EMBRACE THIS MOMENT
COMMUNITY STORIES | 12.16.2017 | By Heidi Vanbeselaere
On December 3, 2014 my world was turned upside down. All that I knew was changed in a single instant. I was an athlete on the Alberta Provincial Mogul Team, prepping for the kick off to the competition season, a mere two weeks away. I had just come off of my best ever fitness testing and I was ready to go! And then everything changed. I was doing a backflip, a trick I’d done hundreds of times before, and over rotated, which is common. What wasn’t so common was the fact that my over rotation brought the back of my head (in a helmet) in contact with the snow, with such a force that I rebounded straight to my feet. When I came to a stop, I knew something was wrong. Something was different. What I didn’t know in that moment was the journey that I was about to begin.
For me moving forward is about embracing this moment. Leading up to and following my injury I worked with a sports psychologist. One strategy that we worked with a lot following my injury was the check-in question of, “what can I do right now, in this moment, to help me feel better?” Rather than looking out into the future, which was at best uncertain, this question brought my focus to the present. My responses to these questions were often small seemingly simple things, tasks that others might not even think about doing. However for me they were obtainable “mini” goals that served to refocus my attention. Common responses during my recovery included taking a break, spending time in savasana with an ice pack on my head, taking a moment to breath, getting a massage, finding a quiet dark space to sit, doing my physio exercises or telling myself three positive things. It was through these small steps that I began to regain a feeling of some control over my situation. No, I still couldn’t control or predict my symptoms but this process allowed me to take steps to accept where I was and work with that. It’s something I still work with today. Pausing to feel whatever is happening in the moment and then figuring out the next small step to take.
The day I stepped into my local yoga studio, nearly three months post concussion, was the day I truly began my journey of healing. Yoga opened up my world. It got me out of the house (a much needed change of scenery) and was a safe place where I could just BE. My dad would comment in those early days that yoga was so good for me because it allowed me to “forget” about everything that was going on for an hour or so. Forgetting seems to be the coping mechanism of choice in today’s society. Looking back I now realize that this description is not quite true. Yoga has allowed me to enter a safe space in which I can truly “feel” everything that is going on and find acceptance for it. Emotions are not labeled as good or bad. Pain is not the demon in the closet. And grief and frustration are not things to be ashamed of. When I enter the yoga studio that mask of being okay, that which I wore frequently following my injury, is striped away. I can be vulnerable in this space. I can feel whatever needs to be felt without judgment and then let it go. I can meet myself where I am and through much guidance, from a few beautiful souls, have been able to grow and come to terms with the changes this injury has brought into my life.
Explore the options out there. Ask questions. TONS of questions. Don’t be afraid to say something isn’t working for you. Reach out for support when you need it, you don’t have to be superman.
Practice gratitude. I started writing a gratitude journal during my recovery. Five things I am grateful for each day. It’s a simple way to reflect and I find that on bad days it helps me remember all the little blessings I have in life, like a hug from a friend or listening to a favourite song.
One of my favourite quotes I’ve found along my journey of healing has been: “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice that says I will try again tomorrow.” –Mary Anne Radmacher
There might be days where it feels like you aren’t making any progress. And it’s in these moments that it can be easy to get down, to get frustrated and to feel like giving up. As an athlete I was all about progress and pushing my limits. However recovering from a brain injury doesn’t work that way. It’s not about going hard, rather it’s about learning to listen to your body and giving it the time it needs to heal. TRUST that things will improve. Show up each day and if it doesn’t go as well as you expected DON’T GIVE UP. Try again tomorrow. Just keep trying. Little bits at a time. Things will get better. Things will improve and when they do celebrate those moments. Whether it’s going for a walk in the park or watching a movie without symptoms for the first time. Celebrate because it’s these seemingly small moments that will eventually add up to something much greater.