The Phoenix- Part 2
So I agreed to swallow my pride, and make this PTSD treatment up as my main focus for training. For however long I needed it to, I needed to break some weirdness so I could not only grow as an athlete but also as a person. I could feel every day that happiness was within my reach but it’s like I just couldn’t grab it.
Let me take a moment to say my sports psychologist is AWESOME. I had expressed to him, strongly, how I was not about “fluffy-therapy.” And he really isn’t either. He works with world record holders, MLB, NFL, Tri-Athletes, you name it…basically when you think of “fluffy” people, he works with the exact opposite of that. Which is great.
Let me just say that PTSD does not happen to a select few. Yes, on the outside looking in, cancer seems like a seriously hard problem that may come with some residual trauma. So does war, so do accidents, same with lay offs, bad break ups, loss of others’ lives, even a bad performance; anything sudden and unexpected can bring some sort of trauma. Everyone’s life experience is different, but the thoughts and emotional responses are often the same. We all feel the feelings. That’s the beauty of humanity, it’s something we all share.
Another side note, an important factor to help with EMDR treatment is what is called “safe place.” When this was introduced to me I laughed at the term for about a full 3 minutes…. (which is a long time) Excuse the fluff, but safe place is your safety net when you get to the really intense, heavy, ugly, shit that you left waiting for you. It’s kind of like your lifesaver when you jump into the ocean. My safe place was a select time frame of my life where I loved where I lived, the amazing people in my life and I was being really successful early into my career. (Most of the people in my safe place know who they are, some don’t) Once you get past the cheese of the name, safe place is seriously the best. It’s the bees knees. Safe place is the reminder that tells you how profoundly loved and admired you are. Even when you feel like you are drowning in all of the awfulness that transpired, safe place reminds you that the cheering section is WAY louder and stronger than that one moment, the past, trying to bring you down.
Each week at the track, we focus on what we call “Key Performance Indicators” or also “Key Performance Inhibitors” (KPI is the acronym that conveniently works for both) and so I approached my EMDR treatment the same way. With track, these can be technical models but with therapy I kind of let them be themes of the week. A way to monitor my thinking of myself and others and see how it changed after a session. My main KPI’s were judgment and control. Not only did I start noticing flags in my thinking and behavior but I could make the connection on how it translated to the track.
Key Performance Inhibitors
Judgement- this ended up being a huge one. Even in training after a rep I would have already replayed and decided what I had done wrong in whatever run or jump I just attempted. That doesn’t help you be open to your coaches when they see something, often times much different, and want to suggest something new. When you’ve decided you’ve already shut down any other opportunity for growth. This also was a huge problem I had with myself and my body. I have never really thought poorly of my body, outside of the typical female perspective (which we all are way too hard on ourselves for no real reason). I never thought I had an ugly body. In fact, I didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about my body because in my head what I saw reflecting back at me in the mirror was a body that represented pain, suffering, sickness and damage. That’s a judgement because when the coin is flipped, so many others (who have continuously let me know) see it as a source of strength, courage, and resiliency.
Control- I had issues with this that were strongly impacting my performances on the track. One variable would be out of place, like even someone coming up asking to take a photo and mentally I would be thrown into oblivion between the call tent and getting in the blocks. I am learning through this year, and my life overall about accepting what life throws at you. Basically, you are the driver and God, the universe, Ooga Booga, or whatever you subscribe to is the traffic. Sometimes there are accidents and then it seems like you’re stuck, or moving so slowly it’s painful. But sometimes it’s smooth sailing and your favorite song comes on the radio. It’s never your choice but it has a direct effect in your life. There are always going to be bumps in the road, as a driver you need to make sure you’re coherent enough to recognize that. I was totally driving impaired before I decided to pull over to reassess and recollect myself.
So, I graduated from my treatment just recently (silent celebration) and it was honestly the best gift I have ever given and received from myself. I am not “fixed” because I wasn’t actually ever “broken.” Just a little hurt and hadn’t let my wounds properly heal for a really long time. And it has brought an abundance of goodness in my life already. You know the saying “hurt people hurt people” and it was true not only to myself but in personal relationships where I kept searching for outside fulfillment. People have entered and left my life at all the right times, and I feel like every little puzzle piece I had felt I was completely lost in was starting to make a clear picture. I was able to finish a chapter of my life that was not feeding my needs in a personal relationship and refocus my energy back to myself. I met people who not only treated me the way I should be treated but also showed me what it should look and feel like to be truly cherished. In my network of “present safe-place” (why with such a fluffy name?!) I discovered that I already have an abundant source of strength and goodness that was safe to be released.
I really REALLY didn’t want to broadcast to the whole world that I have* PTSD.
(*originally I put “had” but it’s not like a loose tooth that once it’s gone it’s gone. Anxiety is like a shadow, you don’t always notice it but it still follows you)
It’s still hard to swallow that pride for me. I want to cringe even looking at the above sentence. When I started on this athletic journey I made a promise to myself. I wanted to change the game and all of the variables in it. It’s so easy to look at elite athletes and think “wow, they are so talented/strong/awesome/etc. I’ll never have/be like that.” But why? Because we have “talent?” What is talent if you never put any work into it? That’s what talent basically is: really hard work and effort invested for an extended amount of time.
I promised myself to be the most transparent I could possibly be. I want my campers, my friends, people I’ve never met to be able to see my story and relate to it. And if I do it right, I hope I can help those other people empower themselves to go for what keeps the fires of passion burning inside of them going strong. To let everyone know that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s actually quite noble to let others see you in a vulnerable state of humility.
This is an important part of the story for me.
There is such a stigma about mental health on the entire planet. It’s like the scarlet letter that lets everyone know that you’re a crazy person. This is especially true if you’re a woman, which is extremely unfair. If for a second you let someone see you sweat then you’re probably unstable and unpredictable and probably need a prescription. That is how I felt. Sometimes when I talk about it I still feel that little twinge where I’m like “oh, actually am I crazy!?” I understand society for that perspective because I totally grew up thinking the same thing. However it’s completely wrong and we should probably re shift the focus from the looney-bin to the phoenix.
I really had to break a lot of things down. I felt like I was going to basically decompose and lose all of the strength I had worked so hard for. I was scared I would get stuck in all of the dark places I had tucked away and never be able to get back out. When I finally got to the most raw part of myself, from the ashes, I emerged even stronger. It’s like I can go back and shine light to the darkest corners and see them for what they really are. Just moments in my life that created the person I am today. Now they can stay where they belong, in the past. And not at a track meet.
When our minds are healthy and happy, so are our lives.
Thank you for reading this and shout out to safe-place; you the real MVP.