Tennis, Migraines, and Mental Health

Since Serena Williams officially retired from professional tennis in August, she has been, as they…

Tennis, Migraines, and Mental Health

Since Serena Williams officially retired from professional tennis in August, she has been, as they say, booked and busy. Not only is she working on Serena Ventures, her venture capital fund, but there’s her clothing line, her jewelry line, attending the unveiling of her portrait at the National Portrait Gallery, and her partnership with migraine medication Ubrelvy. Oh, and there’s also the full-time job that is addressing rumors of whether her retirement from tennis is not-so-official (more on that later).

Cosmopolitan caught up with Serena via Zoom on the set of her new Ubrelvy commercial to ask about her relationship with tennis going forward, how she takes care of her mental health, and a certain secret cameo in a highly-anticipated new movie.

You said at an event recently that you are not technically retired, so I have to ask, what does your relationship with professional tennis look like going forward? The world is dying to know.

Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not, I’m definitely, I don’t know. I’ll always have a relationship with tennis, right? So I’m gonna keep that open-ended, to be honest.

I imagine it’ll be part of your life in some form forever, right? It’s such a big part of who you are.

It is. It’s a big part of who I am. I love doing it. I love the competition. And you always love what you don’t have. So I’m already missing it.

Tell me about your journey with migraines. I’m a migraine sufferer myself, actually, so I relate. What have you found to be the right combo for managing them? I imagine it’s been quite a journey to figure it out.

When I was younger, I would always complain to my mom that I had a headache. I didn’t realize until I was in my 20s that it was actually migraine attacks. My number one symptom was sensitivity to light. So when my doctor prescribed me Ubrelvy, it brought me relief quickly. I understand that it varies with people, but I went from, like, a really bad migraine attack to literally just nothing and that was really exciting.

I find that when I go to the doctor, I have trouble advocating for myself. Something about being in that office, you freeze up a little. What advice would you have for women who might be struggling to advocate for themselves in the health space?

It’s really common. This sounds cliche, but you have to just take a deep breath and say, I can do this. Because when you advocate for yourself, you’re also advocating for other people. I was vocal with my doctor and it paid off. My doctor helped me once I told him what wasn’t working.

It’s also critical that you do feel comfortable working with your healthcare provider. When you’re walking into that office, it feels daunting. That’s okay, that’s normal. When the doctor comes in the office, it’s suddenly like I freeze a little bit because I feel like, Oh my gosh, who am I to just say something to someone who has been studying this and has been doing this their entire career? But it’s important because they have not been in your body their entire life. They’re just learning your body. You know your body best.

And if you do decide to advocate for yourself and you run into a doctor that is not willing to help you, that’s probably a sign you need a different doctor.

Amen. You said it.

You have been really open about your health in the past. I’m thinking specifically of the essay you wrote about your birth experience with your daughter and I was wondering, why do you feel so strongly about being open and talking about this?

I have a unique platform that not everyone has, and I think it’s important to focus on that. One part of my next evolution is focusing more on my family and all my businesses and on things like this, including Serena Ventures and my fashion line. For me, it’s important just to talk about things that people probably suffer from.

Tennis, Migraines, and Mental Health

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What else do you do to take care of yourself mentally? I know the word “self-care” is a little bit played out at this point.

Yeah, the word self-care is played out, but it’s still super important. I just relax. I play video games with my daughter. She’s young and she loves it. Turns out I love it too.

I was just able to see Glass Onion and you have a very fun cameo that I won’t spoil for people. Can you tell me anything about how you ended up in this movie?

They had wrote me into the script originally. They were thinking of me. And I was like, no way, cool. And they were like, well, would you want to do this? And I was like, why not? Sure. It’ll be fun. So I was really excited to shoot it. I couldn’t say anything about it for so long that I think I actually forgot about it, but it was really fun. I’m glad it worked out. It’s obviously a great movie. Janelle Monáe does an incredible job. It’s a great cast as well.