The Quiet Ones: How fear hushes our injury

Taking care of ourselves needs to be priority number one in Roller Derby. We believe we cannot be a good teammate if we are falling apart at the seams: physically, emotionally, or mentally. We must achieve perfection. We must not falter.

But injury happens, and there is hesitation to talk about it openly. There is a reluctance to admit it.

More openness has been happening in the social media world about what we struggle with in our daily lives; we are becoming brave enough to own our illnesses in a public forum, and discuss our injuries with our friends miles away. You’ll find more blogs, IGs, and threads happening now around how to deal with depression in the face of practice, or anxiety because of expectations placed on them, or how badly someone’s knee swelled up after a particularly hard hit. I have seen postings about imposter syndrome, dysmorphia, misophonia (me), and bipolarism most commonly.

There are several groups online dedicated to those who have gone through injury, and how they are recovering and processing the ordeal. In these groups, we can be honest about how we reinjured ourselves, or are going to the ortho for a DIFFERENT limb, or can empathize about when a recovery is not going as we had hoped in our minds. They allow us to vent our frustration and document our journey of reintegration into our sport.

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But when we walk through the door of practice, the conversation and understanding stops. Sometimes, when we are feeling things online and want to talk about them we pause.

We don’t want that THR to see that we had a panic attack. We don’t want our captain to hear that our ankle swelled up after practice. It’s not perfect, it’s not pretty. It’s not the model athletic stone statue that we have been told to be.

When we come to practice, there is a feeling that we are under a microscope. We cannot look sad. We cannot be in pain. We cannot have an off day. We cannot let the wet wool blanket weigh us down. We cannot injure anything else. We fear showing weakness …

“Unless you are the right person.”

I hate that I have had discussions with people across the world, in every level of play, who have said that members of their league are held to different standards. If they look mean, it’s ok. If they pull a muscle in their back in the gym, it’s no problem. If they de-gear early because of personal issues, no sweat. Meanwhile, other skaters fear they will be removed from charters, blacklisted from teams, or generally forgotten among the crowd if they show ‘signs of weakness’ within our world.

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Finding out something is wrong is no one’s favorite day.

[And I’m going to venture to say this stems from the “Perfect Life” that we are expected to upkeep on our SnapChats, Facebooks, and Instagrams.]

You’re not allowed to be disappointed in yourself. You’re not allowed to show that disappointment. You’re certainly not allowed to leave the track so that others aren’t affected by your disappointment. All this, unless you are one of the few granted human status because they are that good or popular.

I have seen people in leadership roles belittle others who decide not to push through injury. For years, I have thought twice about sharing my journeys and experiences because “Why would someone put you on a team if you have bad knees?” or “Maybe you wouldn’t get benched if you weren’t always talking about your injuries on Facebook” or “Well, we can’t give you feedback. You look like you’re always about to cry.”

So what happens? People hide the injuries. They don’t admit the have a high ankle sprain because there is a game coming up. They avoid bracing “to get better at a different position” but really it’s because their shoulder is searing with pain. They play off how hard they hit their head when they fell at home, because they don’t want to be concussion tested.

And how do you think this all plays out later when the weakness is tested. I know I tore my ACL because I refused to admit I was playing on a high ankle sprain. Friends have torn rotator cuffs, cracked the bones in their feet, or get Second-Impact Syndrome from falling.

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Injury has been part of my whole derby life, and even when smiling I often have Resting Sad Face™. Photo by Christopher W Weeks

 

I am tired, folks. I am writing this and I’m just mentally exhausted with trying to understand all of the rights and wrongs going on in our world right now beyond derby. There is so much hate and anger in humans, and tackling this issue seems so daunting. Usually in my blogs, I would go forth with “here are some ways we can deal with it”, but honestly …. I do not know how. This is a culture thing inside of roller derby.

How do you we make it ok for us to be human? Especially in a world where some people cannot even exist without fighting for their space. We say we’re inclusive and we say we’re forward thinking but our community is a product of the society we live in. There is so much to overcome, and to add to the classism, sexism, racism, transphobia, etc that we contend with, now there is the fear of honesty.

I bonded with a teammate when we admitted to each other last year that we downplay our pain. We don’t want “to be that player that is always hurt, or made of glass.”

As a coach, I keep telling my team members that if they’re sick, injured, or mentally unwell it is OK. It does not make them a disappointment. They are not letting anyone down, and that derby will still be here when they are healthy. As a player I fight against it daily.

Captains and coaches have to understand that we are not deities formed from clay. Our teammates have to have empathy and understand that we all suffer through different issues. Prehab programs to keep skaters physically healthy could help, and rehab options in house are great for skaters coming back or with small injuries. Sometimes, just letting folks who feel alone know that they are not can be a catalyst for mental recovery.

I just had a huge panic attack simply through the effort of trying to make a point. I deleted everything that I said. Tried to erase it, and felt like erasing myself. All I can think was, “I should stop officiating. If I cannot even make it understood that I was not on the offensive, and that I am saying the same thing as everyone else… why should I be allowed to officiate? If no one is listening to me here, why should they anywhere?” And for those of you with anxiety disorders, you can imagine the downward spiral from there.

[No, I am not lost on the irony of a writer having a panic attack as a result of stating an observation of the life surrounding.]

Stigmas are everywhere and they pervade our culture. We need to stop judging each other and start listening. We need to start understanding. We need to stop being afraid of admitting pain. We need to stop being afraid to admit trepidation. We should be allowed to be disappointed. We should be allowed to be injured, to be broken, and to need a moment to recover without guilt.

We are a family. We need to start treating each other more as such, and less as simply stepping stones to get to the next goal on the list. So hey, Roller Derby? Let’s love each other a little more and break away from expectations of perfection, shall we?

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Keeping yourself on the path of positive change

A lot of people say that the hardest part of a body transformation is getting started. I say the hardest part is continuing the path once you’ve been doing it for a while.

In the past 11 months (wow – it’s been almost a year already??), I have worked with a lot of friends and colleagues who are very strong at the start of their journey. They’re dedicated, diligent and feeling amazing. Then … they start to peter off. I wanted to take some time to talk about why the decline happens, and what you can do to keep yourself on track.

Your Words DO Mean Much

As a communications grad, I am all about the verbage. Words can make a huge difference when you’re making changes in your life. While “actions speak louder” is true, if you do not work on resetting your own vocabulary, you are going to constantly trigger negative emotions as you move through a new challenge. Some examples:

Reset your thinking of the word “Diet”. Diet, by definition, is the list of the foods we eat. It has become synonymous with being “on a diet” ie “starving yourself”. Erase the old definition from your mind and understand that your diet is simply the list of the foods you eat every day.

Add the word ‘yet’ onto sentences that involve struggle. For example, instead of saying, “I can’t do a pull up”, phrase it “I can’t do a pull up YET”. It’s amazing how three letters can add power and confidence to your sentence. Another great word is “will”. Instead of saying “I’d like to be able to do 10 pushups in a row” say, “I will do 10 push-ups in a row.”

Removing negativity and negative self-talk is also CRITICAL to your success. And I don’t just me in regards to your workouts and eating. I mean overall in your life. Think about how often you complain, gossip, criticize or blame others for the negative things in your life. These are toxic habits keep your mind in the mode of failure. Training yourself to not complain or criticize is a mighty prospect, but if you can master your negative emotions, than success in all endeavors is sure to follow. Can you challenge yourself to not complain for an entire week? Not one. If you find yourself about to complain about something, stop. Breathe. Let the complaint go and think about how you can turn the situation to a positive note.

Start with personal development. Books like The Big Leap (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), The Slight Edge, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, or any recordings by Les Brown, Jim Rohn or Zig Ziegler are great places to start to get your mind set for success.

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It’s a Lifestyle, not a Quick Fix

So we’re back to that “crash diet” thing.

No one is ever looking to “drop 10 pounds and then gain it back a few months later”. Having goals that stretch past a month or two away is crucial for long-term changes in health and wellness. It’s not about doing something that works for a few weeks and then saying “Hey I feel great!” and then quitting what you were doing.

There’s a reason you feel great. There’s a reason your knee doesn’t hurt anymore or why your stomach doesn’t hate you in the morning. There is a reason you suddenly dropped five pounds or have the energy to get through your day. If you think to yourself, “I’m cured!” and then go back to old routines … well … everything you worked for will deteriorate.

When you’re looking to change your life, think about if you really want to CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Do you really want to heal quicker? To run longer? To lose that 40 pounds? To sleep better? Do you want to do it for a couple months, or for always? That is the important piece of the puzzle to come to terms with here.

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Understand that You Are Human

Even the best of us slip. The difference between those who are successful and those who quit are how we deal with our imperfections.

Ok, so you had a chocolate bar at work because the chocolate craving was too much and you forgot to pack your usual chocolatey protein bar (which keeps the cravings at bay). So now you have a choice. Some people will say: “Screw it. Today is blown. I’m going to the Chinese buffet to sulk. I’ll try again tomorrow.”

The successful people will say: “Oops. Where’s my water?” and we won’t let it affect the rest of our plan. Also, most of us will, a half hour later say “Ugh, my tummy hurts” because we’re not used to putting bad stuff in our bodies anymore. After going low-to-no simple carbs for two weeks, I find that, now, when I eat bread I get extremely tired and feel kind of ucky. The morning after drinking a couple beers? Awful. I don’t have time for that anymore. I like being sharp and energized!

The point is – understand that mistakes happen. Don’t use them as an excuse to blow the rest of your day and don’t scapegoat the continuation of bad habits as mistakes. If you make the ‘mistake’ of picking up fast food every other day after you’ve decided to change your ways – guess what? That’s not a mistake. That is a conscious decision that you need to come to terms with.

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Even those of us who are very specific about recovery and nutrition have a break now and again.

Reconstruct Comfort

Part of long term success with a body transformation is the ability to reconstruct our internalized sense memories. Many of us get good feelings when we eat a cheesesteak or we curl up on the couch. These feelings are not wrong or bad, but they do set us up to sabotage our healthy habits.

It takes a long time, but committing yourself to changing your concept of comfort foods and stress relief will help your long term body transformation efforts. When you’re sad or feeling low energy, instead of turning to usual ‘comfort’ foods (which are high fat, high simple carbs) make the effort to do something a little bit better for yourself. My new comfort food is thai and Japanese food (as little rice or noodles as possible). When I’m at home, sautéed broccoli or a salad with shrimp and avocado do the trick.

It is not easy to re-train your brain. By repeating the habits again and again, eventually your body will stop craving McDonald’s at the first sign of grey skies, and crave your healthy alternatives instead.

As far as stress relief is concerned, often we crumble under the pressure of it. Even those of us who play a sport like roller derby, football or hockey, will find that we have bad days. Days where we just want to stay under the pillows, and our sports activities cannot relieve the pressure.

This is the time that you get up and move. Do something different. Walk. Run. Climb. Conquer something new. I became a runner because I needed to conquer my mind. I needed to stop being afraid, I needed to stop quitting when life got hard and I needed to prove that I could overcome depression.

So I did something I had told myself for years that I wouldn’t do: I ran. I swallowed my pride and I did something I didn’t want to do. I mastered my mind and I learned more about myself in the process than I ever would have from sitting in my chair watching re-runs of Project Runway.

One of my new favorite comfort foods: lemongrass soup with shrimp nomnom
One of my new favorite comfort foods: lemongrass soup with shrimp nomnom

Find a Buddy Who is Also Making Changes

Accountability partners are awesome. Whether it is for a business, exercising or talking about the things that went good or bad in your day, a good buddy is a great weapon for success. You can keep journals and food logs and keep up with one another. If they haven’t written in 2 weeks – get them rolling again! By keeping them accountable, you’re also reminding yourself that YOU should be doing the same things.

This being said, sometimes your partner will fall off. They will not make the mental commitment that you will. It’s ok to find a new partner and let them know that you’re there to support them when they’re ready. You can also find online communities of people working to change and support each other.

My own community is at Team HarderBetterFasterStronger on Facebook. We’re all remote, so we can’t meet up at the gym, but we post what our struggles are, what we’re eating and how we’re doing. We cheer for accomplishments and support each other in our hardships.

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Maybe This is About More than Just Body Transformation

I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist. That being said, I have noticed something with humans. I’m not concerned that you DID eat the whole pizza, I’m concerned as to WHY you decided to eat the whole pizza, despite goals and commitments and health and all the things we’ve talked about.

Sometimes, the deep-seeded issues need to be addressed and you are not able to handle it on your own. That is ok. Do not be afraid to look inside yourself at the darkness to understand why you are self-sabotaging. Fear will do terrible things to us: it will make us doubt our capacity for change, it will cause us to crave foods we don’t want to eat, it will keep us on the couch when we should be out in the world working.

If you need to seek professional assistance to work through self-doubt, depression, addiction or anything else – it is alright. Do it. You will be able to accomplish anything if you can conquer your mind and your past.

 

In Conclusion….

All of these suggestions are long-term commitments to changing your mindset and approach to body transformation. Notice how there is not a single nutrition or workout based tip? This is a mental game; a commitment and recommitment game. Healing and shifting internalized thoughts will create a new radiance on the outside.

Think of a tree and the fruit it bears. If the roots are not solid, if the tree cannot get the food and water it needs – the fruit it bears will not be full and abundant. You cannot give the tree food and water for one day and expect the tree to bloom well. It is a constant process, and never ending. Feed your roots now and always, so that everything else may blossom beautifully and deliciously.

And trust me, there is no better feeling than looking in the mirror and seeing the results of consistency and commitment.

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Need some nutrition help or want to start your own journey? Drop me a message at KGreyActiveNutrition@gmail.com

Confidence

Feelings are cyclical, I understand. It is insane to believe that we will not undergo some fluctuating feelings and emotions throughout our journeys – no matter how positive and upbeat we are. It is understandable to feel down sometimes, or have to pick yourself up after a bad day. To really, honestly change your mindset takes years of practice and discipline.

Even then, even the pros of positivity find situations in which negative thoughts creep in. Ask them – they’ll admit it! The difference between those who are truly positive and the rest of us is that the truly positive folk have little alarm systems that go off when negativity happens and they’re able to divert, re-route or re-assess to turn the energy around.

So why am I talking about this with a title on the post called “Confidence”?

Because it is amazing how sometimes you just wake up. When you set off on a journey like I have – one of self-improvement, fitness and coaching – it is a path wrought with AH HA moments. (Just like in roller derby, actually)

Today I realized that I’ve never allowed myself to be really confident and positive about my appearance.

I have always been the chubby girl. The ugly one. The dork. Kids can be cruel, and I’d be lying if I said that being bullied in third grade didn’t stick with me. If I told you that being embarrassed in front of my whole elementary school in 5th grade didn’t leave some scars. I’d be lying if I told you that I have never blamed my looks on why I’m not engaged (or more) yet.

Today I really looked at a picture I took of myself at the Sweat-a-Fit. It was after my final class of the day. I had done 5 total. I had just done back to back Zumba classes, and the final teachers were not only fresh and ready but they were HOPPY and TWITCHY. It was the 2nd most intense class of the day. It was awesome, but I was a sweaty mess. I figured it would be good proof that I had been there!

I really looked at that photo today and realized that I am a silly fool. The photo isn’t just of some girl who’s sweaty. It’s of a beautiful woman who is making a new life for herself. A woman who has dropped 15 pounds off in the last 6 months. A woman who is happy and healthy and wants to help others. A woman who overcame barriers during the event; physical, mental and spiritual. The photo is me: a girl who is more timid than you would think, but who found the guts to go and talk to every person she could before the event ended. I saw the picture and realized: The confidence was always in me, I just had to find it. For me it took 4 hours of intense cardio…

And on top of that, I don’t even look sweaty. I just look like I’ve had the time of my life. Which I did! I even got to drink some Peach Tea Concentrate and reward myself with a chocolate banana cupcake.

So tomorrow is a new week. I have had a rough month for my business so far, but tomorrow is different and tomorrow is new. Tomorrow I will help more people start their own journey to find their own confidence. I will help as many people as I can to live healthier, more active lifestyles. I will find more coaches to work with me on these goals. I will.

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