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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A Girl on her Path to Awesome

I fully and readily admit that patience has not always been my strong suit.

I have always been one to rush into decisions. I liked to call myself ‘spontaneous’ when I was younger, but now I see that it was purely rash decision making. Not all of these rash decisions ended up yielding negative results (I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for rash decisions). Moving in with my brother, going to HACC for theatre, going BACK to HACC for Humanities years later and joining roller derby were all split second decisions. So was auditioning for “There Goes the Bride”. So was starting Herbalife. So was deciding to be a coach. So was both years of Rollercon.

An example of a positive result from a rash decision... Warren and I
An example of a positive result from a rash decision… Warren and I

That being said, a lot of rash decisions have not yielded such amazing friends and positive results. But “That’s ok,” I’ve always told myself, “They will eventually. I’m on my path to awesomeness.”

So funny thing about that. I’m listening to the audiobook now Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters by Jon Acuff. (What can I say, the title caught my eye and his writing and narration style is reminiscent of my own so the messages are hitting home really strong)

Seriously. Buy it or download it. Amazing personal development.
Seriously. Buy it or download it. Amazing personal development.

In the book he talks about the Path to Awesome. How we’re all on our own Path and how if we don’t look around and take an honest appraisal of where we’re at now and again, then we may not realize that we’re actually on the Path to Average by accident. I have always said that I don’t want to just wait for my turn to die. I continue to hold that belief.

I have recently begun seeking full time employment to compliment my Herbalife business. Let me be clear: I am not putting a halt to my health coaching. I love it, it’s my passion and I feel like my genius lies within the realm of my coaches and clients. That being said, college, relationships and 10 years of minimum wage jobs and botched rash decisions have left me in a hole (ok, a crater really).

I have been bad at being patient.

I did not want to recognize as I graduated that I needed more time to develop my business. I needed more time to become a good coach. I needed more time to understand how to expand my client list simply and locally. I do not regret a single coaching gig. Oh no way! This summer was an amazing ride – full of hills and valleys and corkscrews (actually and figuratively). I have formed strong friendships thanks to my rash decisions of the last few months. Now is the time to change it up, however. I didn’t want to admit that I needed time to become strong at skills and at jobs. I didn’t want to waste time, and in the process I did NOTHING but waste time.

Oh wait, I guess I should mention one more rash decision: I’m moving to Baltimore.

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An exact date has not been set, but in order to walk the Path to Awesome I know I need to move. I’ve been saying for the last 2 years that when I graduated I would be moving out of Central PA. I knew that I needed to – I just didn’t know where to go. Well, I know now. I have been applying for full time jobs both in Lititz and in Baltimore. So we’ll see which ones call me first.

Some places I’ve applied to: Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore Aquarium, Discovery Channel, Honest Tea, Baltimore Sun, Charm City Cakes, Merritt Athletic Clubs, Sheetz, Jimmy John’s and Heavy Seas Alehouse. I’ll be honest, these are just the names that pop into my head. I’ve been sending out 2 to 10 applications a day for at least 5 days. (One of them has to at least interview me, right?)

So here’s the plan for my Path: continue to build an online community and support system for athletes to become HARDERBETTERFASTERSTRONGER. Continue to build up my team of amazing coaches and show them they are awesome and strong and have everything inside them to be successful. Work a full time job for a while to pay down my bills and put some stuff into savings. Move to Baltimore and work with a local club to begin building a local community of clients and coaches. When I hit GET team, I will be able to afford all of my bills, savings, taxes, travel and extras enough to leave whatever job I had been at.

At the Northeast Derby Convention
At the Northeast Derby Convention

If it takes one year, awesome. If it takes three years, that’s ok too. This patience thing is where I will learn the skills and learn how to edit and learn how to master all things coaching and health. The patience will hopefully spill over to my personal life, where I have had a habit of expecting things to come along quicker than they should.

And derby. Derby will still happen. I go to see a Physical Therapist tomorrow to get my knee and IT band looked at. If they tell me that I need to take time off, than that is what I will do [though maybe not starting tomorrow]. I am also putting in a bid to help out the Harm City Homicide as a coach. I have found a passion for men’s derby this year, and I want to help my southern boys be strong and fast.

Photo by Hispanic Attack
Photo by Hispanic Attack

Here’s really the big key: to the outside world nothing will look different. I will continue my Shred Challenges. I will continue my Instagram and WordPress accounts. I’ll be that person once more that people say, “How do you do it all?”

And my answer will be: “Have you ever heard of Herbalife?”

 Derbalife is everywhere.Derbalife is everywhere.

For more information on getting healthy or becoming a coach, drop me a line at KGreyActiveNutrition@gmail.com

Can beauty and strength really co-exist?

It is a tricky thing, the idea of beauty and femininity.

It is something that I’ve pondered a lot over my lifetime, and as I shift the balance of my life I come face to face with the conundrums again.

Growing up with a brother just slightly older than me, coupled with a very work-conscious, feminist mother, I did not expand the image of beauty within myself as a flowering young girl. I was more interested in playing football and king of the mountain than I was with experimenting with makeup and jewelry. The major reason I wanted contact lenses was because I was tired of having them break on me during softball games (which, inevitably, they would each year).

In high school, I did my best to make myself “cute”, but still gravitated towards stovepipe jeans, loose fitting anime-themed t-shirts and (of course) those flame Airwalks (sooooo comfy).

Look at how bad ass they are!
Look at how bad ass they are!

I didn’t really know what it meant to be pretty or feel pretty as I grew up. I liked boys from a very early age (my first crush was in kindergarten), and was always seeking attention from them, but in a conflicted kind of way. I didn’t know if I wanted them to be attracted to me because I was pretty or because I was stronger than them (or both).

Remember the movie “Little Giants”? I could identify with the main character instantly. Her name was Becky ‘Icebox’ O’shea. I think they should do a sequeal where she finds her derby team.

She almost gives up football glory... all for Junior (Devon Sawa).
She almost gives up football glory… all for Junior (Devon Sawa).

In high school and college I battled against the super tomboy by making myself also overtly sexual. That’s the way to combat it, right? That’s what I thought at least. I may be able to beat them up, but if I make myself a very sexual creature, it’ll all balance out.

Let’s just say that didn’t end well for my ability to hold a relationship, much less for my own self-esteem.

So now here I am. I’m 30 years old facing the same gender roles and paranoia that I was faced with 15 years ago: If I’m strong and have muscle, will men be turned off by me? If my hair is short and I don’t present myself in a sexualized fashion, will I ever gain the interest of a male that I’m into? Even if I’m slim? Even if I put on make-up (sometimes)? I play roller derby, I have just fallen in love with Crossfit (dammit I drank the Kool Aid) and I drink protein shakes like it’s my job.

Bank Track! Team Rogue!!
Hahah … see what I did there?

Will I have a shot in hell, or will they go for the young, easy catches? Will I always loose out to the girl in the dress with the perfect hair cut?

Firefly fans – look deeply at the conflict and struggle that resides in Zoe Washburn: Trying to balance feminine wife with hardened soldier. Captain Mal is the only one that doesn’t see her gender, but he doesn’t see her as a woman either.

Business-Time Zoe
Business-Time Zoe

She knows she feels more comfortable as the alpha, but as you look deeper into her personality and reactions during the show, you see she is conflicted. She understands that to make her marriage work, she must have times where she backs off and plays docile. She must be the submissive female in a male dominated culture that pretends to be pro-feminism.

Docile Zoe
Docile Zoe

Is it possible to feel feminine and beautiful without the heels and the other fancies?

Let me also say this: I do LIKE the fancy stuff. I love my Mary Kay and my Lia Sophia. I wish my knee weren’t screwed up so bad so that I could wear heels again. I love putting on a summer dress and having my hair styled. The truth of the matter is, I haven’t felt worthy enough to put the time and energy to doing it. There is always something else I’d rather do or spend my money on. Plus, when you work out like a beast, what is the point of putting on make-up? Well. Maybe war paint.

 

Photo by JPaden
Photo by JPaden Photography

Also please know that I do, most of the time, find myself very beautiful. More recently, I’ve been shown that I may still even be sexy and feminine. When you’re admiring your biceps after a round of CrossFit though, these thoughts creep in and you begin to question society’s entire viewpoint on the female species.

So there you go, Interwebs. You have gotten to the soft underbelly of me. Can Merry Khaos (or even Kristie Grey) be strong and powerful, yet soft and feminine? Do they have to go together? Can you be a tomboy and yet be attractive to the opposite sex? Can’t we all just BE and let that be the beauty of us?