Olympic hero and mental health advocate, Silken Laumann is one of Canada’s most inspirational leaders and a highly recognizable and beloved athlete. A four-time Olympian, Silken is dedicated to helping others reach their potential through sharing her own story of perseverance and courage. She is also passionate about mental health, and about normalizing the conversation, to help end stigma and support others through their journey of recovery.
Silken recently spoke with the Times Colonist on how her mental health crisis, where she felt inexplicable rage towards her young children, was the beginning of a long road to an amazing life. It forced her to reach out for help, which set her on the path to recovery.
Below is a segment from the article, read the whole piece here.
“It’s been hugely transformative,” said Laumann, of the myriad ways she has grown and benefited after seeking help for depression and anxiety that was partly rooted in her own childhood trauma.
“I can’t imagine where I would have been had I not done the work,” said Laumann.
Laumann went through a divorce while raising her young children, had a career, and maintained a public life while burying the childhood trauma she suffered while being raised by a mother with an undiagnosed mental illness.
“I had no experience with counselling, self-care, self-reflection,” Laumann said.
“I had no idea why I was feeling these moments of rage with my kids … and an inability to cope and I thought: ‘What’s wrong with me? I have this great life. What’s wrong with me and why would I feel this way toward these beautiful creatures.’ ”
The rage had no source, she said.
“So one night when my kids were acting out as four-year-olds and six-year-olds do, I had this overwhelming desire to stop their screaming. I couldn’t cope so I walked outside the hotel room … and I called a friend,” Laumann said.
“I had no idea what it was but she called a counsellor and the counsellor called me, and that was my first step and first acknowledgment to saying I need help.”
Sadly, mental health issues are often forced to a crisis point before someone will reach out for help, said Laumann, citing a lack of education and resources around mental health.
“I am so passionate about this because look how long it took me as a capable intelligent person with a good support network to finally say ‘I need help,’ ” she said.
“I remember the self-consciousness and fear I had of changing public opinion of who I was and being defined in a singular way was a real concern to me because I am so many things, as we all are.”
She is now aware of just how many other high-performance athletes, politicians, actors, people of all walks, struggle with mental health.
Laumann said her journey to happiness took years of hard work that included regular counselling and a whole-body — mental, physical, spiritual — approach.
“It’s given me a freedom in my life that is so affirming because I know myself so well now and love myself more deeply and have greater compassion and emotional intelligence,” she said.