I have talked before on my blog about physical injuries. But something that is a little harder for me to talk about is how those physical injuries affected my mental state. I first started writing this piece in the Fall of 2017, but it's only been recently that I've opened up to my friends and family about what I have really gone through after my shoulder injury and surgery. I had always considered myself a positive person, and so when things starting to change for me in my head, I hid it, because I wanted to been seen as strong and tough.
|I was so lucky to find such a supportive team to ski competitively for|
I have always loved skiing, and despite my struggles over the past two and a half years, I still do. It takes certain guts to start a race because you can’t control what is going to happen, and if you're pushing yourself as hard as you can, ski racing is really gonna hurt. Whether you cross the finish line with the fastest time, or if you’re way in the back, that race made you a tougher person. I raced because I wanted to win- but I also raced because I loved to. I loved skiing fast. I loved the hard efforts that left you gasping for air, and your legs and arms, and places you didn’t even know you had muscles, sore. I loved the energy high you got from a good race, and what you could learn from a bad race. I loved how it was an individual sport, where you were responsible for your own results, but with a team aspect- so many people behind you supporting you: your coaches, teammates, wax techs, local organizations, and the community.
|Junior year track season|
|Racing with a brace on in the conference 3200m|
|Training with no poles, Thanksgiving break of my senior year|
|I especially struggled with classic skiing, my senior year|
I had my biggest shoulder dislocation the last day of September, the first month of my senior year. Despite going to the ER, my shoulder ended up being out of the socket for two hours, causing much more damage than my previous dislocations. Even so, at first I wasn’t fazed. I was ready to commit to my senior ski season because I had confidence in myself that I could bounce back and be better than ever. Although my surgeon wanted me to have surgery right away, I was able to get it pushed until the spring- a couple days after I would get back from Junior Nationals. I still had things to prove in high school- goals I had had since I first became a competitive skier in 8th grade. I believed that if I worked hard enough- I could do anything I set my mind to.
|Winning sections as a team, senior year|
But this time, I had limitations. And those limitations were what began to frustrate me. I couldn’t start training competitively until the middle of November- which forced me to drop one of my major goals: being competitive at Senior Nationals. I wasn’t good enough yet to compete there after my injury- my strength was still really weak, and I wasn’t very comfortable on my skis. I was still learning to reuse my arms, back, and rotator muscles, and as I started to see how long and hard the recovery process would be, I quickly became nervous about my upcoming season.
|Skiing on the Birkie Trail by myself- one of many frustrating skis|
|I'm still surprised how much my classic skiing improved my senior year, despite the circumstances|
|Training as best I could- fall of my senior year|
|Despite having some good races, I never completely felt like my pre-injury self|
It might seem obvious that I wanted to be happy, but depression frustrated me beyond the end. I had always been known for being positive and optimistic despite the circumstances, so when I couldn't feel good, I became angry at myself. I felt like I couldn't do anything right- and I felt weak, mentally and physically. I didn’t end up coming close to any of my goals my senior year of high school, and at the end of the season, I felt like the thousands of hours that I had put in throughout the past six years had been wasted. By the time Junior Nationals came around, I was ready to start over.
|Always comforting to have cousins racing with you at Junior Nationals|
|Post Shoulder Surgery|
I once again struggled with my body image. I lost a lot of weight after my surgery, almost all of which was muscle. My only form of exercise for about a month after was hiking, and I soon became almost as skinny as I was in middle school. It was hard to stay motivated when I wasn’t feeling successful. Despite making big improvements in PT after my surgery, I felt like I dropped way off of my ‘path of success’ and I was so frustrated, and worried I would be a failure, showing up to school in the fall.
I was very aware how small my arms were and how 'weak' that made me look
I got my first anxiety attack about a month before I went to college. I had always been a fairly anxious person in some regards (such as being on time to places and events) but this was the first time something to this extreme had happened. My chest was tight, I could barely breathe, and I couldn’t control my tears. Looking back, I don’t even remember what specifically caused that incident, but it was the result of a lot of stresses I felt, along with pressure I was putting on myself to get better, and all of the changes I was going through getting ready for college. For me, anxiety attack could last minutes up to over an hour- and the effects would be slow to go away, I would often feel anxious, worthless, and weak for days after.
|Was able to be reinspired right after my surgery|
|I loved my first year as a Wildcat- I had little expectations for the season, and it did go way better than I expected|
|There are so many different ways to be strong, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. It's about resilience and how you respond to situations you are in|
There are so many things I constantly have to work on, whether it’s my overall confidence, my anxiety, my ski technique, my endurance, and my strength. Especially this summer, over a year after my surgery, I can tell I am getting fitter, stronger, and that's helping me feel like I'm able to more consistently feel in control of my life- both mind and body. As my muscles are growing, my confidence is too, slowly. Sometimes it’s a rollercoaster of ups and downs: after a good workout, I’ll feel like I’m finally on the right track, and some days, on the harder days, there are many irrational thoughts that come into my head, which can produce anxiety. But like the process of my shoulder, I have to be patient and take care of myself, and despite the ups and downs, I’m slowly but surely healing.