8 March 2014

Injuries and Rehab

As a sports massage therapist I also have a blog about injuries and sport related stuff (Top Form Blog - nice little link there although I am just as bad at updating that blog as this one!) and I thought with my latest injury it might be a good idea to detail there how I am treating and rehabbing that injury.  If you follow me on social media etc you will know that last week whilst competing in the Irish Open I sprained my ankle quite badly and have now been forced to sit down and chill out for a while!  So this idea got me thinking a little bit more deeply about how I should go about this because the impact not training will have on my levels of stress is bound to be fairly significant but perhaps not quite appropriate for my more factual, business related blog even though the psychology of injury will be mentioned.  I thought do I run the blogs simultaneously with the how crazy it makes me become against the what exercises I am doing etc?  But then I realised if I am going to be true to this then I really need to back things up a bit because there is a lot more to my current stress levels than my current injury predicament.

I don't know what has led you to my blog now, I don't know if you really know me or if you do what capacity you know me in - have you seen me fight, have you heard me speak, do you train with me or are you friends with friends I have or you might be my own friends and family?  If you have heard me speak then chances are you may have this perception of me that I'm this fighter, I don't give in and my life is all positive.  While this is true - I have a lot of positive things in my life and I don't give up - I am real and I don't have it all worked out, I hurt, I fail and things don't always work and this is sometimes barely noticeable.  I grew up until my 20s without a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome and I struggled a lot particularly with stress and anxiety.  My poor mum wanted to take me to see a doctor when I was a teenager and I refused, I was convinced that I was "wrong" and seeing a doctor would confirm that.  So I hid how I felt, it wasn't that difficult as I struggle to show how I feel but I made extra effort to be like everyone else and fit in - I still do it to an extent.  But it is exhausting, even just being in this world is exhausting and there is a time every year where I just can't do it and keep up / cope with the demands in my life, sometimes it is very brief and sometimes it drags on.  

This is where I am now and where I have been for the last 4 months and it is true the longer it goes on the harder it is to get back on top.  So I figured in this period of time where I am recovering from my ankle injury there is an opportunity to really focus on rebuilding myself to the strong, focused person I am and getting myself back on track to show the world who I really am and what I can do - and why not blog about this too?  I mean this is the embodiment of what has made me who I am and this will show how I got to where I am - this is what I do and what I have to do. And essentially it is like a rehab just more for the mind.

Last week I was absolutely devastated.  I was competing in my 11th Irish Open, I was the fittest I have ever been, I felt after my hamstring injury in 2012 that I'd finally got back to my best and maybe even surpassed my best, I'd really put the hours in to my training for this.  I've had injuries before but something like that had never happened to me during a fight and I felt like I was just getting into the fight as it happened.  It is one thing to lose but it is another when something like that means you don't know how things would have turned out and for me that was quite difficult to deal with.  All those "what ifs".  At first I was gutted because of the competition but then as I started to realise that I wouldn't be training or competing for a while things went a little out of control in my mind and I began to wonder if I would ever get to the level I was at again, if I'd ever be the same.  I was more gutted because of the hard work and length of time it had taken me to recuperate from the hamstring tear and well, I'm not getting any younger, how many more years do I have?  I got home and I am such an active person, I hate to be sat still.  I wanted to smash the house up, I wanted to smash my foot to pieces, I was angry and frustrated.  My brain was racing and I was still - it seemed I couldn't do anything I wanted to do.  Normally when my mind is that active I am bouncing off the walls and I can't sit still - so this week I have struggled to live with myself and it has been an achievement to have avoided a meltdown and not break anything.  I thought things could not have got any worse before I went to Ireland and this was something I totally did not expect.  

Before Ireland I had been really struggling.  Since I had come back from the World Championships last October things had slowly been deteriorating to spiralling out of control.  I struggle with the loss of the structure, routine and focus on the goal of winning the World Championships, it is really difficult to adjust after a week in a new place to come back to a change at home.  I stopped being able to sleep and was not sleeping until 4 or 5 am every night, this improved with the addition of Oscar the puppy to our house - he keeps me busy and calmer.  But presently I can't sleep without my ipod on because my head is too active.  My difficulty with concentration had got to be so bad that until now I have been unable to start anything and see it through.  I struggle to know what to do and when to do it, even to the extent of making sure I eat if I don't have a plan.  I am distracted by absolutely everything - I get distracted by my own thoughts and deviate from my plan because I decide it is better to do something else but in the end that never gets done either.  If a motorbike drives up and down my street a few times, it drives me insane, I can't block that sound out and I start to get angry and throw things.  When things are out of order, if my house gets messy or my inbox is overrun with emails I lose track of everything - I don't know what is going on and I get very annoyed and agitated.  When you need a good amount of structure and organisation in your life to function, such as I do, to feel as though you have "lost track" of everything is simply debilitating.  I have felt unable to do anything.  For the past 4 months I have hated myself, I have been so cruel to myself, picking apart every facet of what makes me who I am.  I have woken up more times than I can remember wishing I hadn't woken up.  I feel like a failure.  I have wished I didn't have autism, I have told my husband that I bet he wished he never married me.  I can't always identify what I feel or why I feel it and I call myself stupid, useless and pointless - nearly on a daily basis. 

I am perfectionist.  I don't do something unless I can put 100% into it, totally all or nothing.  This means I put great pressure on myself.  I know what I am clever enough to do and I fear not achieving what I am capable of achieving.  I'm good at what I'm good at and terrible at what I'm not good at and there tends to be no in between.  And this is not helpful when you feel you have lost track of everything in your life.  To say I have been highly stressed would be an understatement and to then at the start of the year have competition after competition in these loud, busy, extremely full on environments - I have thought at some times that I might explode from the stress.  And no matter what I say here or how much I choose to reveal I can never truly explain just how things have been for me over these last 4 months and even if I could there are many people who would never really understand.

I am lucky.  There are lots of people in my life who love me, care about me and who I have worried.  There are lots of people who support me in many different ways and I appreciate it all because I need that support.  How would you cope if you received messages everyday from someone saying they are stupid, like everyday?  I mean are there only so many times you can tell them "no you're not" before you get a bit pissed off or would you be able to understand?  Then there is also the poor lady from the Asperger's team who tries to help me and gets told that she asks stupid, pointless questions and that for that reason I won't answer them.  And how would you cope if your daughter wouldn't open up to you, or your wife told you that you hate being married to her and marrying her has to be the biggest mistake you made?  When I behave, think and talk this extremely it is almost like I have been taken over by this darkness - I feel dark, I feel slow, full of hate and this, I think, happens because I am overwhelmed, by what I feel, by what is happening around me and I just don't know what to do with it all, where to put those feelings.

Strangely it is this ankle injury and new focus of making it better that has led me to this point now, today.  This point where I am focusing on pulling it back round rather than just making it from one day to the next.  Many of the things I have listed above aren't going to go away - they are features of the person I am, albeit presenting in an extremely amplified way due to the levels of stress.  I haven't gone into what has made me stressed but I'm trying to establish a business, fund my sport, do my sport, write a book and god knows what else.  There are seasonal stressors too and it all just builds up.  That's about as much as I can explain except to say there is also this thing I do where I look at everyone else and what they seem to seamlessly with little effort manage to do and achieve and compare against what I struggle with.  For any person it is simply the worst thing you could possibly do to your self esteem, it only makes you think about what you aren't and what you are lacking and when I do this I forget all the good things I am and all the things I have achieved.  I write them off as "normal" and that "anyone could do it".  And then I feel less.  But I am not less.  I am a whole person, there is nothing missing from me, I am what I was meant to be.  If I grow into more then that is great but I'm not deficient in any way right now.  

Realistically this is what I do best.  I know how to drag myself back up, I know how tough it is and I accept that it is just how it is.  I accept that my challenges are there and I know I just have to find ways to manage each thing that crops up.  I am real, I don't have to be on top all the time to be the positive example of someone living with Asperger's - it is not my success that makes me the positive example it is the very fact that I am real, that I do live through the challenges, I do hit the figurative brick wall and fall down but I still come back and I will come back and I will smash that wall down.  Now I can't fight or train for a while but there is a reason that I do fight so well and that is because of what my life is.  When I step onto the mat to fight it is my sanctuary and I am fighting all these things that build up inside of me.  You cannot do a sport like mine and be successful if you don't have the mental approach and that is not that you are mental enough to fight!!  I know that if I approach anything in the way that I approach my fighting then I will achieve it, I will not be beaten and that is what I have to do now.  People underestimate me all the time and really that is their loss but when those people then put limits on what I can do, well then I have to prove them wrong.  I couldn't care less what people think of me or the way I act but never think you know what my limits are because that is up to me.  I don't live my life to impress anyone else, what I do I do because I choose to.  So sit back and watch what I do best and that's to kick life in the face, or maybe I'll just settle for a punch for now as I do have a bad foot?!

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