Not always unicorns and rainbows

            This blog post is going to be difficult to write because it isn’t about being at my best.  In fact it is about being at my worst.  Everything in social media is how everyone is succeeding, jobs, children, partners, travels.  Rarely do we see anything about struggle or heartbreak or being broken.  And if we do I feel it’s hard to read or hard to give a shit.  Regardless of your reaction I just want to write this to show you that the struggle is real and what you see on social media isn’t always the whole picture.

 

            In March of this year, 2018, I was skiing before work, it was a powder day it was beautiful out and I wasn’t doing anything extraordinary like dropping into Corbet’s Couloir.  Check out the insane video below to understand what I am talking about.  

 

So there I am skiing my usual run to work and there were all these skiers lined up at the top of the run. I stood there for quite a while trying to figure out what they were doing, was someone hurt, were they told the run was closed.  I finally decided to go and just skied a tighter line close to the trees. Everything was perfect until I think my skis crossed under the powder and instead of just taking the fall I tried to correct it.  As I corrected the fall and just fell back on my butt I heard the pop and I knew I had done it.  I had done the thing so many skiers before me had done.  I had torn my ACL.  But I sat there, petrified that I may have to call ski patrol, and told myself I just pulled a muscle, no big deal.  So I stand up, put some weight on my leg and find I can ski, but I cannot turn.  I traverse a little bit staying perpendicular to the ski run and I am fortunate enough to find a groomed portion of the run. I start to ski down and find that in fact I can turn and I pick up a little speed and confidence and am convinced I just pulled a muscle or sprained something.  I get to the chairlift, which is a two-person lift, and load it.  I think, phew, I made it.  Now to work and finish out the day.  Less than a minute into the eight minute ride the weight of my boot and ski on my leg take its toll and I am in so much pain I start crying and praying for the lift to speed up.  I get to the top crying in my goggles and slowly make my way to the locker room, and change into my work clothes.  I could not stop crying, the tears were just flowing without me even really knowing what was happening.  My co-workers and boss took one look at me and asked what was wrong.  I re-capped the story and they told me to go to the clinic.  I left the top of the mountain on the gondola and went straight to the mountain clinic. I’m there less than twenty minutes and I leave in a straight leg brace, refusing crutches.  I was informed I needed to make an appointment with the orthopedist within the next three days because she was almost positive I tore my ACL. I still wasn’t convinced, I kept thinking she’s wrong, it isn’t torn, and it’s just a sprain.  

Ice Pack.jpg

 

I was lucky enough to get into Teton Orthopedics another hour later and have an MRI and X-rays.  The verdict, I tore my ACL and if I want to ski next year I should probably have surgery. The thought of not having surgery didn’t even cross my mind.  I need an ACL to ski and that’s that.  I had one-month left of work and within that month I needed to heal and reduce swelling before surgery.  My mind went into overdrive, I need to work, I can’t be out of work a month before off season, how will I pay all my bills, how do I take care of myself, I don’t know what to do or where to start.  I cried pretty much all day.

That day was one of the lowest points of the next four months.  I have never felt more alone in my life than I did that day.  I had no family nearby to help me, and my friends were busy with their own work and lives.  On top of that, my job requires my body to function well; losing the use of a limb is like losing everything.  Not just your job or money, but your very existence your dignity and humanity.  You never realize the feeling of loss when you have an injury that affects your immediate future.  Living in a ski town doesn’t help much either.  Everyone and everything keeps moving around you. Nothing slows down except you, and you feel pretty worthless.  But after about a week when my knee started to heal and I was starting to do normal day-to-day activities my spirits rose and I was getting back to the grind.  I finished out the work season and I planned the next two months around my surgery instead of my scuba travels.  My mom was coming to help me after surgery and my father after that.  It was all coming together and everything would be ok.  

Knee swollen post surgery

Knee swollen post surgery

 

After surgery, however, the gloom returned.  I was in so much pain, my mom was freaking out because I was taking narcotics (as prescribed), and I couldn’t go anywhere farther than the bathroom from my bed.  I was in PT before and almost immediately following surgery but all the swelling I got down before was now back, my progress was slow, and felt like it was going no where.  My physical therapists saw me cry more than I would like to admit because this cloud settled over me that I would never get my leg back.  Fortunately, I had booked a counseling appointment for after surgery, I knew that I would need some help mentally to wade through this tricky time. I am so thankful I had an outside source of support because I didn’t want to talk about my struggles with my friends or family.  I didn’t want to burden anyone with my issues, and frankly I was super negative and didn’t want to be told again that everything is going to be fine.  I didn’t really make headway mentally until I did physically.  One day as I was doing wall slides, trying to bend my knee, the physical therapist saw me crying and said “there’s no crying in baseball”, A League of Their Own reference. I laughed through the tears and felt that in that moment we were in this battle together.  Once I could bend my knee and start walking normally I felt and saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  

Wall slides, almost 90*

Wall slides, almost 90*

 

Socially I kept in touch with friends and started getting out of the house more.  My goals for the summer changed though.  I wasn’t going to hike the Grand, or bike 100 miles, so I bought a stack of books I’ve always wanted to read and made that my goal for the summer.  This helped ease the anxiety of feeling like I wasn’t doing anything.  In Jackson if you aren’t doing something you feel lazy and worthless, because no one in Jackson ever sits on the couch, most people are outside with endless activities and objectives to complete.  With my book goal I was able to spend hours reading and feeling as though I accomplished something.  It may not have been a 20-mile bike ride but it was a great book.  Basically, I needed my leg to heal and I needed to give myself a break.  As far as social media is concerned no one was the wiser.  Only people nearest me knew what I was going through and the rest of the world just didn’t really hear from me. 

 

The future looks good now, except I am petrified to ski and scuba dive.  I’m terrified of stepping on a dive boat with all my equipment and slipping.  I am so scared of re-injury, of that loss and feeling of worthlessness.  But if I don’t ski again and I don’t step in the water with dive gear again, then the fear wins.  My loss becomes my life.  Instead of overcoming the fear the fear becomes who I am.  I refuse to let that happen.  I will always ski and scuba dive, because I am an athlete it is a part of who I am, it is not just something that I do.

Powder!!!!

Powder!!!!

 

            I tell my story not for your pity or pats on the back. I want people to know that we all deal with loss differently, whether it’s a breakup, death, job, or physical ability among other things.  And what worked for me may not work for you.  But letting the social noise go, seeking help, and making different goals for myself changed my perspective and improved my health.  Where I live you have to be back in it immediately, no one allows time to heal.  Everyone is hardcore, you can’t show weakness, and you push through the pain. I always thought that everyone here is a hardcore athlete and I was just active outdoors.  But living here and listening to my therapists, I’m an athlete too. I may not run marathons, climb everyday, bike across the state, ski Corbet’s Couloir, but I am an athlete.  I am active outdoors and push myself every season to be better than I was the last.  Listening to the pressure of the social norms, or society would have only brought me more pain.  I listened to my support group and I took care of myself, physically and mentally, and not because I am weak but because I am strong.  These past five months have taught me to not take your health for granted, that once you lose something you realize how much you need it to survive, and making different goals to take care of yourself is the most important. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, you have to take care of your needs first.  Social media is great and I use it a lot to promote my trips and diving, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story.  We have times of weakness, sorrow, destruction and we have to remember we are all human and life isn’t always unicorns and rainbows.

Exciting Trips to Come

Red Sea coral reef fish

Red Sea coral reef fish

 I know I have not been blogging recently, but I have been putting a lot of energy into future dive trips. So many exciting things coming up and here is a brief blog post on where we are going and what we are doing.  Most of these trips are exploratory, if you’re interested in coming along please contact me.

 

The first place I am heading is to the Philippines this October.  It is just around the corner and I am so eager to gain a better understanding of the country and experience the incredible diving. 

Philippines

Philippines

 

Next up is Egypt.  This is a girl’s trip only, and is available to those of you beautiful babes who want to explore this country and underwater habitat.  The plan so far, is to do about a weeklong live aboard in the Red Sea followed by a week or more sightseeing on land.  The live aboard has not been booked but the hope is to have that done by January.  And the land tour may consist of us meandering around to all the pyramids and happening spots.  We may decide to do an organized tour but it would probably only take up a couple of days. This is to take place in May 2019.

Red Sea beach

Red Sea beach

 

Fall 2019 is proving to be full of new places.  Very loose planning has a possible visit to the Maldives before or after we do a week long live aboard in Chuuk or Truk Lagoon, Micronesia.  This live aboard trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Chuuk is known for being the largest graveyard of wrecks in the world.  For more information on Chuuk Lagoon click the button below.  

 

I hope a little spontaneity will prompt some unplanned stops but as far as the next year goes this is what is in the works.  If you are interested please let me know as soon as possible.  Some of these trips have already been booked and deposits paid. Space is limited.

April 2017 Hawaii

I never realized how much I wanted to travel until I started doing it.  This last spring I explored many things.  I love the beauty of nature and being in Hawaii in April was by far one of the more stunning places.  It was so amazing to see a young volcanic island with such a diverse array of flora and fauna.

We stayed on the Big Island of Hawaii and explored the volcanoes, had a submarine tour and visited many beaches for snorkeling and surfing.  Hawaii is gorgeous and I can't wait to explore other islands in this incredible archipelago. 

We flew into Kona, which is on the west coast of the Big Island.  We stayed at a timeshare in the Waikoloa Resort, a thirty-minute drive north from Kona airport.  This resort, in particular, had it’s own golf courses, shopping centers, and grocery store.  Everything you need is on site.  We stayed in a two-bedroom apartment.  It was very nice and right on the ground level close to the communal barbecue and hot tub for that complex.  The only downfall of this particular room and on this particular level is that the residents above us decided every night to throw food down to the feral cats.  How Rude!  

Anyway, over the next few days, we checked out some snorkeling beaches and signed my nephew up for surfing.  He went for two days with Kona Mike's Surf Adventures and had so much fun.  I highly recommend this company everyone was very enthusiastic, professional, and safe.  Snorkeling was good pretty much everywhere we went.  My sister, however, loved Kahalu'u Beach Park.  This spot was convenient because the surfers were off to the right practicing and to the left was an easy entry snorkeling area.  It was full of beautiful fish and corals.  This area was great for snorkelers because of its gradual depth change.  Once out of the water there were places to shower off and buy food and refreshments.    

I originally came to Hawaii with grandiose dreams of scuba diving, but the universe had other plans.  I had a bad sinus infection most of the trip and equalizing was not going to happen.  So we did the next best thing and everyone was able to participate!  We signed up for the Atlantis Submarine Tour in Kona.  This tour was so much fun and so easy for everyone.  The submarine had two rows of bench seats facing either side of the submarine.   There were many windows, perfect for everyone to get a good view.   We went about 100 feet deep and toured around about 25 acres of coral reef and saw all sorts of sea creatures.  We also saw a wreck.  I would never substitute this for scuba diving.  However, if you have a member of your group that doesn't want to dive this is a great alternative.

Now, for those of you who love jewelry beware!  Sharing the same office space as Atlantis Submarines was Maui Divers Jewelry.  They had beautiful black coral pieces set in gold and silver.  They also had you fish for an oyster and find your special pearl.  The ladies working the counter were very friendly and very good at their jobs.  

The last day of our trip, in retrospect, wasn’t planned very well.  The Big Island has five volcanoes two of which are active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  The best way to see the island and its volcanoes are by helicopter.  There are many helicopter company locations around the island so you can easily book and leave from close to where you are staying.  We missed our chance on the helicopter tour because we decided too late and the bookings were full. Since we couldn’t do the helicopter tour, we took a long scenic drive.  Our first stop was in Hilo, which is very green and lush, compared to the Kona side, which is rougher with lots of volcanic rock.  We then dipped south toward the Kilauea volcano in Volcanoes National Park. When entering the park you can stop at Kilauea Visitor Center for information and history.  They also have a little theatre that shows videos of different eruptions and lava flows throughout the years.  After our stop at the visitor center, we rushed to a few observation areas.  I loved being able to actually see the crater of the volcano, the layers from the old lava lakes, and even the steam coming out of an active vent.  Kilauea volcano is such a different and amazing landscape from other places I’ve been.  The Volcanoes National Park is fairly large and definitely a full day or two days trip if you really want to hike and explore all the observation areas and different ecosystems.  Our visit was short and sweet as our flight was that night and we had to get back to Kona.  With so many things to do and so little time, I was off on another adventure.  I can’t wait to come back and explore more.

   

lava ecosystem
Submarine Tour

Submarine Tour

Volcanoes National Park