Story by Samantha Arsenault Livingstone
I know what it feels like to stand atop the Olympic podium, with my hand over my heart, gold medal around my neck, listening to my country’s national anthem. I know what it took to get there - to that moment I had been dreaming about my whole life. I also know that that moment wasn’t what I thought it would be; it didn’t fill me in the ways I thought it would. It didn’t protect me from pain, like I thought it should. On the outside, it looked like I had it all together: Olympic gold medal, a long list of academic accolades and a full scholarship waiting for me at the University of Michigan. On the inside, it was a completely different story. Two months after winning gold, I found myself in the darkness that is depression, suicidal ideation, an eating disorder and a shoulder that needed surgery. I was too afraid to ask for help; asking for help meant I couldn’t do it on my own and prove that I was just an imposter after all. Thankfully, I found my way to Greg Harden, social worker, forever mentor and the man who saved my life. The work we did together allowed me to heal my relationship with food, my body and my truest self, and I finished my career happier, healthier and faster than I’d ever been. A decade later, I found myself in the darkness once again, except this time felt different. This time there was no amount of muscle + grit or trying harder that could heal my 12-mo old daughter’s failing heart. Even still, I found myself drawing strength from Greg’s words: control the controllables + take the next best step. Our daughter’s heart healed – and I have too. Healing from the pain of Trauma forced me to rumble with beliefs that no longer serve me and heal wounds that were still open, including abuse by coaches. I know now that there’s no arriving to a place free from struggle; no level of achievement, no matter what arena, can protect us from feeling pain - not because we’re not trying hard enough - because we’re human. The fear, inner critic, imposter and self-doubt will come. That’s OK. Our power isn’t in the not-falling down or in the not-feeling; our power is in our response. It’s in our ability to Take the Next Best Step. In 2016, I launched Livingstone High Performance in response to the mental health crisis impacting our youth. LHP provides pillars of support to organizations, teams and individuals to elevate mental health and improve performance. One of those pillars is mindfulness - a skill that brings better health, increased self-awareness, heightened resilience, decreased stress and anxiety, kinder interactions and more caring relationships. Mindfulness is a protective factor against mental illness and it opens the door to peak performance / flow state. The Foundation for a Mindful Society provides resources and supports to build mindful content, communities, cities and education, helping us all to become an empowered village.
50% of the proceeds benefit The Mindful Project
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