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It came way too fast!

I committed back in November to participate in the Cypress Hills High Altitude Trail Challenge as part of my journey back to health after two years of recovery following a debilitating concussion.

First, you could not have convinced me that what was originally described as a mild concussion would lead to an MRI a year after the injury still showing a micro brain bleed and bruising. It gave me so much understanding as to why my life, and that of my kids, had been so utterly shattered. A personality change,  up-levelled migraines, memory lapses, foggy brain and an inability to form words or write consistently, all led to some pretty dark moments and uncharted territory.

Second, you could never have convinced me I would ever run as a hobby, nevermind register for a 5K! I have been vocal my entire life that I despise running. I had every excuse as to why it was not for me.

My, how things change.

Just over a year ago, our Foundation was approached by a couple who had taken over the organizing of the Cypress Hills Challenge, and they wanted to donate their fundraising efforts to BFF. Through that process, we discovered some meaningful connections and have developed a strong relationship with the organizers, Kelsey and Andre Delorme.

In my role as the ED, I thought it important to represent our cause so people knew exactly what their contributions were doing. While there, I could feel the churning inside of me, compelling me to consider participating in their next run. It took until November to actually convince myself that it was the very obstacle I needed to overcome, this running thing.

Of course, there were other obstacles.

I announced to the Board that I wanted to use this whole journey as a launching pad for a new movement within our BFF community, to encourage healthy choices and ways of being. “Breaking Free for Me” or “#BF4ME” was born and I was committed, no turning back. Theo immediately commented, “No excuses,” and Dawn talked about accountability. Amber was excited that I was taking charge of my healing journey. Everyone chimed in their support and it was clear I would not (could not) back out!

Fast forward.

I may have been ready to get my butt in gear after being sedentary for two years, but a shoulder injury that caused excruciating pain when I attempted to do pretty much anything, reared its ugly head when I tried to get active.

Who knew my shoulder could inhibit my attempt to run? I tried modified exercise to try and build my strength, but nothing worked. My specialist used cortisone as a way to determine where the pain was coming from and after five failed attempts requested an MRI. He was shocked when the results came back because, after 27 years in practice, he would never have anticipated that it was osteoarthritis. I didn’t present that way, my responses didn’t act that way, but in his words, MRIs don’t lie. While it is a common ailment as we age, he told me I was far too young for this. Great.

Life goes on.

It was apparent if I wanted to fulfil my commitment to running, I was just going to have to push through the pain and do it. I went for another injection, this time hyaluronic acid, to hopefully cushion the bones to allow for pain relief and eventually some strength training. That was at the beginning of July and it took over a month for it to kick in.

I would go out for a walk/jog regardless. Walk a minute, jog a minute, while holding my arm up over my chest to limit the movement of my shoulder. I looked truly awkward I’m sure, but I was doing it. I’d decided by this time that if I jogged a little and walked a lot, as long as I crossed the finish line that’s all that mattered.

Kids say the darndest things.

Before I left on my trek to Saskatchewan, my daughter asked if I was excited. When I said no, she promptly responded with, “Lades, you used to be the most positive person I know.” My kids have called me Lady instead of Mom for several years, an endearment that has been shortened to “Lades”. Odd, I know, but I’ve grown to love our quirky family traits. Anyway, her comment jolted me for obvious reasons. I did clarify with her that my reasons were about not being ready to run the entire thing and feeling like a failure.

Augst 18th, 2018 – Challenge Day.

I woke up to sunshine without scorching heat. There was a breeze and it felt like heaven. I was in nature, I was going to attempt something I originally thought not possible, and I was ready. As ready as I could be. There was smoke, something I thought I’d left behind in Alberta. There was altitude. I really should have figured out exactly what that would mean for me. Calgary’s elevation sits at 1,045 metres or 3,428 feet if you’re not fully converted, like me. Cypress Hills’ altitude is 1,468 metres or 4,816 feet, just a wee bit of a difference! The tree roots along the path added interest and caused intense focus to my first 5K experience as well.

I crossed the finish line!

It took about 50 minutes. I jogged a little and walked a lot, but I did it, I crossed the finish line! I ended up with a companion who regaled me with safari stories. We were both so happy we’d made it and now I want to go to Africa and stay in tents where they bring you breakfast and serve you coffee!

Reflecting on the journey.

I was so happy! I had no clue how I’d feel when I was done, but boy was it amazing. For the first time in what seems like forever, I feel like I’ve actually achieved something. For me. For my kids. For my future.

My sense of failure for not being able to run the entire way disappeared. I was completely elated that through the smoke, the altitude, the trees and their root systems, I’d done something I was skeptical I’d be able to accomplish.

When Amber posted pics on social media and said mine was the face of pure joy, she nailed it. I had declared 2018 as my year of finding joy (as prescribed by one of my many doctors over the past couple of years), and at that moment I was joy-filled! The negative self-talk I am accustomed to in my head was silenced enough to let her even post a photo of me.

People need to see that smile. That moment. It is a significant indicator that through my own struggles I was able to push through the pain – both physical and emotional – to get to a better state of mental wellness. While we know that physical activity releases happy hormones and helps move trauma from our bodies, sometimes we can feel like that will never happen for us, at least that’s how it felt for me. Now I know first hand how different life can be when I pursue physical well being.

One day, one step at a time.

Driving home I wondered if I would let myself off the hook and quit walking/jogging because I’d accomplished my goal. What’s interesting is I don’t want to stop moving. My leg muscles weren’t in pain, not even a little, and I’d actually put in 17 kilometres and climbed 33 ‘floors’ when the day was done. My shoulder is no worse for the activity and in fact, I was able to vacuum my living room for the first time in at least a year.

Gratitude

When Kelsey and Andre approached us to offer the funds raised from last year’s run, none of us could have known how both of them would impact me personally in such a life-altering manner. Not only did the Cypress Hills High Altitude Trail Challenge make a difference for BFF, but I have gained two beautiful friends who have truly changed the trajectory of my life and mental/physical wellness. That’s something to be grateful for, I’d say. No emotions here…nope.

Amber: “So how’s #BF4ME going, any updates?”

Me: Intentionally nervous laugh: “Haha, what’s #BF4ME?” (If you’re not sure, read more here)

Amber: “I have to ask, there hasn’t been a blog or update in a while.”

Nobody’s been asking, so I haven’t been telling, plain and simple. I haven’t actively participated in my commitment to healthy eating or getting ready for a running challenge, in about a month.

My eating habits have improved some, but not as significantly as they need to. The frustration mentally is that I know how to eat healthily, and I used to be known as a healthy eater and how nutrition impacts my wellbeing. So, what’s the deal?

Since that conversation with Amber, I’ve had some inner dialogue, some good and some not. I knew when I started talking about registering for a run, that if I didn’t go public with my commitment, I likely wouldn’t follow through. I went public and I’m still not making much progress. The truth is, after we chatted, it jerked my chain enough to get me going.

Over the weekend I got out my Simply Fit Board, watched the DVD, got on it and found out I actually really enjoy it! I’ve stopped eating before bed, and I’ve realized that some of my eating is purely to keep me company. Sure, it’s only been a few days, but I already feel better physically and I’m also aware that someone is going to ask. Maybe not Amber, but someone will.

I also officially registered for the run I’d committed to way back in November. If you are interested in participating in the Cypress Hills High Altitude Trail Challenge, or in supporting me by being present, check it out [here].

Definition of accountability
: the quality or state of being accountable;  especially  : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

What exactly does accountability look like to me in this situation, and how do I ensure its success?

  • I accept that I am responsible for my actions (or lack thereof)
  • I am willing to be asked about my progress and am willing to answer honestly
  • I will ask for help when I’m struggling
  • I will adjust and improve as needed
  • I will attend the race and run in August, to fulfill my commitment

One of the things we discussed early on in the #BF4ME campaign, was that we would find ways to get healthy and active at minimum cost.

I am not a big believer in diets per se but in eating and lifestyle changes. I do believe that in order to succeed, we may need a kickstart, and I’ve found something I’m going to try. I’ve had the tab open on my computer for a couple of weeks now but given that I’ve been brought to task on my progress, I am going to take the plunge and follow Dr. Oz’s 21 Day Weight Loss Breakthrough Diet! Yes, it has the “D” word in it, but for me, it’s about finding what will work to change habits and three weeks is the average time it takes to create new ones. It’s a starting point for me, for a lifestyle change.

I’ve also been made aware of a free walking/running track about 15 minutes from my home, so will take advantage of that.

I’m sincerely looking forward to having some positive updates within the next couple of weeks, and I am grateful that someone kept me accountable. Thanks, Amber!

“The jiggling I’d felt in my head when it hit the ground had most certainly been more than a little whiplash.” Little did I know the impact that fall would have on my brain, nor the long-term, life-altering effect on my life. Two years later and I’m venturing into a new chapter, a new way of living and being.

No pain no gain, right?

Until recently I felt my future was pretty stilted and my ability to pursue my dreams or plans had gone out the window. My functioning brain, my drive, my positive outlook on life seemed a distant memory. Oh yah, the memory was sloppy too.

I started toying with the idea of running in a half (or quarter) marathon after I’d attended the Cypress Hills High Hopes Challenge last August. They were raising funds for BFF and as the ED of our Foundation, I wanted to represent, to share what our organization does and show appreciation for their commitment and donation. Now I shake my head. How silly for me to expose myself to something that would draw me into a whole new world, something I said I’d never do. Run.

The two-year mark of my concussion was looming after that visit to Cypress Hills and I knew something desperately needed to change. After experiencing depression (which is almost standard following a concussion), significant weight gain due to inactivity and lack of desire to take care of myself physically or mentally, the downward spiral had to stop. My neuro-rehab had considerably lifted the fog in my brain, but I still felt so sluggish. All I wanted to do was sleep. My doctor told me I was borderline for hypothyroidism and that she wasn’t going to put me on medication…yet.

Enough already.

As someone who is known for taking responsibility for my actions and not deflecting or blaming others, it was time to face myself and create change. In order for renewal and spark to show up in my life, I knew I’d have to go big or stop complaining while I stayed stuck. Will Smith’s recent viral Instagram video about fault vs responsibility sums up where I’m at with myself. It’s actually nobody’s fault that it was icy when I fell, but how I live going forward is definitely up to me.

Taking responsibility is taking your power back. ~Will Smith

If it’s going to be it’s up to me.

The past two months I’ve vacillated between, “What was I thinking?” to “I can’t wait to feel better!” So now that I’ve got some time behind me, where am I at with my efforts in getting healthy and preparing for a 5K?

The Good | finding joy

I finally have a grip on my eating. I joined four others for a week of clean eating, and I almost nailed it! Eliminating sugar, wheat and dairy is no easy task but I’ve done it before and I’m doing it again. With the exception of a wee bit of coconut sugar in my coffee, I’m very satisfied with my improvement in food choices. It sounds so weird to write this, given that eating healthy used to be my norm. The side benefit is that my kids are eating healthier too, and they’re liking it!

Sure I’ve shed a bit of weight and I can tell (I’m not weighing myself, remember), but it’s the clear head and no naps required that are my main wins. So. Happy. I’m noticing a glimmer of confidence returning.

I’ve noticed an improvement in my emotions and mental processes too. We all know what we put in our mouths affects our well being, but it’s a whole different matter to take charge and ensure we do something about it!

I stumbled upon Dr. Susan David’s work this week and I love her message! I haven’t bought her book yet, Emotional Agility, but I will be. In her Ted Talk, three comments got my attention:

  1. I was praised for being strong. One of my triggers is being told how strong I am. Sometimes I’d really rather not have to be, but in retrospect, I’ve become grateful for that strength.
  2. Courage is fear…walking. Wow. I relate to that on so many levels. I have lived courageously, I’ve survived and I continue to walk with courage.
  3. Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility. The juxtaposition of my love of life and the pain I’ve experienced is wrapped up in that sentence.

The Bad | what’s not working

I’m still not active enough. I’m becoming more accountable to certain people and I’ve signed up for a jiu-jitsu class. I have a long-standing shoulder injury I’m dealing with so won’t be tackling anyone anytime soon, but the reality is, the movements and stretches can be modified to suit my physical ability. No excuses.

In the days leading up to the Olympics, I came across the story of Mark McMorris, a Canadian snowboarder who almost lost his life last March. He was still named to the Olympic team as long as he was fully recovered in time. He more than met the challenge and I was so moved by his story. He is now my inspiration as I continue on my own journey. It is truly worth the 45 minutes of your life to marvel at his recovery and to gain inspiration from. I’ll be watching him closely as he competes!

The Ugly | what I’m fighting

The mental beating: I’m not doing enough, I’m never going to be ready for the run in August, once again my grandiose venture is just too, well, grandiose. It’s my mental capacity that’s been my biggest challenge, but it’s also been where I’m finding my greatest growth right now.

  • I’m processing grief – the great losses I’ve experienced since my concussion, that only I know.
  • I’m recognizing where my negative self-talk has blocked me and I’m finally getting somewhere with changing it.
  • Some days my emotions drive me around a bend. I’ve been told once or twice that I’m “too emotional”. I’ve come a long way, and the above Ted Talk along with her workbook and quizzes have been eye opening and helpful.

The Takeaway

No pain no gain includes the mental, emotional and physical aspects of what I’m working towards. The same way building muscles can hurt, so does building mental and emotional strength. Step by step, not giving up, falling down and getting up. No matter your skill level or your age, the determining factor is your willingness to take responsibility for yourself.

As Jeff Haden talks about in this Inc.com article, it won’t be fun in the moment… but it will make you a lot happier over the long-term.

Next update I will make myself more accountable by sharing my plan/process to get to August’s run. I better get on that!

Now that Christmas and New Year’s are behind us, all the talk is around whether people are still making resolutions or not. The general consensus is that they set us up for defeat and that very few people are successful at maintaining their resolution.

I’m glad I started this #BF4ME challenge in November because I’m one of those people who could care less about resolutions, I just want to change and grow year round. It does, however, give each of us an opportunity to reflect on what went well last year, what didn’t, and what we can choose to do differently in 2018.

I for one, was happy to say buh-bye to 2017, let me tell you! I did wake up on January 1st, however, with firm resolve. It was a knowing deep down that this year would be different.


re·solve

rəˈzälv/
verb
1.
settle or find a solution to (a problem, dispute, or contentious matter)
“the firm aims to resolve problems within 30 days”
synonyms: settle, sort out, solve, find a solution to, fix, straighten out, deal with, put right, put to rights, rectify
2.
decide firmly on a course of action
“she resolved to call Dana as soon as she got home”
synonyms: determine, decide, make up one’s mind, make a decision | “Bob resolved not to wait any longer”

Resolve doesn’t have a date attached to it, nor does it require creating a habit of some sort.

My paraphrase to the dictionary definition is to make a firm decision to solve a problem. My way of dealing with my health was to make a firm decision to enter a marathon, announce it publicly, and use it to inspire others to not only get active but to find ways to take control of their own journeys and destinies. It comes back to the recognition that bad things have happened, but how I move forward is completely in my control – my attitudes, my actions, my thought processes, and how I want to “be and do” in this world.

Saying that I have had some serious epiphanies in the past couple of weeks and have made some strides towards change:

  1. I am an enabler. I had to choose my own mental health over that of another, and it was gut-wrenching to verbalize my boundaries, knowing they would be met with anger, and it wasn’t even my kids! I also had to recognize that others’ choices are not my responsibility. While I know this in my head, I would just rather look after things (or people) because it’s much easier that way.
  2. If I’m not okay, the influence on my kids and those I care about will be negatively impacted. It’s quite preferable that we look after ourselves, considering that none of us can pour from an empty cup. This has smacked me in the face repeatedly over the holidays, so much so that I have told my teenagers that I’m on a staycation for the next two weeks. What that looks like is them taking care of themselves while I take care of me. So hard to do, and it’s going to be very challenging to follow through on it.
  3. I know that I know this is the year my health takes precedence, and that I am actually going to make sure of it. Between ensuring my brain gets what it needs, to finding sleep solutions, to setting emotionally healthy boundaries, to food choices, to .. ugh .. running to prepare for a 5K marathon, to reflecting on my spirituality, it all matters. Every bit that makes up me is part of my #BF4ME challenge this year, and I know I’m going to win!

So there’s my resolve. Now to how things have been progressing.

The Good | finding joy

  1. I decided not to weigh myself over the next months while preparing for the High Altitude Challenge in August, but rather measure my progress with size change, muscle tone and my ability to actually run. It was a mental boost the second I chose this path.
  2. Kombucha! I’ve discovered that drinking 2.5 ounces before coffee or breakfast has improved my gut health immensely, as well as the acid reflux that has been tormenting me.
  3. Christmas with my parents. I’ve never had my family members in my home at Christmas and I’m more than grateful for the memories.
  4. A wedding. My kids and I were invited to share a special day with friends, a wedding that was planned in a week! It was beautiful and pretty perfect.
  5. I attended a meditation workshop presented by one of our BFF volunteers. My head knows the value of deep breathing, my discipline (or lack thereof), however, has not followed suit. If you’re not sure what meditation actually is or how it works, this Meditation to Embrace Difficulty & Open Your Heart to 2018 is an easy to follow, helpful introduction.
  6. I fully enjoyed the season and didn’t worry about much, outside of the crappy night my kids had with their dad. [read more here]
  7. The Simply Fit Board I received for Christmas is pretty great [unbiased review]. I could never have guessed something so “simple” could work so well. It will be the key to my winter activity, and I actually enjoy using it.
  8. I’ve implemented boundaries and self-care priorities, and I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. A friend of mine suggested that maybe dealing with some of that emotional weight may influence my physical health. I think she may be right!

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” ~Sigmund Freud

The Bad | stuff that didn’t go well

I ate too much. It was a deep freeze in Calgary, and we mostly hibernated which equals to no gains towards increased activity. The Simply Fit Board is helping with that.

The Ugly

Addressing the choices I’ve made or am making to inhibit healthy living – emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and financially – has been eye-opening but certainly no fun. One step, one day at a time. The ugly has been the internal struggle, the tears and the feeling of being alone (even though I know that’s so not true!).

When you’re trying to retrain your brain, being kind to yourself is paramount. This article on Forbes.com about changing negative thoughts was helpful for me.

As happy as I am that 2017 is behind me, I’m just as happy to see what unfolds in 2018!

Resources

Join the #BF4ME (Breaking Free 4 Me) Community on Facebook

6 Life Lessons Learned From Running

21 Ways to Help Yourself Heal | #9 is my challenge to myself this week! I’ve never successfully accomplished that one.

Vulnerability seems to have been one of my strengths throughout my life. This video is so powerful, bears watching again and again, and will provide insight on why it’s so important: