advocate for herself. That's a gift that should not be undervalued.

When Osaka explained that she wouldn't be doing press conferences at the French Open, many people immediately criticized her. Talking to the press is part of being a professional athlete, some said, and if she doesn't like it maybe she shouldn't be in pro sports. I don't think those people actually listened to what she was saying. Or perhaps they didn't really think through what she said.

"I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes' mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one," Osaka wrote in a statement on Twitter and Instagram last week. "We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.

    "I've watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well. I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they're down and I don't understand the reasoning behind it."

    After basically being told she'd have to participate in press conferences, face huge fines, or perhaps be prevented from competing, Osaka pulled out of the tournament altogether. And this time, she got a bit more specific about her mental health struggles.

    "I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that," she wrote. "Anyone that knows me knows I'm introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I'm often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.

    "Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world's media. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can."

    I can imagine my daughter saying something like this—and I also know that she'd mean something more than what the simple words on the page say. Most of us would feel nervous talking to the press, naturally, which leads to people's "Eh, just suck it up and deal with it" attitudes. But for someone who struggles with anxiety as a mental health disorder, it's not just about dealing with some nerves. Anxiety can be debilitating—and it affects everything. My daughter's anxiety disorder has nothing directly to do with her schoolwork, and yet it makes getting her schoolwork done nearly impossible some days. I can only imagine how anxiety would impact an athlete's performance—the whole purpose for their being in a tournament to begin with—and how necessary it would feel to mitigate the things that contribute to it.

    So while some people have called Osaka a drama queen or a diva for saying, "I'm not okay with this, and here's why," I see a young woman who is being vulnerable in sharing her needs, advocating for herself, and taking necessary action when a situation isn't tenable.

    My daughter has had to learn to advocate for herself, which is vulnerable and scary. Thankfully, the vast majority of the time her self-advocacy been met with support and reasonable accommodation. I've seen similar support and solidarity pour out for Osaka on social media, which is heartening. I've also seen callous criticism and cruelty, which heartbreaking.

    Naomi Osaka is one of the top tennis players on the planet, and for her to back out of a major global tournament is no small thing. And she's right—talking to the press isn't an innate part of being an athlete, nor is it a necessary one, especially in the age of social media where athletes have the ability to speak directly to people who follow them.

    I've seen people bag on Osaka because she makes millions of dollars from tennis, meaning she should just put up with the bad stuff since it's paying her so well. But just because someone is highly successful in their field and makes a ton of money doesn't mean they are immune to mental health issues, and it certainly doesn't mean we should expect them to do things that are hurting them.

    When my daughter is deep in a bout of anxiety, no amount of money could make her do something that her brain is telling her not to do—even when it's something she wants to do. But that doesn't mean she can't do anything. Naomi Osaka's mental health isn't keeping her from playing tennis. Her ability to compete isn't the question here. It's the mental health impact of media expectations, and if an athlete who is at the top of their game, who has spent their whole life working toward competing in top-level tournaments, backs out of something like the French Open, that means something.

    Having watched and walked with my daughter through years of battle with her own brain, I admire Osaka for highlighting the importance of mental health. I know that many people don't understand her needs or don't agree with the way she's communicating them, but those people have no idea how hard this stuff is. Seriously, no idea.

    I know, because I didn't have any idea until I witnessed and walked with my daughter through her own anxiety ups and downs how hard it truly is. So even if the only thing that comes from this is a bigger discussion on mental health, great. We need to talk about this stuff more often and more openly.

    Thank you, Ms. Osaka, for getting the ball rolling.


      A young mom with her kids in the ER.

      Sage Pasch’s unique family situation has attracted a lot of attention recently. The 20-something mother of 2 shared a 6-second TikTok video on September 29 that has been viewed over 33 million times because it shows how hard it can be for young moms to be taken seriously.

      In the video, the young-looking Pasch took her son Nick to the ER after he injured his leg at school. But when the family got to the hospital, the doctor couldn’t believe Pasch was his mother. “POV, we’re at the ER, and the doctor didn’t believe I was the parent,” she captioned the post.


      Pasch and her fiancé , Luke Faircloth, adopted the teen in 2022 after his parents tragically died two years apart. “Nick was already spending so much time with us, so it made sense that we would continue raising him,” Pasch told Today.com.

      The couple also has a 17-month-old daughter named Lilith.

      @coffee4lifesage

      He really thought i was lying😭

      Pasch says that people are often taken aback by her family when they are out in public. "Everybody gets a little confused because my fiancé and I are definitely younger to have a teenager," she said. "It can be very frustrating."

      It may be hard for the young parents to be taken seriously, but their story has made a lot of people in a similar situation feel seen. "Omg, I feel this. I took my son to the ER, and they asked for the guardian. Yes, hi, that's me," Brittany wrote in the comments. "Meee with my teenager at a parent-teacher conference. They think I’m her older sister and say we need to talk with your parents," KatMonroy added.


      This article originally appeared on 10.24.23

      Photo by Tod Perry

      A recreation of the note left on Brooke Lacey's car.

      If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255) or text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line: 741741.


      There’s an old Hebrew saying that if you “save one life, you save the world entire.” Who knows if Brooke Lacey, 22, had that lofty goal when she began a campaign in 2020 to help uplift people’s spirits during the first COVID-19 wave.

      But her kind efforts may have done just that.

      Lacey has struggled with mental health issues throughout her life and she knew that people like her were going to have a really hard time during COVID-19 lockdowns. A study from May 2021 found that the New Zealand population had “higher depression and anxiety compared with population norms.” The study also found that “younger people” and “those most at risk of COVID-19 reported poorer mental health.”



      To help those who may be struggling, Lacey printed 600 stickers with an uplifting message and posted them around places where people may take their lives, including trains, bridges and large bodies of water in Wellington, New Zealand. She also made a bumper sticker with the same message for her car.

      The stickers spoke directly to those who may be contemplating taking their own life. “Please don’t take your life today,” the stickers read. “The world is so much better with you in it. More than you realize, stay.”

      Earlier this month, Lacey parked her car in her university’s lot and when she returned to her vehicle to leave, she noticed a note was affixed to the windshield. Thinking it was someone complaining about how she parked or a ticket, she prepared for the worst but wound up being blindsided by the positive message.

      “I left my house with a plan and asked for a sign, any sign, I was doing the right thing when I saw your car in the parking lot. Thank you,” the note read. At first, Lacey wasn’t sure what the person was referring to, then she remembered her homemade bumper sticker.

      “I had these made so long ago, put one on my car and forgot about them, until now,” she tweeted on her since deactivated account. “I am so glad whoever you are chose to stay today. You never know who needs this reminder.”

      Now, it’s unclear exactly what the person’s “plan” was, but there's no doubt that Lacey’s bumper sticker inspired them to choose life. Let’s hope that the sticker also inspired them to seek professional help for whatever difficulties they are going through.

      Whether it was intentional or not, Lacey’s sticker was effective because it followed one of the most important strategies that people use at suicide hotlines. According to Science.org, it’s of utmost importance that people contemplating suicide are handled with “respect and empathy.”

      Lacey's story is a beautiful reminder of the power that one simple, thoughtful gesture can have on another person’s life. Every day, there are people all around us who are looking for a sign to give them a reason keep going. Whether it’s a hug, a smile or the right message in the right place at the right time, we should all be like Lacey and make sure everyone knows that the world is better with them in it. In fact, much more than they ever realize.


      This article originally appeared on 02.24.22

      Joy

      Gen X has hit 'that stage' of life and is not handling it very well

      We are NOT prepared for Salt-n-Pepa to replace Michael McDonald in the waiting room at the doctor's office, thankyouverymuch.

      Gen X is eating dinner earlier and earlier. It's happening.

      The thing about Gen X being in our 40s and 50s now is that we were never supposed to get "old." Like, we're the cool, aloof grunge generation of young tech geniuses. Most of the giants that everyone uses every day—Google, Amazon, YouTube—came from Gen X. Our generation is both "Friends" and "The Office." We are, like, relevant, dammit.

      And also, our backs hurt, we need reading glasses, our kids are in college and how in the name of Jennifer Aniston's skincare regimen did we get here?

      It's weird to reach the stage when there's no doubt that you aren't young anymore. Not that Gen X is old—50 is the new 30, you know—but we're definitely not young. And it seems like every day there's something new that comes along to shove that fact right in our faces. When did hair start growing out of that spot? Why do I suddenly hate driving at night? Why is this restaurant so loud? Does that skin on my arm look…crepey?


      As they so often do, Penn and Kim Holderness from The Holderness Family have captured the Gen X existential crisis in a video that has us both nodding a long and laughing out loud. Salt-n-Pepa in the waiting room at the doctor's office? Uh, no. That's a line we are not ready to cross yet. Nirvana being played on the Classic Rock station? Nope, not prepared for that, either.

      Watch:

      Hoo boy, the denial is real, isn't it? We grew up on "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, for goodness sake, and it's starting to feel like we made a wrong choice a chapter or two back and suddenly landed our entire generation in a time warp. This isn't real, is it? Thirty years ago was the 1970s. That's just a Gen X fact. So what if we've lived long enough for our high school fashions to go out of style and then back into style and then back out of style again?

      Seriously, though, we can either lament our age and stage in life or we can laugh about it, and people are grateful to the Holdernesses for assisting with the latter. Gen X fans are also thrilled to see their own experiences being validated, because at this point, we've all had that moment in the grocery store or the waiting room when one of our jams came on and we immediately went into a panic.

      "They were playing The Cure in the grocery store and I almost started crying," wrote one commenter. "I mean, how 'alternative' can you be if you're being played in Krogers? You guys are great! Thanks for making us laugh."

      "I couldn’t believe it when I heard Bohemian Rhapsody being played in Walmart," shared another. "That was edgy in my day."

      "I know!!! Bon Jovi at the grocery store!!! That was my clue in!!" added another.

      "Long live Gen Xers! We have to be strong!! We can get through this together!! #NKOTBmeetsAARP" wrote on commenter.You can find more from the Holderness Family on their Facebook page, their podcast and their website, theholdernessfamily.com.


      This article originally appeared on 1.28.24

      Pop Culture

      Why Gotye gave up $10 million in ad revenue from his 'Somebody That I Used to Know' video

      The humble singer-songwriter's story is a cautionary tale of viral fame.

      Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" video has 2.2 billion views on YouTube.

      For most musicians, creating a hit song and making it big on the international stage would be living the dream. For Gotye, it turned out to be a bit of a nightmare.

      Gotye is the stage name of Wouter "Wally" De Backer, the singer-songwriter behind the 2011 smash hit song, "Somebody That I Used to Know." The music video for the song becoming one of YouTube's most-liked videos, and with 2.2 billion views, the video could have earned over $10 million in ad revenue.

      But De Backer has refused to place ads on it, saying, "I'm not interested in selling my music. That's the reason I don't put ads on my YouTube channel, which seems strange to people in today's climate, but that is a decision you can make. I'm like that with all my music."

      It was the fame that came with the virality of the song that was the bigger issue for the artist, however. It's a simple enough thing to turn down money, but there's not much you can do to stop a viral wave.


      The song took six months to write and produce, and when the video leaked a week before its official release, it quickly caught fire. At first, De Backer was just excited that his song was being played on the radio. Then the virality online took hold and that was also exciting for a while.

      From the start, De Backer was grateful for the song's success, but he also managed to stayed simple and humble. He didn't buy anything large or luxurious with the money he made from song sales, being content to drive his old van. And when he was asked what was the best thing that happened in the previous year, he responded, "It probably wouldn't be anything to do with a marker of success of my song or my album. More something like a really great swim I took at Summer's Beach near where I live."

      Soon the covers and parodies of the "Somebody That I Used to Know" grew more widespread and the quality of them began to wane, De Backer began to feel "burnt out" on it all. He had no control over people connecting name with whatever they were hearing done to his song, which was frustrating. He started to feel the pressures that come with fame, to have a certain personality or to follow up his huge hit with another huge hit. And he missed feeling like he had a personal connection with his audience, which becomes difficult at a certain scale.

      He even began to feel self-conscious about the popularity of the song due to its theme—two people who had broken up and couldn't work out their differences. The fact that so many people were celebrating it so fiercely was uncomfortable for him; he didn't want to be responsible for spreading more angst or bitterness in the world. And then came the "overplayed" and "annoying" era of oversaturation. He even apologized to people for having to hear the song so often because radios wouldn't stop playing it.

      Ultimately, he ceased putting out music as a solo artist and focused on making music with his long-time band, The Basics. There is a possibility for another solo Gotye project sometime in the next decade, but he's probably hoping he doesn't end up with a big hit next time around.

      Watch SunnyV2 tell the story of Gotye's "one hit wonder" experience and how it impacted his musical career:

      It's a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks they want to be famous or wishes they'd have a song go viral. Parts of that experience can be great, but fame isn't always everything it's cracked up to be.

      via Pexels

      A woman sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat

      Everyone wants to know how long they will live and there are many indicators that can show whether someone is thriving or on the decline. But people have yet to develop a magic formula to determine exactly how long someone should expect to live.

      However, a doctor recently featured on the "Today" show says a straightforward test can reveal the likelihood that someone aged 51 to 80 will die in the near future.

      NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar was on the "Today" show on March 8 and demonstrated how to perform the simple “sit to stand test” (aka sit-rising test or SRT) that can help determine the longevity of someone between 51 to 80.


      The test is pretty simple. Go from standing to sitting cross-legged, and then go back to standing without using any parts of your body besides your legs and core to help you get up and down. The test measures multiple longevity factors, including heart health, balance, agility, core and leg strength and flexibility.

      You begin the test with a score of 10 and subtract points on your way up and down for doing the following:

      Hand used for support: -1 point

      Knee used for support: -1 point

      Forearm used for support: -1 point

      One hand on knee or thigh: -1 point

      Side of leg used for support: -1 point

      A 2012 study published by the European Society of Cardiology found a correlation between the SRT score and how long people live. The study was conducted on 2002 people, 68% of whom were men, who performed the SRT test and were followed by researchers in the coming years. The study found that “Musculoskeletal fitness, as assessed by SRT, was a significant predictor of mortality in 51–80-year-old subjects.”

      Those who scored in the lowest range, 0 to 3, had up to a 6 times greater chance of dying than those in the highest scores (8 to 10). About 40% of those in the 0 to 3 range died within 11 years of the study.

      Azar distilled the study on "Today," saying: "The study found that the lower the score, you were seven times more likely to die in the next six years.”

      "Eight points or higher is what you want," Azar said. "As we get older, we spend time talking cardiovascular health and aerobic fitness, but balance, flexibility and agility are also really important," she stressed.

      One should note that the people who scored lowest on the test were the oldest, giving them an elevated risk of death.

      Dr. Greg Hartley, Board Certified Geriatric Clinical Specialist and associate professor at the University of Miami, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that we should take the study with a grain of salt. “Frailty, strength, muscle mass, physical performance—those things are all correlated to mortality, but I would caution everybody that correlation doesn’t mean causation,” he said.

      And of course, the test doesn't take into account injuries or disabilities that may make doing the test impossible. But one of the study's authors says that the study is a call to take our mobility seriously.

      “The more active we are the better we can accommodate stressors, the more likely we are to handle something bad that happens down the road,” Dr. Claudio Gil Araujo, told USA Today.


      This article originally appeared on 3.10.23