Injuries, fatigue and new highs

 

This week has been an interesting one and exhausting af. I already started the week quite low on spoons because I haven’t had enough rest at the weekends for the last couple of weeks. Monday, I had work and then went climbing as I had signed up to a coaching session. I found it really useful and after, with the help of some friendly gym people got pretty far up a v3-4 that is soooo not me. Crimpy and overhanging. I blame the attempts on that problem for the state my left hand is in. I also completed a V3-4 which I had literally just been misreading the pervious week! (again friendly people are useful). I also did a few of the comp problems that looked challenging but doable in no more than 3 attempts. It was nice to see that there was a range of problems at a level that I could do in a comp setting tbh. Seeing as I wimped out of the comp for that reason.

So we come to Tuesday when I find all the tendons are sore. In both hands. I’d been struggling a little with my right hand but nothing major and no issues with climbing just tendons overreacting cause hypermobility puts more strain on them. But such is life, hey? We had four hours of no work to do and I legit went crazy and signed up to paranationals. Although I’m not a route climber by discipline anymore and find bouldering way more fun and social despite being more of a challenge I want to get myself back into competing and a) I’m a paraclimber b) I definitely feel more secure competing on a top rope.

Wednesday was a climbing day (and a work day but nothing of interest occurred). Climbing was good and despite my best intentions to not put too much pressure through my fingers I may have but didn’t make the situation any worse and did a V3 I couldn’t do the first move of a month ago in two parts, completed another V3-4 and flashed a V2-3 antistyle comp problem. So it was worth it.

Thursday I climbed again and really did my fingers in on some two finger pockets on a 6b+ I didn’t quite manage. But that’s okay. I couldn’t try it more than once because of my fingers but I know I have it in me. Shame I don’t go to that wall often enough! I think It’ll be a couple of weeks now until my next visit.

The middle left hand finger got destroyed a little more on Friday when I was putting my jeans on. Yes putting my jeans on. I had a rheumatology appointment and H-eds was mentioned for the first time and there was talk about referring me to a fibro clinic. Also had another three viles of blood drawn and was left not feeling at all well and with no head in the game at work but some days that’s how it is. We win some and lose some. I went home after work, rested and ordered wagas cause I was just so dizzy and also deserved it.

Saturday, I worked on an application and rested before I went climbing and despite only intending on 4s and 5s ended up flashing a 6b and 6b+ and finishing off a v steep and elongated 6a+ (I can confirm when the auto belay lowered me I was on the floor. It was exhausting). I also tried a couple of 6cs and got pretty far. One I tried to project a little and got most of the moves down but was just too weak to send. The other I didn’t want to try twice as it was crimpy and although slabby I was conscious of the stress on my fingers. But 6c I will get you again.

Then I got home and realised my tendon was a little more of a mess. So now we are buddy taped and hopefully all will be good by Wednesday (my next climb). My elbow has also been playing up again as I have a loose piece of bone or something in it and injuring it by falling a few weeks ago aggravated that so would rather not one hand climb. Also getting lots of rest as I can barely stand without almost passing out today!

The only one your competing against is yourself

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This blog should be retitled “lessons learnt from climbing.” Okay but seriously, I thought this title was apt for the post that I’m going to make.

Comparison is the thief of joy. I say this a lot and I really mean it. I know that a lot of us with a history of anxiety, depression and eating disorders will compare ourselves a lot. A literal common trait amongst anorexic is a toxic desire to be the best. This means that even once we’ve recovered – we will compare ourselves and beat ourselves up and push ourselves to dangerous extremes in different aspects of our lives. I literally ended up largely bed bound because I was trying to be everything I thought I should be at uni and then sacrificed all but my degree.

I spent 2019 really trying to find that balance and yes I still studied mad hours, and sacrificed all else because there wasn’t really much else I could do and yes I graduated top of my class. But it was worth it. It was so, so so worth it. I was trying to be the best law student that I could possibly be without causing my health to deteriorate and I made it. But even then, even when I had the right motivations I still had those “x is going to write a better diss than me” breakdowns.

I’m here to say that it doesn’t matter if x writes a better diss than you or is a better climber than you or does that problem and you can’t or consistently gets more stats at work than you. None of that matters.

Since graduating I’ve really found my balance some more. I’ve accepted that some days you win and others you lose. I’ve learnt that pushing myself to relentlessly fill out training contract applications day in day out is not the method to success in life. I have also realised that I have many years to be successful in whatever career that may be and there is no rush!

Just because X seemingly is better than something than you or gets more legal work experience or wins climbing competitions or gets a training contract before you or wins some nomination at work it doesn’t mean your not enough.

Yes you may feel your talents go unnoticed sometimes or that you have none because they go unnoticed. And that’s really sad, I’ve been there. You do have talents even if you feel like no one notices them.

What I’ve learnt and slowly come to realise is that there is no point comparing yourself to x. Yes you may take useful tips from x but it is important to remember that we are all different and we all have different priorities in life. We also all have different journeys in life.

And that is okay!

We can’t all be the best at everything and wouldn’t the world be boring if we all were.
This year I’m testing out the climbing competition waters again. Now I may have wimped out of the first round of my walls winter bouldering league even though there were problems set from absolute beginner upwards but after looking at the problems and climbing a few of them I realised there was no reason for me to wimp out. Maybe I would have come last but who cares? It’s about learning and developing. I have registered for paraclimbing nationals because what better time to try and make that teenage dream come true.

I know I’m not strong enough, good enough at route reading this year to win or even make finals. But I think that’s the beauty of it. It’s about learning to climb in that environment again and learning to train hard but not too hard. It’s about meeting people, pursuing my passion and being the best climber I can be.

The only person your competing against is yourself. We all have our own life journeys and climbing journeys alike. We all have our own strengths, weaknesses and experiences. I’ve learnt to enjoy the small signs of progression and am slowly learning not to feel disheartened if progression doesn’t feel fast enough or I feel like I’m having a bad session or that I’m the worst.

I can’t train hard every session with my conditions and that’s okay. Technique based sessions are also important as well as social sessions.

This 2020 I’m making a vow to myself. To not compare. To not beat myself up for not being the best. I am me and that is enough.

A week of prevailing and failing through pain and fatigue.

It’s time for another week in the life. This past week has been characterised by lots of pain, lots of fatigue, getting lost and climbing.

Monday was my first day on the difficult cases at work and it was so much more fun than work has been! I found it much easier to get through the day with a little more cognitive stimulation. I went for a climb in the evening and took it easy as my elbow was causing me pain at work and I didn’t want to do any further damage. I spent a lot of time chatting to people which is one of my favourite things about bouldering and did a lot of technique/route reading practice and flashed a purple (v3-4) for the first time ever! (Yes I flashed a V3-5 over xmas but different centre so I’m taking the glory again.) Although I love projecting I really want to get myself more consistent and that purple was an important step towards that.

Tuesday was a bad endo day and not great mental health day as I was a stressed out mess over the GP appointment I had the next day and pain wears you down. I got home and I just couldn’t and hilariously enough the pain just got drastically worse once I was home. Isn’t potentially having endo, potentially having PCOS, potentially having something else all together so much fun. Anyway. I went to bed early got 11 hours sleep and on we go to Wednesday.

I had a GP appointment and she actually took me seriously and listened. I had to find my way to the hospital after the appointment and got a little lost cause the cold and google maps drains your battery. But, I found my way and got the 3 viles of blood taken. I am also getting another ultrasound at some point. I think of the transvaginal variety. Absolutely not looking forward to that! Went into work for the afternoon and god were the cases bad. Or maybe I’m just a bad caseworker. I then climbed and not gonna lie my right bicep is still sore as we were doing endurance stuff and being me, I may have pushed it a little too far but it did feel really good to be in the training area, doing actual exercise like the old Han would be. I also resent a purple after the session which is mad! I’ve never resent a purple before. *Slight disclaimer here is yes in grades, yes 4 years ago, yes before I took 3 years out* It was another sign towards me slowly getting myself towards my goals.

Thursday was a horrific endo day. How I worked and smashed my stats I will never know. But anyway, I got home, applied for a law event and then accidently napped. Woke up, got ready for bed and then slept for another 10 hours.

I felt beyond dreadful on Friday. But I powered through the bad cases and got as many grants as I could. Didn’t hit stats but what can we do. Not much. I literally just crashed when I got home and ended up with that horrendous midcycle migraine. You know the one so painful that you can’t eat, can’t do anything, can’t tolerate any light but also can’t sleep. It was traumatic.

Nevertheless, I took myself on a trip to rock over on Saturday and although I didn’t explore the whole wall, I spent 4 hours there! My hands were a wreck! I really enjoyed the different setting and movement that I had to do even on “easy grades”. I also felt super fancy on duotex holds and flashed a super fun lil v4 and the first few moves of a v5!. I did however aggravate my elbow again and have somehow aggravated the left one as well. My pain was horrendous Saturday night so again late night but got 10 hours sleep and still feel like hell so trying to rest as much as I can.

When I say I’m tired…

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This is a difficult one to write but an important one in order to raise awareness for fatigue causing chronic and mental illnesses as your average muggle just does not understand what we mean when we say that we’re tired.

Let’s just start by getting our understanding of tiredness correct. Tiredness can be relived by sleep, rest or even a coffee. Tiredness may even be relieved by a cold shower in the morning or a nice morning run (or climb).

When I say I’m tired that’s not what I mean.

I mean I’m dizzy. My brain is just not doing anything for me, and I struggle to understand the simplest of things.

I mean that I’m getting an intense pressure in the back of my head and neck and that is making me dizzy. I am struggling to stay sitting up. Let alone using my brain and working or engaging in a conversation.

I mean I have a debilitating headache or I’m just getting sensory overload for no apparent reason so please shut the fuck up.

I mean that I am in so much pain that no amount of distraction is helping. I need to either go for a climb or just lay in bed with whatever heat/ice combination and some reruns of greys anatomy.

I’m not just tired I’m exhausted. My muscles feel week and heavy. I’m struggling to coordinate myself, I can’t feel my legs. I’m having random muscle twitches and seizure like shakes.

When I say I’m tired, I mean I’m so tired that even if I lie down I feel like I’m about to fall. I can’t tolerate using a pillow. I can be completely flat and still feel like I need to be laying down more.

I don’t just mean I’m tired.

I mean my body is done and it needs a break.

What do you mean when you say your tired?

Lots of learning, subluxations and theatre.

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It’s time for another week in the life. I’m definitely considering two posts a week so I can do more of these but still write the awareness raising, life lesson and inspirational posts.

Anyway lets begin.

Monday was a work day. That 9-5 life. The cases were certainly better than they had been over the last few weeks but not great so I got 22 grants. Not enough but I’m not defining myself by my work stats or any other type of grade or number. 22 is so much better than the 10 I’d been scraping! I went home after work, ate food and tried to work on a family specific training contract application.

Tuesday I started shadowing some of the harder cases although I don’t think I quite braved taking the mouse myself then! The “red cases” like the red boulder problems I’d love to be stable on by the end of 2020 are such a huge step up! Lots of cognitive power and stress and disappointment. But I definitely appreciated a chance to learn something new and to give my wrists and fingers a break from standard desk based tasks as my joints have been struggling this week. I climbed in the evening and not gonna lie it wasn’t the best session and it was hard to not feel deflated but I did what I said I would and took it easy! I flashed the new set V1s and 2-3s of the day and started projecting some “swirly’s” which I feel in my soul so hopefully I’ll have a chance to get back to them. I also did an advanced footwork class and did my first ever roof move (on a v7 to practice heel hooks). I also very much realised my core needs work and that is part of why I’m still struggling with overhangs despite my technique on them improving. But hey, after being largely bed bound for so long what can I expect?

Wednesday, I was running on not much sleep. I’ve been struggling with sleep this week. With a combination of nausea, pain and noise from the pub next door it has been hard! Anywho. I felt super ill when I woke up in the morning and the coughing fit I had caused my right ovary to act up for the rest of the day. However my energy improved throughout the day and despite my joints feeling dreadful I went climbing (yes again). There’s a womens group on, on a Wednesday night which I like going to as the people are nice, most of them are better than be and give me useful tips which allow me to be the best me and it gets me trying new things on the wall without feeling silly. This Wednesday especially was incredible. It was quite chill, we spent a while just catching up and chatting before warming up. There were some new people there and it was the first session after Christmas so a lot to catch up on! Not gonna lie, I didn’t do the 10 squat jumps we were meant to as my body just couldn’t. I would have collapsed. (Just a warning sign to the ME flare that later ensued. I accomplished two v2-3s that I had been struggling with, due to fear more than anything else and realised that actually if I commit, I can do those big moves. They look scarier than they feel! I also resent a v2-3 in a more technical and much easier way as well as getting another v3-4 with some help and support from the more experienced members of the group. That’s what? 7 v3-4 problems I’ve now accomplished. Mostly slabby but it’s start to reaching my goals despite chronic illness. My muscles were struggling hard on Wednesday. Those little legs of mine were just not okay. I think this is why I fell of a V1 that I have yet to conquer (at a low height) and partially dislocated my elbow because I was a tit and put my arm down. I (yes am a tit) and continued climbing on it, so to this day. My elbow is still not 100%. But anywho. Good session and I came out of it feeling so positive and uplifted and it just reminded me of why I love this sport so so much.

Thursday was another learning at work day. I think it was Thursday that I really started to find my confidence with these red cases. In the afternoon the ME flare ensued so I got home and binged spinning out, curled up on the sofa. I couldn’t sleep that night cause the pressure in the back of my head and the dizziness so another not enough sleep night but such is life.

Friday was an interesting one. Even more confidence on those reds although I was feeling so unwell in the afternoon that I was just like “no. I can’t.” Honestly the pressure in the back of my head and the dizziness resulting meant that I was close to going home sick because I had visions of another car park incident. Hilariously enough. I didn’t and then (more Hannah may or may not be a tit) I went climbing. Because of my elbow I took myself to awesome walls as being on an auto belay would minimise the chances of making it worse (no high impact falls. Just low impact collapsing in a heap when it gets you down). This was my first time on a rope and colourful holds for 5 years or so. MADNESS. But it was great (although exhausting). I think I just completely forgot how to rope climb at the beginning of the session so I was using my arms too much which lead to v quick “shit I’m done”. Nevertheless, I ended up staying for two hours and I don’t think I’ve ever worked that hard. I’m not exactly sore from it but at the time it felt harder than any climbing I’ve done for years! I flashed numerous 5s. There were 2 I couldn’t do, but I think because I was so tired by the time I tried them. I also on sighted a 6a and 6a+. For a first rope session in a while I think that’s something to be proud of. I very sloppily got up most of a 6b, that I probably could have done in two parts but I tried numerous times and got more solid at what I could do however couldn’t find a way around my lack of quad strength and the fact that I couldn’t push to much on the wall with my right arm due to my elbow. If I go back before a reset it’s a project I’m definitely coming back to. I also tried two 6b+s which I know I can do all the moves of in my soul but stamina and the unique difficulties I have with balance, struggling to feel my hands and feet on the wall as well as stability and power meant they just were not happening. I for whatever reason undercrimped? Is that a thing. I realised today that maybe that hold was meant for a toe hook so might try that if I go back to it. It was a good session but bloody exhausting. I am definitely a boulderer. I don’t know when that conversion happened. (Think I could also be a lead climber tho cause my issue with top rope is the rope gets in your way sometimes!) I realised if I am going to do the whole competitive paraclimbing thing there is a lot of work to do! Although it probably is better to compete this year as a practice run for when I’m hopefully stronger and have a chance of doing well so…. paraclimbing nationals at the end of the feb may indeed happen.

Saturday was HAMILTON! It was incredible. I mean it’s Hamilton of course it was. I really liked the Eliza who was on (don’t know whose cast right now in the west end soz). I mean I literally cried at burn. And then the tears just continued. If you know, You know. I also really loved Jefferson! He was great fun. And King George always is. My collarbones wearnt’t in place all day and my neck was feeling unstable but it was so worth it! Isn’t Hamilton always?

Today, I finished spinning out and asides from trying to make sure I have semi order in my flat I’m really trying to rest. I can barely stand up so not hard. But also is.

I hope you all had a good week! I will be back with another post next week.

Fear of getting back on that rope

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Yes. I am aware. We are becoming a climbing blog which is dangerous because I have v few decent bouldering pictures left and 0 rope pictures so stock pictures it is until I get new ones taken!

Anywho. This is highly related to mental health, chronic illness and why I boulder. For people who have followed me for a while you will know that when I climbed competitively I had anorexia. As I competed regionally, these were top rope competitions. I was a top rope climber and I did a little lead which I fell in love with instantly and need to relearn and find people to do so with.

Back in the day, climbing got very tied up with my eating disorder. How tight was my harness? Had I gained weight? Heck does my harness still fit me? People with eating disorders are also often perfectionists, very competitive and have to be the best. And here comes my I used to measure myself by a climbing grade.

But I used to beat myself up if I couldn’t do x climb as well as y. I literally pushed myself through beyond excruciating collar bone pain, two weeks after my injury to get up a relatively easy overhang climb because my partner did it easily and I didn’t want to show weakness. I then even lied to my climbing instructor about the pain because I didn’t want to show weakness.

Now climbing with multiple chronic pain conditions – yes I do push myself through excruciating pain. Yes I have partially dislocated hips, toes and shoulders on the wall. But that’s now. Now when I am also making an effort to be very self aware. And that’s okay.

But in 2014. It wasn’t and I recognise that now. A hobby shouldn’t turn into yet another facet of a severe mental illness.  So I stopped competing and 2 years later ended up exclusively bouldering.

Bouldering – (although I was still way more obsessed with that number than I should have been, meaning I didn’t practice my weaknesses) was a way to escape from that connection. It also took away the harness. Bouldering allowed me to love the sport again and find myself. Through bouldering I found my freedom.  I never thought I’d see myself as a boulderer. I still often catch myself resending a problem and realising I’m climbing like a top roper. But bouldering gave me that freedom when I needed it the most. Strangely I find bouldering a lot more social too!

So now here I am. More in love with the sport than I have been since I was 15/16 and anorexic. And I want to get back on that rope. If I can fund it. It is also an integral part of at least  one of my 2020 climbing goals and maybe a 2nd new goal since realising how much I miss competing.

But I have 2 fears. One is mental health related. Will getting back on a rope suddenly make it feel more serious again and make me take it too seriously and will I as a result, fall out of love. Am I in a place where I will take each day as it comes and not obsess about getting that grade? I think I am. But what if I’m not.

The second is physical health related. Do I have the endurance? What will the payback be like? Now of course I recognise top roping will be easier on my joints than bouldering as no high impact falls or jumps. But what about my ME?

Now of course I don’t know unless I try. And yeah maybe it will be a waste of £9. Maybe the payback will be more than I can hack. Maybe I can’t even top the wall on the easiest of routes. Or maybe it will feel even more like coming home than getting back into the sport 6 weeks ago did.

There’s no way of knowing until I try. So even if I have to diarise it. I will take that leap. And I dare everyone reading this to take a leap too. With anything that has been scaring them but they also know, in their heads and they’re hearts that it’s what they want.

The people you find at the climbing gym and how this relates to the people you find when you have a chronic illness.

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Han 4 years ago, playing on a V0 for fun

The climbing gym is a lot like an actual gym. But with better music and a more social atmosphere. Nethertheless it can get quite intimidating climbing the lower grades when there’s burley men or women climbing grades above your max. (Mine is a V4 right now) Hilariously these are the people who are often the kindest. They may cheer you on when you’re attempting a difficult move or provide useful advice. Not in a nagging, one up on you way but because they recognise that everyone starts somewhere and collaboration is sometimes helpful.

There are then two types of people who are at around the same level as you. There’s the people you meet when your both working on the same problem. There’s a specific problem that I’ve been working on for two weeks and sent today during my lets send the most antistyle V1s in this gym sesh today. I got 4 of the 5 that I hadn’t yet sent. But hadn’t even attempted the 5th before today and I wasn’t feeling well and I got V3 to make up for it. So fair.

Anyway this STEEP problem I sent today. Nice holds and everything. I’ve had quite a few nice conversations whilst working on it. It seems no matter the height the crux is the same for everyone. An awkward across up, steep af move. It’s not hard. When you know how. But how is different for everyone. This is something I like about bouldering. I tend to boulder on my own – unless I go to a group coaching session or the women’s group at my wall as I find this a better way to get into the right headspace than if climbing with my closest friend or younger brothers.

I do like striking random conversations with people I’ve never met before. Especially when they’re nice people at your level and trying to do the same thing. It’s quite motivating and other people’s betas are always helpful if your just stuck.

It’s certainly one of the pro’s of climbing in a busy gym.

Then there’s the people who are at around your level and have already sent the problem your trying and just give unsolicited advice and not just one piece. One piece fine. Thanks. I’ll try your beta suggestion or think more about using that specific technique. I have no issue with one piece of unsolicited advice and will take it with open arms. I find it helpful even though often this hasn’t been the beta that worked it’s been nice to try new things.

My issue is those people who are not coaches and take it on themselves to try and coach you as if they have one up on you. No bbz. Focus on your own game. Of course, I’ll take your advice. I’ll think about it. I may even try your beta for that part of the problem and see what happens. But if it doesn’t work, I want the freedom to be able to stick to my own instincts without being insulted for it. These types of people don’t help when you already can get anxious about people watching you. I know it affects my game sometimes! We are all different people. We all have different bodies and different circumstances. Maybe my eventual beta for this final V1 (when I get it, if I get it) won’t be the most technical or the most graceful. And yes technique is so so so important and why I sent my first V4s in four years because I certainly can’t fall back on strength. It’s also why I sent that STEEP AF V1 I did today.

But and there is a big but. Asides from different bodies = different betas. You don’t need to use all the techniques in every single problem nor make an effort to do so. It’s about having a toolbox and unlocking what you need when you need.

I liken these people who give this sort of never ending one up on you kind of advice at the gym to people on social media or in life with/without chronic illness trying to give never ending advice about your chronic illness.

Those “have you tried yoga types.” or “My friend had ME and she had GET and got better.” I’m sure anyone reading this who has a chronic illness can come up with many others.

I think sometimes asides from a genuine desire to help advice like this be it in climbing or in health some people give advice like this due to an insecurity the person has and it makes sense. Coming from a very insecure person I get it. But it’s not cool and it can be really harmful (less so in climbing other than injury wise and getting more anxious and overwhelmed wise.) but in chronic illness life this sort of advice can be incredibly harmful. Both physically and mentally. It can leave you feeling deflated like your not trying enough to get better. At worst it can lead you to do something that causes a permanent deterioration.

AND THAT IS NOT COOL.

If you see yourself giving this type of advice, then please think before you speak. I get that you may think your helping or doing a good deed or are insecure or whatever but just think before you speak.