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.

Climbing and my eating disorder. To quit or not to quit?

Eating disorders in the climbing community are kept kinda hush, hush, Yes there was the so called climborexia phase but now climbers realize technique also plays an important part. This being very true. Technique is important. But how does climbing place
in the role of a developing or success of recovery from an eating disorder.

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Chris Sharma!

 


 Sport and eating disorders.

Well research has shown that people participating in competitive sport are at higher risk of developing an eating disorder such as Anorexia or Bulimia Nervosa. OSFED (Previously EDNOS) is also a cause for concern as it has been highlighted as the most dangerous of eating disorders. I guess sports can be categorized into Technical, endurance, aesthetic, weight dependent. ball games and power sports. Amongst these Aesthetic sports carries the highest rate of eating disorders with weight dependent sports coming a close second.

You may ask. What does this have to do with climbing? Well to be climbing is not one sole category but a multitude. One of those being weight dependent. Not forgetting technique and potentially endurance and power sport. This however is all dependent on your chosen area of climbing. Be it sport, trad, Alpine,bouldering, mountaineering or competition.

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Steph Davis!

 

So of course your ability to climb at any given time is partly down to weight to muscle ratio. Fat won’t help you get up the wall.Specially in female climbers pressures to be thin are added. This could all lead to the development or severity of an eating disorder. There are some very thin climbers out there.

There is also the pressure factor. Be it from family or your coach. There is the potential that climbing families can apply too much pressure on the child. The potential on a coach pushing a young person too far. To a predisposed individual talk about simple things such as weight- to – muscle and healthy eating could play a part in the cause or increasing severity of an eating disorder when mixed with other known factors such us; bullying, perfectionism, pressure from school, abuse or death of a loved one.

Your eating disorder may portray itself to you as a way to excel in your sport. It may start as a fitness plan or a healthy eating plan and rapidly spiral out of control.

Climbing and recovery.

This section I guess specifically focuses in indoor climbing and competition climbing. When grades are most important. While in recovery from an eating disorder simple things such as putting your harness on or your chalk- bag round your waist may become triggering. Maybe the feeling that your going backwards instead of forwards. The inevitable weight gain. This can all effect recovery. Not just mentally but physically.

We all know that exercising at a low weight is extremely dangerous and can be the cause of heart attacks and premature death. There is also the fact that exercising during the weight gain process can cause you to overshoot your natural weight. Of course us climbers can’t just not climb. It’s like a drug and to many sufferers of eating disorders exercise is like a drug.

So yes not only can climbing be a cause or reason for an increase in severity it can also be a hindrance during the recovery process. Especially when not many people know of your disorder.

My Experiance

Well I’ve had an Eating disorder for six years. EDNOS. About 18 months ago I started climbing. I was rubbish at it but I loved it. It was just for fun then really. No weight-to-muscle to triggering coaches, no targets apart from those which were self set. May 2013. I climbed my first 6a. My instructor said something about how I was light so it was easy for me. Not that this was the cause of the increased severity in my eating disorder as many other factors played a part but it was something I remember almost a year on.

June 2013 I had lost A LOT OF WEIGHT. Ok probably not that much. We don’t have working scales at home so I can’t give definitive numbers but people were commenting. June 2013. Marking the start of recovery. When recognized and openly admitted there was a problem. June 22nd, I went to my friends party. A buffet. Ok I didn’t eat a huge amount and refused to eat dinner that evening. I also proceeded to do some silly amount of sit ups that evening but it was a step in the right direction.

I guess I was fighting for recovery from then on really. I was however still losing weight. Late July I gained a whole 1/2lb. This freaked me out like hell. Returning from holiday in august things started to slip again. Thing is with this slip my climbing was noticeably better. I onsited a 6a+ Not just climbed, no hours spent. Just straight up. No effort what-so-ever. I was so tiny it was all so easy.

Picking myself back up from the relapse. Eventually I guess climbing wasn’t a problem until 2014 came along. Since the new year I have been gaining and gaining and gaining. This is due to a failure to be-able to intuitively eat. A failure to be-able to eat what my body needs when not in control. Sometimes it feels like I’ve developed Binge eating disorder. I may have climbed my first 6b about a month ago. Bouldered my first v3 along with that. Following a series of recant injury’s however climbing the crack was near impossible last Friday. My arms are just too weak for it. They never used to be. I can only attribute that to the impeding far growth on my stomach. I can’t deny it to myself. It is there and it is real. There could of course be many other factors attributing to a drop in performance. This could include how I hadn’t eaten lunch and how my shoulder was not actually fully healed. There is also the fact that the recant injuries meant training had been lacking.

So now I’m sitting on the fence. I don’t gain as much enjoyment from climbing as I once did. I swear I’ve gained atleast a stone since the Friday…A lack of workouts and being at my nans. She forces food down my throat and I feel pressured to eat it. Writing about it makes me feel so guilty. I need to be skinny again. I need to lose weight not give in to this.

I guess I can’t quit climbing for another 9 weeks. It would be unfair on my mother. Maybe in those 9 weeks I will find new perspective. When I get home tomorrow I will beable to train again. Maybe if my parents allow me to become a vegan that will make a difference. Or maybe my climbing ability will not get any better and I may still be climbing worse than everyone else but I will have learnt to accept that and stop comparing myself to others. There is a chance that one day I will be-able enjoy climbing once more. Not for the competition and not for the grades but out pure love for the sport. The sense of freedom and challenge. I guess there’s no point in me climbing if it’s to “be the best”. I never started climbing to be the best. I started out of pure enjoyment. The feeling I get when climbing.

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Me bouldering indoors at fort Purbrook about a week after returning from holiday. No pressure, no one to compare myself to. Just me and the wall.

 

Maybe happiness well come and one day I may find my passion once more. Climb for enjoyment not to be good at it and not let my eating disorder allow me to believe anything about how I should lose weight, need to lose weight and how my BMI is way to heavy for a climbers. I need to learn to climb for fun and not competition. Only then will my love and passion return.