Friday, November 24, 2017

Season Four: It begins...

Last weekend, my fourth ski season since "the accident" began. There were a heck of a lot of unknowns going into the season, especially coming off ankle surgery, but I'd been itching to ski since last season was cut short for me. I was hopeful that I could pick up where I left off, but I also knew that I was super squeamish behind all the excitement of ski season.

After my first two runs at Mammoth last weekend, I was already feeling way more confident and comfortable than I did several weeks into the previous seasons on the twin planks. I skied harder and longer than I ever do this early into the season, and have more mileage under my belt in three days on the twin planks than I probably did in a month last season. Heck, I've even been feeling confident enough that the top/face of the mountain looks tempting... when we get more snow! That right there is crazy talk in itself, since anyone who knows me knows that dropping in off the top makes my heart race a bit too much. I think it's saying something that I'm feeling this good this early in the season. Last season felt really off for me until about three or four months into the season. This season, I'm three days, in and it feels amazing. That being said, there are some demons that are rearing their ugly head...

PTSD. On skis.

Everyone seems to think I'm fine being back on skis and having been on skis for what is now going to be four seasons. I think I'm just getting better at hiding how I'm doing. Yes, I'm so grateful to be skiing again and I LOVE skiing, but I can't shake what happened and coping with it. There's no real rhyme or reason for when it hits - yes, sometimes it's obvious, like when I see or read about someone falling off a chairlift - but it's there. Some days, it's just being on a chair lift. Some days, it's just the thought of what could happen with a serious fall while skiing (on the slopes, not on the lift). It's terrifying at times. It destroys my confidence at times. It takes the fun out of skiing at times. 

It never seems to leave, always lingering in the background. No matter how much I've talked about it. No matter how much I've dealt with it. No matter how much I've been able to accomplish on skis since becoming bionic. It's there. 

PTSD hit hard at the beginning of last season. I think that's why I struggled most of last season. I was in my head when skiing and not having the fun I should be having and deserved to be having. It took several months to really start feeling confident, but when it happened, I was having a blast on the slopes. I even skied a lot of crazy lines I never thought I'd ski... and they were AMAZING! Yes, there were times that it came back and kicked my ass. Ask Dave and Carolyn how long I stood at the top of Scotty's last season before dropping in! I skied it beautifully, but not until I stood at the top of it so long that I almost turned around and didn't ski it.

Dealing with what happened to me was a beast in itself. Dealing with the lingering mental aftermath of it is a whole different beast... still. Some days are good. Some days are bad. Some days I can rip it up on the slopes. Some days are terrifying and they just become mileage days on the twin planks. It's part of life, and I'm still learning to deal with it. I overcame the beast that was what physically happened to me. I plan to overcome the mental beast too. It's easier to fix the physical side of things than the mental side of things, but I'm up for the challenge, and I think this season is the season to do it. Here's to hoping this is the season... 

One final note. While recently talking with a good friend, who also has her own "ouchiversary", she had this to say regarding the demons: "They are, after all, the reason we are who we are today.  More cautious at times, perhaps.  But more thankful, more experienced in adversity, and wiser, as well." I completely agree.

Find what you love to do and do it. :: K. Megan McArthur

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Normalization of the Ouchiversary?

I'm not really sure where I want to go with this post. There is a part of me that wants to write about the approaching 4th Ouchiversary, but there is a part of me that doesn't feel the need to. It almost feels as if the Ouchiversary, February 23rd, is just a normal day of the year now. I mean, it will always be a day I spend on twin planks, but it's almost feeling like it doesn't represent anything anymore. At the same time, the Ouchiversary marks a huge turning point in my life and brings many emotions and some major PTSD. (I'm really good at hiding it now, but it's still there.) I know that as it gets closer to the 23rd, the latter statement will definitely hit...


Last year, I decided that I didn't want to have a goal for the Ouchiversary. It just resulted in me putting too much pressure on myself to meet that goal, and we all know that I already put a lot of pressure on myself with skiing (and everything in general). Anyone who knows me will tell you that. It was nice last year having already skied Dave's by the time the Ouchiversary rolled around and being able to just have fun with friends on the skiing all over Mammoth. I'll admit, I wasn't the most relaxed that day while skiing, but I was skiing and having fun with friends and that was all that mattered. 

This year we're actually not going to be around Mammoth for the Ouchiversary. We'll be at Revelstoke (aka The RealStoke) on the 4 year mark. It's going to be really weird for me not being able to spend the day with so many friends skiing at Mammoth. I'm sure it will be fun, but it will be weird to be away from so many dear friends who have been key in getting me back to ripping around on twin planks. 

Normalizing the Ouchiversary

Maybe this is the first step toward "normalizing" the day. Maybe it will just be an ordinary ski day, just at a different resort this time. I'm sure I'll still have vivid flashbacks leading up to it - how could I not?! I'm sure there will be tears shed - some from the memories of what happened, some of pure joy since I am skiing again after what happened. Maybe this really is the first of many steps to it becoming a normal day. I don't talk about what happened all that much anymore. I mean I have the blog that I update from time to time, I talk about it occasionally with small groups of people, but aside from that most would never even know what happened four years ago if I didn't say anything. I am taking a huge step way outside of my comfort zone in April and talking about the fall at NASA Armstrong's center-wide Safety Day. Maybe that's another step toward "normalizing" what happened?! We shall see. 

Having too much fun on the Backside of Three after 20' of fresh snow at Mammoth.

Season Three Adventures

This season hasn't started as well as I hoped it would. Most would say that I'm skiing great, and maybe at the same level I was mid-season last year, but I felt like I was struggling. At times I felt a lot more comfortable and faster than last season, but I could tell that I was very much in my head while skiing. Things really seemed to change the day after Christmas. Not sure what it was, but that day I felt like I was back in my groove from last season. I was just racing around all over and having a blast. Hell, I almost took a solo trip to the top, that's how good I was feeling. 

NOTE: My biggest pet peeve is being told where I should ski, especially when it comes to the top. Yes, I have the skills to ski the top and it's great, I've done it before, but I really hate the feeling of pressure to ski the top. Pressure means I start getting in my head about skiing.

Since that day, skiing has been great and getting better. Yeah, I've had some off moments, but overall I'm right back to where I left off last season. I still get in my head at times, but I'm getting better about pushing myself and trusting my skills on the twin planks. I mean, I had massive butterflies in my stomach on the T-Bar and hike up to Blackcomb Glacier, but I got over those butterflies and it was super fun skiing the glacier! I'm hopeful that as this season goes on and I continue to challenge myself, that the butterflies and head games will go away more and more. Stay tuned and we'll see what happens...

Enjoying the chilly air on the top of Whistler Peak.

Just before dropping into Blackcomb Glacier.