I had no idea all the hard work was going to create a New York Times Best-Seller! I’m so thankful and so blessed to have the fans I do. These are people that have believed in me and my career, so I’ve enjoyed meeting them along my book tour in different cities. The most rewarding part of this whole experience though has really been hearing stories of others who went through similar situations in their life and how they have either come out triumphant, or are using my story to overcome issues. That’s powerful; that means I’m making a difference not only in the pool but in life. And that is pretty cool to me.
At first, I just didn’t know how to use my voice to express my struggles and I wasn’t sure how much of my life I wanted to actually expose. But, after speaking with a lot of women and younger athletes who think that I’ve had no bumps in the road, I felt like a fake. Having a lot of ups and downs in my life, I felt that telling my story ( In The Water They Can't See You Cry ) might help other women. So, I put it all out on the table.
I was, of course, nervous about how people were going to react but at the same time, it’s my life. This is what I went through and I can’t change things to please people.
It was hard going to school after my first Olympics because all attention was focused on me. I was on magazines and in the news, I had endorsements start to roll in and the list goes on. No one thought that because of all of these surreal and “amazing” things that I could possibly be struggling with normal, everyday teenage issues. On top of the peer pressure, came the harsh words that were said in the media that basically tarnished my self-image. When you are in the spotlight, people rip you to shreds if you aren’t absolutely perfect.
As a teenager, I wasn’t mature enough to handle these things. As a result I internalized everything instead of expressing myself. This eventually led to my downward spiral, as it would with anyone.
Well, my two worlds of being an athlete and then a model didn’t really go together. I had to eat to fuel my training, but then I had to stop eating to look good for the camera. I was stuck. And it’s a shame. I was a healthy athlete, a role model from what I’ve been told – no matter what weight I am, I should be able to be in front of the camera or on a magazine without being traumatized for not being the girl on the catwalk.
There is so much more to life than striving to be pretty, skinny, perfect, etc. Part of the reason I wrote my book was to encourage others to be comfortable in their own skin and know they are beautiful no matter what. I wouldn’t want anyone to experience what I did, and I hope by reading my book, young women know that they don’t have to conform to the “ideal” society pushes upon them.
I now know not to sweat the small stuff. Before I was so concerned about what other people thought, my body image, etc., and after having Blaise, I was very nervous and stressed about getting my figure back. But now, I’m 100% fine with it and I take time to slow down and enjoy the little moments.
It helped me feel strong and healthy and accomplished again. Plus, post-baby, I wasn’t swimming to win, or to impress my coaches and the media anymore, I was swimming for my family and to be heart healthy. I wanted to be a role model again for others, especially my son.
I want Blaise to do anything that makes him happy. We go to a Mommy & Me class and he loves to splash around in the pool at our house. I wouldn’t want Blaise to go through the ups and downs I went through; especially at the young age they were introduced to me. I want him to worry about prom, not performing in front of millions of people. But at the same time, if he ends up heading down the path I did, I will be the supportive parent that will hopefully help him through the pressure of the experience.
Being in a more stable place in my life has enabled me to put things into perspective. My husband and my son have helped me with this, which in turn has helped me become a much better wife, mother and person. I finally had the support system and the strength to tell my story, so I did!
My coaches, friends, agent, parents, sisters and my amazing family. Sacha has loved me through thick and thin and helped put a smile back on my face. And Blaise makes me strive to be a better person every day. I also wouldn’t be the person I am today without my fans who have continued to support me throughout my career. Those who have shared their stories to me about similar ups and downs. All of the people above inspire me every day.