Parasports World talks to Megan Blunk (Part 1)
November 9, 2017
Parasports World recently got the chance to catch up with Megan Blunk, who was part of USA’s gold medal winning Wheelchair Basketball team at the Rio Paralympics 2016. The 26-year-old Gig Harbor resident talked openly and honestly about her battle with depression, how she handles the highs and lows of being a Paralympic star and of course…being too quick for the White House photographers. Check out part one of our conversation with Megan here…
What have you been doing since Rio? Training hard or taking a break?
I’ve been coaching and playing wheelchair basketball in my hometown, and I’ve done a bunch of speaking engagements through my sponsor – Sunrise medical. I’ve been meeting kids with disability and also given speeches to the army a couple of times. I’m working with kids, trying to get them into sport and into the right chairs. I’m substitute teaching, so I find a lot of kids in the school district who I can introduce to sports and I love that.
If you had to pick one, what would be your favourite moment from Rio 2016?
That’s a tough question…. I think being with my family on the court. After the matches all the families came down onto the court. My mom cried, and I think it was the first time it really hit her how far I’ve come. Watching my mom cry was definitely my favourite moment (laughs).
Were you overwhelmed by the scale of the Games, compared to other tournaments you have played?
It was way different, the whole atmosphere! Rio was so supportive of us, so many fans came out to support us. When we pushed around the athletes village, where the spectators could hang out in a park – we had 10 – 20 people come up and ask for photographs and autographs. It was unreal! My mouth hurt so badly that is was spasming from all the smiling for photographs.
Did all this attention add to the pressure before a game? If so, what were your coping mechanisms to deal with that?
This was actually a very good experience. I’ve battled depression my whole life so I was nervous about how I would handle this pressure. That’s why this has been my dream though – so I can be stronger, overcome things and not let them stop me out of fear. When I got to Rio, something just released within me, and I don’t know how but I was calm. When I was out there making my shots during warm up, I was just relaxed and taking it all in. I didn’t feel the pressure like I thought I would. It got me pumped up before the game and right before my coach sent me in, but that’s the good adrenaline that you need and it helps you focus and play solid. It was different than before. I used to feel pressure in different ways because of depression but this time I just felt like I was ready. All of the support just helped me.
After the Rio 2016 Games, did you have a case of post-Paralympic blues? How did you deal with this?
That has been really, really hard. This past year I have gone through a lot of changes, and I am just trying to find my path. I was living in Illinois for the past few years where I played wheelchair basketball every day for the University. I graduated my Bachelors and then my Masters in Psych. At the same time that Rio happened, I moved back to Washington State. So I was starting over, I wasn’t in school for that last year – I couldn’t do my internship because Rio was during the same time. So I had to wait a year. During that year I had so much time in my hands that I didn’t know what to do with it.
I also thought that if I made it to Rio I would overcome my depression. I thought that was possible, I thought I can just get stronger – that I worked so hard for 9 years, and by the time I get there, I’ll be strong. I had this different idea of how it’s going to be. And when I got home, I had so much time on my hands, which I don’t do well with. I just sank into depression. And the fact that I sank into depression just made it worse, because I thought I wouldn’t feel this way anymore. I thought I would feel different about myself. I wasn’t realistic about the fact that depression doesn’t just go away because you accomplished something.
So this last year I’ve definitely gone through a lot of ups and downs. More downs than ups. But I met these amazing little 4 year old twins, and they have been a huge factor in keeping me going. They are a big part of what remind me every day as to why I am pushing forward and paving the way for myself and others, because there isn’t really a path for you when you have a disability.
–END OF PART ONE–
Make sure you check in next week for PART TWO where we speak to Megan about Tokyo 2020, her Social Work and tackling the demons of depression.
Interview by Pritha Chakravarti for ParasportsWorld
All Images Courtesy of Megan Blunk