Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes your life does not go to plan, sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to even if you tried hard to make sure they would. Sometimes really terrible, tragic things happen and you have to rebuild, and…
I may not have been snowboarding for long and I may not be very good, but riding has already changed my life in ways I didn’t think was possible. Of course, when I took it up my intention was that it would help me to turn my life around, but it still surprises me that in such a short space of time it has had such a profound effect.
Snowboarding has given me confidence. The confidence to push myself hard and take small risks to enjoy my life, the confidence to talk to new people, the confidence to no longer worry about looking stupid no matter how hilariously I fail. I’ve learnt that if you don’t put in 100% with no fear, you’ll never do your best or achieve your full potential.
It’s helped me to find healthy coping strategies for those late nights when there’s nobody around. When I’m anxious or when I’m starting to have suicidal urges that before I would’ve acted on, I can lock my door and just immerse myself watching edits, movies, documentaries and tutorials. I don’t have to think, I don’t have to feel. Obviously, it’s not always effective, but it definitely has saved me from crisis on multiple occasions.
When I’m on the snow, nothing matters anymore except for the feeling of descending the slope, having fun and trying to improve my technique. I can’t afford to get distracted because whenever I do, I fall, but I don’t get distracted about negative things anyway because I’m generally feeling too pumped up and concentrating hard.
That’s not to say I don’t have struggles while on the slope, of course. I have horrible anxiety about using the Poma lift because I’m still not good at catching it or staying balanced while being dragged up. I had a particularly hard fall that made me dissociate and possibly triggered an absence, I’m always a little concerned about possibly breaking my wrist as a violinist, and some days I just ride far better than others and it gets extremely frustrating. But even on bad days, everything from outside is left at the door of Xscape: all my problems, my past, everything.
Since I booked my very first lesson, I’ve always had something to look forward to. I was facing a long, lonely summer and now I don’t even care that I’m alone. (Not that I am anymore exactly, I’ve made some good friends through riding.) My whole life now revolves around my music and snowboarding. No matter how shit my day is, how bad my mental health is, snowboarding is basically giving me a reason to stay alive, and has reminded me what being happy and having fun feels like.
Of course, I can’t overlook that already, my physical health has improved significantly. One of my primary motivations for starting to snowboard was in the hope that a fun physical activity would not only help on its own but also serve as motivation to improve my health to the best it can be. Sure enough, my preparation period and my continued desire to become the best snowboarder I can be has made me more consistent with my diet, exercise, and taking care of my body. I’m fainting less than I was, I feel better than I did, I’m able to do more than I could and I’m getting stronger and fitter every week.
Taking up the sport was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions of my life. I love the sense of achievement I get when I learn something new, I love the happiness it brings, I love how alive it makes me feel and how much it’s helping me progress as a person.
Before I started snowboarding I had money, dignity, grace and my bedroom wasn’t perpetually decorated with soggy outdoor clothing hanging up to dry. Now I’m always damp, cold, bruised, aching, I make a fool of myself daily, and will probably be broke my whole life. But do I regret it? Absolutely not.
— Miss ASTRID 🐝 (@itsmissastrid) May 24, 2016
Words cannot even begin to describe how happy I am right now to have successfully completed my first lesson. For somebody who more or less stayed indoors for six months with little human interaction and who has multiple mental and physical health conditions, to be be able to do this was a huge step forwards in my recovery and was one of the best and most fun experiences of my life.
That’s not to say it was the easiest thing for me to go and do. I was so simultaneously excited and terrified when the day arrived, but as it turned out, my nervousness beforehand was completely unnecessary and wasted energy – not that I would know that until I was doing it, or that I was able to help it, mind.
First though, I had to get there, and this was no easy task. I can’t drive so my only option was to take public transport, but I’m actually scared of both buses and trains for various reasons which are only made worse when I’m already in a state of heightened anxiety, as I was. But I was so determined that I was going to do this that somehow, after much googling and checking details with the staff at the bus station, I miraculously managed to find my way to the right bus, get on said bus, and even get off at the right place.
When I got into Xscape, I was shaking and panicky trying to navigate through the place. It felt full of people, though in hindsight it definitely wasn’t, and it was like a maze of shops that I was stuck in with no clue of the direction I was supposed to go in. When I finally found the reception desk at Snozone this had not fully worn off. However, the staff were so friendly and the woman who was there even commented on my anxious state and did her best to reassure me and help me relax while she checked me in and gave me my hired clothing.
Once I had my gear on, I was feeling a lot better. Still nervous, of course, but excited for what was ahead. I went to get my boots and my board and wait for the instructor and I was both happy and amazed to discover that my very first lesson would be taught by a woman. I’ve often been told that snowboarding was a “man’s sport”, and obviously I have some anxieties around men after what has happened to me in my life, so I feel that luck was on my side that day and everything was falling into place to make me feel the most comfortable I could have possibly felt. Shoutout to Charlotte for being a brilliant instructor, for having both a super cool and really lovely personality, and for making me feel really at ease.
The first half of the lesson covered the basics of the board, skating with one foot strapped in, and toe edge control/diagonal side slipping. Coming down backwards felt quite bizarre to start with, but I actually got the hang of it fairly quickly. Although, I was the first to fall. While just skating. Of course.
The second half of the lesson was a recap of toe edge control and learning the same on heel edge. This was a harder for me, and I sat hard on my tailbone a few times. At one point I was convinced that I was not getting it at all and maybe never would, but I was determined to persevere anyway and suddenly it clicked. Once I finally realised that no matter what, even and especially when I hit a bump, I needed to keep my toes up, I couldn’t understand why I’d found this so difficult.
I felt such a sense of accomplishment after passing my first two stages because I was so convinced that I would be completely hopeless, the only girl, and faceplanting or falling flat on my arse every three seconds. Of course, I’m sure I did look completely hopeless, the class was very male dominated and falling did happen, naturally. But honestly, I had the best time, and I didn’t even fall half as much as I’d actually expected to.
Would I recommend learn to snowboard? Absolutely. Do I still think this is a good pursuit for me? Absolutely. In fact, I was so pumped and enjoyed it so much that I’ve already booked my next lesson.
I want to end this post by saying a huge thank you to the staff at Snozone Castleford for being so friendly, kind and generally excellent, and for helping me to remember what it feels like to have fun again.
This is not a post I wanted to be writing, but last week on Thursday something happened to me that has brought everything back. Something that has made me, I suppose, unpredictable and overly emotional for the last few days. Something that I need to…
On Tuesday I walked 20km with no fainting, kept myself adequately fuelled, hydrated and fully enjoyed my time in the sun. This is a pretty big achievement when you consider that not so long ago, back when my health was so terrible that simply walking could be at times…
When I was first admitted to day hospital they asked me if I could identify any signs or behaviours that were an indicator that my mental health was deteriorating, and at the time I couldn’t and didn’t even care enough to want to work it out and help myself.
Following my recent return to crisis state but newfound drive to try even harder to get as near to well as I can, I’ve tried to look at these most recent events to see if there were any similarities in my behaviour so that in future I might be able to spot the descent myself, or at least so that other people can advise me to get help if they spot them and I don’t.
I want to share my list here so that not only does it keep me accountable, but perhaps if anybody reading this is in a similar position to where I was before, you might be able to draw parallels to your own life and it might help you to work out what your own indicators are. Of course though, this is very much dependent on what your conditions are.
For me, my list goes almost in order:
- I start to stay longer in bed and ignore my schedule.
- I stop allowing even my closest friends to touch me.
- I stop cleaning.
- My washing piles up.
- Eating patterns become erratic. (Don’t eat for a week, eat everything twice the next.)
- Significant weight loss or gain.
- Making no effort with my physical appearance. (Not washing my face, not even dry shampooing my hair, wearing mismatched clothes)
- Physical health deterioration.
- Avoiding contact with friends.
- Avoiding/cancelling necessary appointments.
- Not attending classes.
- Irrational thinking (that I don’t believe to be irrational until afterwards).
- Only leaving the flat for alcohol. (People seeing me drunk more often outside of a standard social setting should definitely ring alarm bells)
- Becoming more flirtatious with the few people I do make contact with.
- Not making contact to excuse my absences.
There are other things that I have probably missed, but these are the biggest indicators that spring to mind that aren’t necessarily the most obvious to begin with. At some point I may well go into more detail about my thoughts on why I think these things happen, but right now I don’t want to distract from the purpose of what I’m saying.
Today I’m making a promise to myself that if I even start to see one of these signs re-emerging I’m going to reach out to somebody, and while I don’t expect to never end up in crisis ever again just by trying to keep track of these things (often crisis can be sudden), I’m sure hoping that it might make it a lot less likely.
If you are in a similar position as me, I invite you to join me and make your own list, and if you ever feel yourself slipping downhill at all please seek some kind of support even if you don’t feel like it’s a full blown problem yet, because it can become too late very, very quickly, and you are never “not sick enough” to ask for help.
The other day I sat in the office with my support worker discussing the way that my life has been going for the last few months, the things that have affected the direction of my life so far and my plans for the future, and while we…