The Phoenix- Part 1
Prepare for some real D&M (deep and meaningful) moments in this series about my newest adventure: my head!
Since moving to this new city for training, I have always thought of the image of the phoenix as deeply poetic and also very fitting as a metaphor through this crazy adventure I currently am a part of. The more I grow and change the more I really feel like I identify with this mythological creature who gave this “valley of the sun” its namesake.
In Greek mythology a phoenix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. It obtains new life by arising from it’s own ashes/decomposed body (ew. But I think we know the image now.) The story of the phoenix has been adopted by a lot of world cultures for the history of modern man because of it’s beautiful symbolism of renewal, metempsychosis, consecration, and even resurrection.
At this moment, I basically feel as if I have encompassed the entire meaning of the phoenix. But let’s start this story in chronological order.
I started seeing a sport psychologist for a number of reasons. The main one (I thought) was basic performance anxiety during the day of a track meet. I knew I was growing already as a person, because the fact that I could swallow my pride to see any kind of “therapist” (this one has legit credentials though- I made sure of that) was a HUGE step for me. I was raised with the mindset that if something happened and you couldn’t fix it yourself, get yourself out of a rut and move on with your own inner strength then basically you were a failure. Only cry babies and wussies go to therapists. Strong people have their lives together and can flatten empty cans on their heads.
I had that same mindset when I was going through treatment for cancer. I had seen a handful of therapists and psychologists at the time and basically assumed that they were undermining my emotional intelligence and none of those relationships lasted long. At all. Not even a little bit. Therapy is fluffy and I’m not about that fluff-life.
So while I am working on skills to develop my mental resiliency before and after competitions, and learning how to dial in focus when most appropriate I still couldn’t shake some of my usual anxieties. I check the calendar and I see that I am approaching my “cancerversary” (which is now my “Canceñera” because I moved to Arizona with a considerably large hispanic population) which I let my psych know is always a little touchy part of my life. It always has been and it always will be. This feeling of uneasiness typically goes through my ampuversary until my birthday (which was also my last day of chemotherapy- holler!) All of this seemed totally reasonable, except it also hall happens during the majority of the outdoor track season. I was at a point where I know I needed to find a new place to put these feelings so I could function at full capacity at major competitions.
I was looking to find another drawer to reorganize and compartmentalize these feelings. It has never occurred to me to actually take some time to sort through it and get rid of the heavy parts that kept me down.
That was until my sports psychologist suggested I do EMDR therapy. EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” and it is used for people who suffer from PTSD. It’s actually really cool, when we are asleep and in deep REM cycles, our eyes are constantly moving and something in that movement has us process information. EMDR simulates that same processing with light and some tactile therapy, using eye movements to almost simulate an REM cycle. Studies haven’t proven the true “hows” and “whys” but since it showed extreme effectiveness it has been implemented because it has helped a magnitude of people.
Let me back up for a second. This wasn’t the first time a professional has considered I had PTSD and let me tell you, I was EXTREMELY OFFENDED! Like, listen dude, I have been through some shit in my life that not many people will ever have to see or even think about. The fact it was suggested that for a second, big-strong-survivor-Lacey had some loose screws was just too much to accept. We hear about PTSD and think about people uncontrollably sobbing alone in dark corners and offing themselves because of repressed memories and violent flashbacks from the war in ‘Nam and stuff like that. People with PTSD are crazy people. That is not me. I just want to run faster and jump further.
I’ve moved many times in my life. (Stressful in it’s own right) I’ve lived in foreign countries alone and learned foreign languages. But up to this point, no other move in my life has forced me to turn and really look back at myself. So the more I thought about it, researched it, over thought about it, the more I realized that maybe just maaaaybe this guy might be onto something. My performances had plateaued and I just felt like I was always carrying anxiety around in my pocket for absolutely no reason than maybe a security blanket. Even though the anxiety is awful, it was something I’ve always known. Why let go of something when you’ve known it and made yourself comfortable in it?
After much deliberation I realized I wasn’t really that offended when he suggested I go through this treatment. I mean, I thought I was but what I really felt was shame and embarrassment. How could I survive something so catastrophic and ugly that it left me disfigured, and 16 years later STILL be bothered by it? It didn’t make sense, I tell my story everyday to people who ask, and you know, because I have a hot pink leg. I had become so emotionally unattached to myself through my story. I didn’t connect that basically, if I lost my chapstick and had a complete breakdown about it that perhaps there were some things trying to fester through.
I had spent 16 years of my life everyday virtually shouting “HEY EVERYONE COME LOOK AND SEE HOW STRONG AND INSPIRATIONAL AND AMAZING I AM” that I didn’t realize I was really trying to convince just myself of that. I’m sure it was somewhat transparent to some. I know my friends could see I was hurting, and bless them everyday for just loving me. Even when I would get super snarky for no reason, they just loved me. I am so grateful for that because I was about to need them more than ever.
More of my Phoenician evolution to come, stay tuned!
Lacey, your blog posts are so real and so brave. Keep ’em coming. And I love Anxiety Girl! I think I know her! 🙂