Monday, August 28, 2017

Be Willing to Take a Step Back

Just when you think it’s over and done…..think again.

All in all, my recovery from the tragic bike accident in Ironman Arizona (IMAZ) 2014 has been what I was told to expect…..nothing out of the ordinary. I knew my clavicle surgery scar wasn’t going away anytime soon, and that’s cool because honestly I’m proud of it….gives me character, right? I still have a little bit of hearing issues in my right ear, but some of that might be psychosomatic as my testing after the accident showed a bit of blockage (due to my head bleed) but I was told that would diminish in time. But all in all, I felt “ok” and that all of IMAZ 2014 was behind me…..tucked away in the plethora of medical and insurance notes I kept neatly organized in a 3 ring binder in my home office. All the bills were paid, all the claims submitted. It was done and I had even gone back and finished the race that almost killed me….I was a IMAZ 2016 finisher… was all a part of my past, something I would cherish as part of my character but it wasn’t affecting me on a daily basis anymore.

And then that changed.

Looking back on my pile of medical reports, there’s this small note in one of my neurology reports from being in the ICU in 2014 after the accident….it reads, “the patient is at risk for seizures given the temporal lobe being a seizure-genic lobe”. Much like the thousands of papers and reports I received from this time in my life, I filed it away, to be worried about at a later time, if the need arose. 2.5 years post the IMAZ accident and nothing even remotely seizure-like had happened. And then June 2017 changed that.

It was my turn for being a delegate at the Reformed Church in America General Synod, our annual conference. Being an RCA ordained minister, I knew I’d be up for representing the Classis I am ordained in eventually, and thankfully when it was my turn it was in Holland, old college and graduate school stomping grounds. While I was up there I met up with a therapist friend of mine and had a great conversation one afternoon. During this visit, my first seizure happened, which came out of the blue. I remember being tired from a little less sleep than usual before this visit but not much else was out of the ordinary. When I “came to” from the seizure, which was only a minute or so, I was told what had just happened, and I literally didn’t believe him initially. I don’t have seizures. Could he be wrong? Maybe I just am overly tired and need to eat? Just sounded too weird to be true. I stayed with him for a bit before feeling 100% confident in my abilities to care for myself and continued on with my stay in Holland through the weekend for the conference. I literally brushed off what had just happened as a “freak” incident. I’d do better about my sleep, as much as I could.

Fast forward to Saturday August 12, 2017. The night prior, Chad (my boyfriend) and I had been out and home late, which meant I slept about 4-5 hours before getting myself up to go workout with my Crossfit pal at 8:30am. Working out on a lack of sleep wasn't anything new for me....I've been there. I had to drive up from Grove City, Ohio to the Polaris location and made it there on time, had a great workout. I ate and showered and went back to Chad’s house to meet him where our plans were to visit his daughter (Kendall) at the Ross County Fair for the day. We arrived on time and all was on plan as scheduled. Nothing weird to expect. They were grilling out and we were enjoying the visit. With a plate full of food in my lap, that same weird feeling came over me….that feeling that I was getting nauseous and tired. I continued to eat my bratwurst, thinking I just needed fuel. I turned my head towards Chad on my right and started whispering to him. In my mind, I was clearly saying “I’m not feeling right. Something is off.” Later I would find out it all came out to him as whispering gibberish. Very confused as he didn’t have a clue what was happening, Chad got up to toss away a plate and turned around and saw me starting to seize. Without having any knowledge of what to do or how to help, he went into action and got me down on the ground and held my head near his shoulder as my eyes when back into my head and I started to stiffen up and drool, making groaning noises and losing my bowels. Sigh. Humiliating. Chad whispered in my ear in a calming voice. People around us went for help. After only a few minutes (which felt like more to Chad), I came to my senses, woke up and wondered what had happened. Chad calmed me down and told me I had just had a seizure.

Me: What? No….I don’t have seizures.
Chad: Do you know where you’re at? Do you know my name?

Of COURSE I knew WHO he was, but in that moment, the word itself was literally escaping me.
How is that possible? Cue the memory of IMAZ 2014 when this happened before (read on, it’s below).

I had originally told the paramedics to leave but then later consented to being checked out. At the minimum I needed to change my clothes and get an IV for fluids. So we drove over the where the paramedics for the fair were stationed and they gave me an IV, then later we decided it was appropriate for me to head to Adena hospital, the closest to our location in Chillicothe. Chad rode in the ambulance with me and his daughter followed us in Chad’s car so we could leave after being checked out. Did I mention Kendall literally helped me change into some of her own clothes because I was a mess.....physically and emotionally. Ugh. It's real love when your boyfriend and his daughter clean you up.

I know this routine way to well. There was so much going on at the time that it really was hard to process, but I remember having flashbacks to IMAZ 2014 and doing everything I could to keep myself together….this was NOT the world I wanted to go back to again, much less bring Chad into this chaos.

After a bit of time in the emergency room, we had some checking done and my vitals were good and stable. I did all I could to catch up the medical staff on my history and current condition. Chad spoke on the phone to my good friend and neurologist back in Columbus who gave me the green light to be discharged and spoke to the medical staff at Adena to assure them I would follow up with my neurologist at home and was ok to leave with the condition that I wouldn’t drive until my follow up appointment. Chad also spoke to my therapist friend in Michigan and they compared stories….I had definitely had a grand mal seizure both times. I was so happy to be discharged and heading home to rest. I would be driven everywhere until August 22, my scheduled follow up appointment.

So thankfully my neurologist spent over an hour with Chad and I on August 22 and answered all our questions and reassured all our concerns. I feel very fortunate to have her and her entire practice (Go OhioHealth Neurological Physicians!) in my corner with this new challenge. After that appointment, all the reality of the past 2 weeks really settle in….and I’ve processed a bit more of what I’ve been feeling, finally able to “get it out there.”

Above all, there’s been some serious PTSD with this entire ordeal. I’ve gone from feeling strong and capable to feeling handicapped and challenged again, something so similar to IMAZ 2014. I remember distinctly being unable to answer basic questions like “what is this?” or “who am I?” and feeling paralyzed with shame and doubt with knowing the answers but literally not having the mental capability to say the words. Medical reports cite, “the patient is resting comfortably in the ICU. She is slightly confused. She does name the year. She is unable to name the president. She has great difficulty identifying objects. She is unable to name a pen. She is obviously struggling with attempting to articulate.”  Of course I was…’s a painful feeling and had parts of this memory again flood my mind with the seizure.

I remember the anger and frustration I felt from having my independence taken away and being told I couldn’t do basic things like drive or work out on little sleep. I get nervous knowing that my ambulance and emergency room hospital bills are coming in the mail soon….as I spent 9 months in 2015 having small panic attacks every time I went to my mailbox and saw more medical bills arriving.

I now have another diagnosis that won’t be going away, something that makes me “different” and something that makes me have to have the diligence of being a “responsible” adult and knowing my limits and challenges. I won’t be able to get up and workout if I have less than 6.5 hours of sleep each night. I’ll have to share with my co-workers and gym friends what to do if I have a seizure in front of them. I’ll have to manage my triggers (sleep, hydration and stress) more acutely so they don’t contribute to lowering my threshold of having a seizure. I’ll have to know when to pull off on the road if or when I feel “off.”

In addition to this, I’ve had to humble myself again and receive help. I’ve have to again put my shame aside and accept everything that has been given to me willingly, without argument or complaint. I’ve had to accept love and care from others, when I never wanted to put them through this challenge…..and it’s been hard. For a gal who prided herself on being able to “handle her shit” on her own, it’s been much like IMAZ 2014, when I never EVER believed I could be loved/supported/cared for and about as much as I was…..and this new reality of being epileptic and reminded me of what I already knew….I am deeply loved/supported/cared for and about…..and this time even moreso. Chad and I talk about how love is indeed in sickness or health….it’s about being present with each other when the chips are down and never spending much time worrying about the challenges that lay ahead….because THAT person is YOUR person….and you can’t imagine life without them. That’s my truth right now and I’m beyond grateful for all that lay ahead with my person by my side.

Painting in my office

So I’m an epileptic. My head trauma from IMAZ 2014 is something that wasn’t completely dormant. I might have gone back and tackled that IMAZ redemptive experience, but my scars remain and they will be with me for the rest of my life. All in all, I’ll take it….because every time I rise again. And that that’ll never stop. Burn me to the ground, smother me in ashes and I will rise again. I am a freaking Phoenix.

Onward. There’s so much life to live.

Be willing to take a step back . Be Brave.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Be a Phoenix: IMAZ 2016 Race Report

Ironman Arizona 2016…

I had really tried my hardest to go into this race with the same amount of “calm” I felt 2 years ago. I didn’t want to be mentally stressed or upset about what “might” or “might not” happen, specifically about performance. Lots has changed for me in 2 years….my work/career ambitions aren’t the same, my body isn’t the same, my fitness isn’t the same. Beyond that, I knew I needed, no, WANTED, to cross that finish line…..even if I was the very LAST person of the night to do so. My family and friends had seen me finish an Ironman since the IMAZ accident in 2014 (completed Ironman Chattanooga in 2015) but this race was different. This was the monkey I had to get off my back. And the best way I knew how to do this was by being vulnerable, which isn’t easy for me. I’m much more comfortable with keeping things close to the chest, being the coach/therapist that extends to others, and not showing my fears or weaknesses or mental mindset. But in the 7 days leading up to IMAZ 2016, I threw caution to the wind and tried to be different. Thus, the Facebook Live videos each day. That was a BIG deal for me to be that open. It really helped me set up a good head space for heading into race week, because unlike the response I thought I’d have, I was warmly received and supported. It meant the world. So maybe this vulnerability thing isn’t so bad after all.

Thursday November 17, 2016: I was picked up and headed to the airport with my buddy Wils. Wils cracks me up and has always, 100% of the time, been in my corner, no matter the situation or the challenge. He was excited for me and made me laugh HARD all the way to the airport. I was super grateful. I needed that laughter. Arriving in Phoenix and picked up by my Dad, we made a short quick trip to the Ironman expo where I picked up my race packet and goodies. I wanted to get this done so I could focus on Friday to getting my final workouts in, working my Arbonne business for a short bit, then getting my transition and race bags ready. I needed the time and space to do this.

Friday November 18, 2016: In the morning I had the honor of getting a short 20 min swim done in a heated outdoor lap pool alongside a small pep talk from Frank Sole, a highly respected swim coach in the Phoenix area. I had wanted to meet Frank for a long while and many of my personal Pure Bravery athletes have worked with him. I felt pumped leaving the pool! I went to get my bike and bike bag from the expo, delivered perfectly via Tri Bike Transport. I FINALLY got to meet long distance Tri pals Susan McNamee, Pamela Batungbacal and Chris Holley!!!! Later that afternoon I got to meet up with pro athlete Meredith Kessler for her book signing and some last minute positive words, which I cherished. Meredith gets what redemption races are all about and she had her own goals for this race as well….so I felt a partnership with her in kicking this race, and it was super helpful to have that time with her. Visited a local tri shop with some tri friends (Jill, Sean, Diane) later that evening and lastly picked up my pal Christine from the airport, who came into town to see me race! It was a full day. I was ready for bed.

Saturday November 19, 2016: In the morning I had a short run workout around my parent’s neighborhood and I remembered how much I love running in the desert. Gorgeous. After getting all my stuff set up and separated out and packed into my parent’s car, after reassuring my mother that I’d be ok and that this year would be different (she was anxious but what parent wouldn’t be!), I headed down to the expo to drop my transition bags off and my bike off before attending an athlete briefing and then checking into the hotel. After I dropped my gear I noticed someone behind Christine….and BOOM! My dear pal Ann Kurtenbach showed up! Unbelievable! Ann was with me 3 years ago when I volunteered in 2013 at IMAZ. I then signed up for IMAZ 2014 and after my accident Ann was there when I discharged from the hospital, which was beyond helpful for me. Ann brought cards and notes from Ohio with her when she visited and I needed that. Was beyond thrilled she’d be there to cheer me on and spectate. That girl is all heart. After the athlete briefing, I checked into the hotel about .25 miles from the expo and began my pre-race hibernation. I read cards given to me before the race and did my last Facebook Live video. I AM A PHOENIX. Early bedtime and at this point I still felt somewhat calm….I gave myself the mindset that it was going to be a good day, no matter what happened.

Sunday November 20, 2016: It’s race morning. It’s early. And my stomach is in knots. I'm anxious and this wasn’t expected. I’m not sure what to make of it so I try to relax and get my morning routine done. I’m getting in my head and I’m nervous. I tried to stay calm and do one thing at a time. I walked down to the expo with all my gear and got my bottles on my bike, dropped off my bike/run special needs and parked myself in the pre-appointed meeting place for my parents. Then the Just Tri peeps and Ann (who is hard to miss in her pink wig and tutu) find me and give me last minute cheers and hugs. I’m beyond lucky to have so many cheering folks with me. My parents found a parking spot and made their way to me. I have about 5 min to get into my wetsuit and start making my way to the swim start. I hug my parents, and promise to see them at the end of the day. Here we go……..

Swim: IMAZ swim start 2 years ago was a mass start after treading water for about 5-10 min. This year it was a “rolling” start which meant about 5-10 of us jumped in the water at a given time, each of us pre-seeding ourselves based on our predicted swim time. I got in line where I felt I could finish, something I had already discussed with my coach. “Hey Amy!”, I hear from my right side. It’s Matt Green. Matt and I got our USAT coaching training together in May of 2015 and he’s a sweetheart. I was SO grateful to see him and catch up a bit. Totally helped my nerves. Then, the best part: I got to see Terra. Terra is a buddy of mine I met while in October 2014, when I was in AZ training for the race 2 years ago. She’s a SMART nurse, who gave of herself selflessly when my accident happened and sat with my family to explain things to them while I was literally unconscious. She’s been a huge gift to me. Hearing her yell “Amy!” on my left while we walked into the water was a relief! Terra was there! And into the water we went. COLD. BRR. Glad I had my swim booties on! The IMAZ swim is a boxing match for the first 500-1000 yards. It’s messy and people are everywhere. The blessings this year was that the sun wasn’t completely in our eyes and it was a cloudy day. Easier to see as we swam towards the east. I tried to get into a rhythm and kept remembering my pal Jessica Baxter tell me about her Kona swim experience. Jessica said, “as soon as I got into the water, I felt calm. I had arrived. I was there. It was amazing.” I kept repeating this to myself all the way up to the first turn. I am calm, I have arrived. I remembered tips Frank gave me on not crossing over on my stroke and remembered my swim coach Tracy always telling me to “finish” my stroke strong. I warmed up quickly. My goggles fogged but I went on. After making the second turn we were all heading west back to transition. I watched the larger bridges instead of the smaller buoys for sighting. My sighting was off at various points but I countered well and made it back. With about 1000 yards to go, I started to accidently pee myself and just let it all go. Made me smile. I pushed myself to to volunteer who helped me up the steps to get my wetsuit off and I knew I hadn’t gotten a PR on the swim, but was pretty darn close to my swim 2 years ago and I was fine with that. Standing up after being horizontal for over an hour can make anyone dizzy so Terra again found me and called my name. I told her I felt ok and I knew that if she saw anything in my eyes she’d tell me to rest a bit more. Things were good. My wetsuit was stripped off fast by awesome volunteers and I high fived Ann and my Just Tri peeps and headed to the changing tent where a fabulous volunteer literally helped change me. And then I was headed out to the longest part of my day……

Bike: This is where I knew I had to focus….I had to get my nutrition on point and also keep my head in a positive place. I didn’t feel I had to prove myself on the bike with a PR or anything, I just needed to make sure I got off the bike and finished. I needed this for myself as much as my parents needed to see it. Heading out of town I felt pretty good and it was cooler weather than usual, since the sun was still behind the clouds and it was a cooler day overall. IMAZ’s bike course is known for being a 3 loop course, which I like. It breaks it down in my mind easier. On the first part of the loop it’s a long 18 mile incline on a road that doesn’t look like it’s going uphill, but it is. You just have to spin your legs, put your ego aside, and keep moving forward, even if the speed is slower than you’d want. After 18 miles is the turn around. This is the point in which I crashed 2 years ago because, as you might imagine, what goes up then comes down and it’s FAST. I smiled and pushed myself using the free speed of a downhill and once I made it past the point in which I knew I crashed, I pushed harder. Internally and well as with my legs. I was excited to get back to start the second loop as I knew I’d see my parents and my Mom would know I had survived. Heading out on the second loop I kept a good pace, remembering now that I just had to suck it up and spin up another 18 miles. I saw Ann and my Just Tri pals on the bike course and it energized me. Made the turnaround again and got to get my special needs bag around mile 60-65. I stopped for about 3-5 minutes here. I’ll learn later that my “stopping” initially confused my Dad and he worried for a bit until the satellites on my tracking device refreshed and he saw I was moving again. Coming back to town again on the 2nd loop and heading out for the 3rd. It was still cold at this time and I was getting a bit tired on that last loop with the LONG uphill towards the turnaround. I kept telling myself “just hit that turnaround and it’s smooth sailing back to town. You’ll finish this time.” And at that turnaround it was glorious. I headed back into town knowing I’d finish AND if I kept going well, I might get a PR. It started to sprinkle at times here and I was glad I’d be finishing soon. I can run in the rain but biking in the rain isn’t my favorite idea of a good time. And I got back to the transition area and held onto a volunteer as he got me off my bike. Smiled for my Mom. Legs were aching but I got my run gear and another amazing volunteer (including pal Kat Nydegger, love her!) helped me change. I was ACTUALLY GOING TO RUN THIS TIME.

Run: I knew my legs would feel wobbly, but I didn’t care. I had made it out on the run!!!! I was going to do this! I could literally walk the entire marathon and still finish before midnight. Holy cow!!!!! I saw Terra within the first few miles, along with my Just Tri pals and I was so happy I couldn’t take the grin off my face! I settled into a easy pace. This run was going to be all about effort, not overall pace, so I wouldn’t let myself even look at the pace….I didn’t need that head trash. I worked on getting my nutrition in appropriately and took in the surroundings that I never got to see on the run course 2 years ago. I went past the Tri club village tents and saw Terra again. Ran past my parents and gave them a hug. “I told you I’d do it!”, I said to my Mom and Dad. They smiled and I kept going. I headed down the river and across the river to the back side of the course. The Base Performance tent came next and my teammates Tony and Eric were there alongside ANOTHER SURPRISE…..Kristina Jensen! HOLY COW! I never expected to see this Denver pal there but she had flown in that morning to surprise another pal of hers and ME! Kristina and I met 4 years ago on a shake out bike the day prior to Ironman Louisville. We have so much in common and she’s a fireball of positivity, spunk, sparkle and energy. It was a HUGE deal to see her. Again, I’m beyond blessed with the support I had there. Next up was Ann, volunteering at another spot on the run and I’m not sure who gave Ann the megaphone, but she used it! Totally helpful. Got high fived from my buddy Sean also… glad he was there! Sean took me on my very first bike ride over 2 years ago on the IMAZ bike course…..awesome pal. I made the last turn on the back part of the course and started to get a bit slower. Didn’t matter to me at this point, I was still thrilled to be on the course and every mile gave me another card to read that I carried with me from supporters back home. Water stops at every mile.

As I headed back towards the start of my second loop it was getting darker and colder. I got my run special needs bag and saw Terra again. As darkness descended on the desert my pace slowed again and it got harder and harder to read my cards. I kept my positivity up as much as possible. At this point I’m peeking a bit at my pace but mostly focusing again overall on my effort. Was I putting it all out there on the line as much as I could? Honestly, there were times I walked a bit more than I should have but overall I kept MOVING FORWARD. On the second loop of the run, the back side of the course, I ran into my pals Eric, Tony and Kristina again….Kristina literally sprinkled me with glitter and off I went….high fived Ann and Sean again and kept trucking forward. It’s getting much darker at this point….and colder. On the back side of the course I saw some pals again and by the time I made it to Ann, Eric, Tony and Kristina I was 3 miles from finishing. Couldn’t stop now. Couldn’t walk now. Kept moving forward. The miles felt longer and further apart. Logically this isn’t true but it FELT true. Within one mile from the finish I kept dreaming in my head how I’d finish this race AND I knew I had to keep going forward to get a PR…..a sub 13 hour Ironman was possible!!!! WOW. Literally did NOT expect that to happen. I went into this race with the sublime belief that finishing was my ONLY goal. Never expected to PR.

Before making the last turn to the finish line chute, my coach and Just Tri teammates were there to high five and hug me….then the tears came. I was going to do this! I slowed down to the my spot in the light towards the finish….and Ironman “voice” Mike Reilly remembered…..I had told him days prior about my accident 2 years ago and he knew this was my comeback race. I figured with all the stuff he has to remember he’d forget my “little story.” He remembered and shouted it out as I crossed the finish line….and without a thought in my head I started to dance for the cameras. To this day I have no clue what provoked me to do that!!!! But it was my cheesy redemption race moment….with a full smile plastered on my face….and I got my medal, found my family and was glad to be done!

I had no clue what my finish time was until later on that night. And honestly it still didn’t matter to me…..I had come back and finished what I started 2 years prior. I had the support of many behind me, which again challenged my core belief that I wasn’t “enough.” It was being challenged again with an outpouring of love and I am indebted to everyone who believed in me beyond my own challenges of the past. And will I be back to take on IMAZ another time? Not next year...I have other goals/dreams/hopes for 2017…..but yes…..I’ll be back.

“A Phoenix, according to classical mythology, is a unique bird that at the end of it’s life, burns itself and rises from the ashes with renewed youth to live through another cycle. You, Amy Avery, are a Phoenix. It’s about the remarkable way you have said “yes” to life since your accident. This is the renewed youth of a Phoenix. But it doesn’t stop there….you have brought others with you on the journey...regardless of what happens this weekend, no one can take this away from you. You are a huge reason I am rising from the ashes. Be a badass. Be Tenacious. And deal with teh shit if it happens. Be a Phoenix.”  
-Card written to me from a friend; read on IMAZ 2016 race eve

Be a Phoenix. Be Brave.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Be Smacked Upside the Head

On long car trips to see my orthodontist as a teenager, I got bored (yeah, the doc wasn’t local). My dad used to tell me a lengthy “joke.”

“A great rain came once to a small town and the rain poured up so high that the streets were flooded. After many hours of more torrential rains, the town was encouraged to desert their homes out of safety and get to higher, drier ground before all was lost. The townspeople began to pack up. Everyone. Except one stubborn old lady. She wasn’t going to move. The water came in her front door and her furniture began to float. Her neighbor came by in a canoe and peeked through her second floor bedroom window and begged her to get in the canoe and row to safety. She refused. The water rose. As the old woman crawled onto the roof of her house a helicopter began to hover above and extended a ladder for her to rise to safety. Again, she refused. After multiple attempts to save this poor, stubborn woman, the water rose higher and she drown.

At the heavenly pearly gates, this woman met St. Peter and was distraught. She was led into heaven and came into the presence of God, so upset for her tragic end. “How could you let me die like that? You didn’t warn us of the flood! You didn’t let me prepare! How could you have let this happen and not save me?” And God replies, “Lady, I sent a canoe and a freaking helicopter! What more did you need?”

Ha. Yep, that’s my Dad.

I do believe that the world does whisper to us at times. And sometimes it shouts. Then sometimes we get screams and freight trains. And if we still refuse to listen, or are too damn stubborn to listen, something can come at use like a Mack truck wrapped up in a F5 tornado. That’s what happened to me today.

2015 was filled with a lot of good things and a lot of not so good things. It was a year of ups and downs. I recovered from a near death bike accident. I started my own coaching business, Pure Bravery Multisport. I began my work as an Arbonne Independent Consultant and promoted twice. I finished my 2nd Ironman and got a personal record. I survived a mountain of medical bills. Lots of good stuff happened.

One thing that’s always been ongoing and my biggest nemesis is myself. I have a tremendous amount of head trash. I can be my own worst enemy. It’s not like I don’t know this, I really do recognize it. The problem is that even when I try to challenge my thoughts (because rationally I know I’m being ridiculous and counsel my patients to see the same), these negative patterns can become so “normal” that I don’t see how much the impact my daily life over and over again. My “normal” isn’t healthy.

So the biggest problem I had with 2015 is grief over what I lost on that day I crashed in Ironman Arizona 2014. I went into 2015 very sad and over the months of recovery that laid ahead of me I let myself go physically, mentally and emotionally. I missed workouts. I overslept. I made up excuses for a lot of things. I drank too much. I ate way too much. The very things I challenge my patience to change were the same things that kept me miserable.

So it all hit me today when a patient of mine was sitting in my office complaining to me about how she wasn’t allowed to run. She’s in recovery right now and isn’t cleared to run quite yet. For my patient, this is tragic and sad for her because years ago she was a professional athlete. Literally. She was on a professional team. She remembers those days with fondness and joy. That part of her life was behind her but the joy she felt in being that kind of athlete was missing. She hates not being able to run and do the exercise she loved. I know this is hard for her and I know she's making wise decisions in listening to us. I know she's sad and has mentioned how she used to be an AMAZING athlete.

BAM. There is was. Holy crap.

And it hit me… was the same things I spent 2015 telling myself….that same line, “I used to be an amazing athlete” was the same thing I had been telling myself since I woke up in that hospital over a year ago. At that time, I was in the best shape physically, mentally and emotionally I had ever been. I was ready to tackle Ironman Arizona with everything I had and I was so ready. And in a moment it was gone. And 2015 came on…..and I ate….and the pounds came on, the dark head trash rose. I felt handicapped. Everything was still different as I recovered I tried to get back into the rhythm of training I knew so well before but something wasn’t right and the harder it got the more I hated myself and the more I hated myself the more I found solace in crappy food, drink and isolation. The struggle was real and I became to loathe myself which led to more misery…...and a slower pace in every sport in which I had grown to excel.

And the head trash continued……”You used to run a 9:15 EASY pace and now you can’t even keep a 10:15 without being out of breath! Your swim times have gone down dramatically! You missed another workout because you drank too much last night, you frickin’ loser! More crappy food again, even though you have another long workout tomorrow and you’ve put on so much weight….what the hell is wrong with you? Shit Amy, if anyone knew this about you, you’d be done! What athlete would EVER want you! What patient would EVER want your counseling??? Don’t tell anyone you’re suffering or sad….be grateful you’re alive and shut up…..they all helped you financially, you know!!!!!. Nope, tell them you can’t go out, you’re too much for anyone right now. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Where did your joy go? You’re such a idiot. You know what to do and you don’t have the drive to do it! You’re pathetic.”

I was sitting there today watching a patient tell me her pain and it was the same pain I’d felt for the past year. Something was so challenged in my recovery efforts that I lost sight of the athlete I was and I truly believed that even though I lived, she died. I’d never get her back and so I threw in the towel. My own self esteem and belief in my abilities fell apart.  Keep in mind that while this all was happening internally, I did the best I could to keep up a good front for others. So fake. So stupid. So NOT the realness I preach.

So…..I’m tired of my own bullshit. I have to start believing and telling myself daily that NOT A SINGLE PART OF ME died that day. I’m still me. It’s all here. That killer athlete I was who is full of abundant thinking and powerful drive is still here. And she’ll rise to the surface again….maybe not overnight, maybe not in a month. Maybe it’ll be a while before she’s back in full swing, but if I nurture her and love her, she’ll find her voice again. And that athlete isn’t just an athlete….she’s a coach, and a damn good one. She’s a business entrepreneur and a damn good one.

As I sat with my patient today I realized that even with all she’s been through and all that has been taken from her with this eating disorder, she’s still a professional athlete. She’s still a major badass.  She’s a pretty amazing woman who just got off kilter for a while, and she’s finding her way back, slow as it might be, she still keeps stepping forward.

So…..turns out there’s no need for resurrection after all. I thought that big part of me I loved so much died that day. Turns out she didn’t die. I just have to let her comeback. And being as impatient as I am, I want it tomorrow. But the coach in me knows you can’t build an athlete overnight. It takes time, but it’s MY journey and MY goals.

And for now I’ll run the pace I need to run, no matter how “slow” my head trash thinks it is. I’ll nourish myself the way I need to because I’ve got goals. I’ll quit avoiding things that scare me or worry about what other people think. If that accident did teach me anything it’s to not wait…’s too short.

And we all have this crap. We all struggle. No matter our position in life, no matter our career or our status. We ALL have head trash. I just hope I learn to recognize that mine isn’t worth my attention anymore. And if I’m too real in this post for anyone to want me as a coach, therapist, partner or friend, then it’s ok. I’m tired of my bullshit.

And my patient will get to run again, I know this. She’s too stubborn to let her eating disorder take that away. She’ll struggle with her own head trash too, but she’ll get there. And I hope I'm there to see it.

Be Smacked Upside the Head. Be Brave.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Be Taking a Big Leap

As an Arbonne Independent Consultant and wonder of my own Pure Bravery coaching company, I’m always working on self growth… times more intently than others. After I hit my second promotion within 7 months of beginning my business, I was told I needed to read “The Big Leap.” So I loaded it onto my Amazon Audible app on my phone and began listening a bit. Life got a tad in the way from time to time but something about this book was clicking with me.

And then today, I discovered something big.

The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks, is a must read. The basic theory behind this book is that at times when we succeed, when we have good things and good fortune coming into our lives, for many of us it can be too much. We struggle with having that much goodness, that much success or luck or love in our lives that it makes us feel uncomfortable, without even realizing it. And then, without any intention of our conscious mind, we sabotage ourselves.

Think about it…...I’ve seen it multiple times in my life as a therapist.

A guy who has a great promotion at work starts to get sick and misses multiple days of work.
A couple who is trying to have a baby gets pregnant and then starts to have more little “fights” than they usually do.
A woman with an eating disorder goes 5 days without binge behavior and then goes out for a dinner with a friend and can’t stop herself when the food keeps coming.

It happens. When I hit my second promotion in Arbonne, I started to actually get a bit fearful, and then the negative head trash began. “What if I can’t keep this momentum going? What if I fail? Did I really just hit his mark? Me?” And on and on it went.

For many of us, we have an “upper limit” to how much goodness we can receive in our lives. We struggle to believe we can receive it, maintain it or we struggle to believe that we even DESERVE it, which challenges our cognitions about what’s going on.  My upper limit says, “I cannot continue to have success because of (fill in the blank).”

So today, on my run while visiting family in Arizona, it hit me…….I’ve been hitting my upper limit of happiness and sabotaging myself ALL YEAR LONG. Here’s how I came to a big realization……

After the IMAZ accident in 2014, I received an overwhelming response of support, both emotionally, physically, financially and mentally. I had the love of family and friends that exploded beyond my awareness. I had friends from childhood all the way up to my present day circle respond with overwhelming love. I had funds raised on my behalf that kept me alive and paying my medical bills. In short, the response to helping me was beyond anything I thought I’d ever receive. I never in a million years would have guessed I could be loved and supported that much. And it still to this day takes my breath away.

So here’s what I realized happened….when recovery came and progressed and life went back to somewhat “normal” status, it wasn’t easy for me to adjust back to my “new” life. While life was indeed moving on, I was still struggling. I was alone again and feeling handicapped. I wasn’t sure what lay ahead of me down the road and I was scared. And I began sabotaging myself. I hid from others and kept my pain secret. I didn’t utilize the plethora of people at my side to help me along. I ate a ton of sugar, something that had always helped me cope with pain as a child and it resulted in a weight gain of 15+ pounds over the past year. I withdrew and reacted to many things in my life out of fear instead of utilizing the tools I knew I had and the relationships I knew would be there.

In my own sabotage I realized that deep down within, I had this lie I believed that I didn’t DESERVE to feel so loved. I wasn’t WORTH the support of so many….and that ultimately it would all go away, so I just needed to realize that NOW. This realization totally hit me like a ton of bricks today. Wow.

Internally I was thinking “You shouldn’t feel this loved or supported because all in all, you are fundamentally flawed.” This thought created cognitive dissonance the mind “tug of war” when you try to hold 2 opposing thoughts at the same time. So I was dealing with the reality that I had a ton of love and support while also dealing with the belief that I was/am fundamentally flawed. 2 opposing thoughts/beliefs. “Given that I am bad/flawed/etc, how can I possibly be this rich in love and support?”

THus the cognitive dissonance can only be resolved in 2 ways…..either I sabotage myself and return to what “feels normal” (aloneness, loneliness, failure in taking healthy steps towards healthy) OR by letting go of the old belief which allow you to stabilize at the higher level and ultimately grow.

Isn’t this amazing? This was a huge realization for me today, something that I blamed myself for not realizing a LONG time ago. I was getting in my own way by believing something that was keeping me from being happy. We all do this from time to time. My own clients do this perpetually. They don't trust themselves or believe they deserve good things so when they’re successful for multiple days, something happens and that is their “reset” back to a level that feels comfortable and more “like them”......failure. This is the “upper limit bug” which bites me when I my higher levels of love, abundance and ability which I smack at when I feel like I’m hitting my limits in order to bring me back to a more understandable and more familiar level. The “bug” wins and I lose.

It makes me seriously wonder what would have happened if I had seriously pushed against the thoughts in my head that kept making me believe I wasn’t worthy of so much love and support. What if I would have reached out to others when I was scared and when I felt alone? What if I would have told others how handicapped and alone I felt even though I kept thinking it was time to be self-sufficient? What if I had expressed how sad and angry I was about the accident instead of eating it away? What if I would have believed it would be OK to express anger about the accident even though I was still grateful for being alive? Grateful for not having to sell my house and move home with my parents? Can you imagine how much easier this year could have been if I would have pushed against the fast beliefs that I had hit my limit for the goodness I could handle in my life?

This about it for yourself….how many times to things go really well and then the head trash begins. Or the sabotaging behaviors take over and that goal you have for yourself just gets ignored or the excuses keep coming.

My mind is blown by this book and I’ll keep reading and sharing.

I’m ready to take my Big Leap. Join me.

Be Taking a Big Leap. Be Brave.

Be Better Late than Never

Ironman Chattanooga… first attempt back at the IM 140.6 distance since the epic bike accident in Ironman Arizona 2014. There was a LOT on the line for this race but above all, I needed to finish this race… parents needed to see me get off the bike in one piece. I needed to cross a finish line and show myself I could do this again.

I had signed up for this race BEFORE Ironman Arizona 2014, mostly because literally everyone I love in the triathlon world in Ohio was doing the same thing. I wanted to be a part of the team. Chattanooga isn’t my ideal race course and after the turmoil of IMAZ 2014, I admittedly spent most of the year training “half assed.” I wasn’t sure I believed in myself to come back and finish but also wasn’t sure it was a race I wanted to do. My poor coach dealt with months of my fear and worry that I couldn’t handle Chattanooga and that I wasn’t going to be able to manage the challenges of the course. It was all crap. I was afraid and disappointed in the 10+ pounds I had put on in 2015 as a result of a ton of stuff I’ll share in another blog post. But overall, I showed up and got to race with some of the most amazing Ohio athletes I know….and that in and of itself was worth the entire trip.

My bud Ann had reserved a killer hotel room for us after the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga and despite it’s hefty price tag it was worth it. We were super close to transition and race start and again, worth EVERY penny. Driving down with Ann made my trip awesome….she’s a bright spot in my life and being with her made my heart smile. We arrived on Thursday before the race started and missed checking in by seconds. We finally crashed and woke up Friday to get our gear bags and all our race stuff, hear the athlete briefings and get our gear all set up to drop off the next day.

My parents weren’t going to NOT see me in this race and they arrived on Friday. My parents knew they couldn't’ talk me out of doing this race, although I know there was some fear and worry on both their hearts. How would there not be?

I dropped my gear off, always overpacking, on Saturday and then the rain came. Double bagged everything and that, again, was worth the effort. Chattanooga was going to be a tad colder than usual on race day and thankfully the rain looked like it would hold off. After dropping my bags, I went into Iron Amy hibernation mode. I needed to be quiet, and just rest without thinking about all the anxieties of the next morning. My parents did dinner on their own and I told them I’d see them in the morning. I was oddly calm for the race, the same feeling I remembered before Ironman Louisville in 2012 and Ironman Arizona in 2014. It’s almost where I get to the point of realizing “it is what it is. Let’s just go have fun, even if I take all 17 hours to finish this race. I'm here. That’s all that matters.”

It was an early morning wake up and down to the race start we headed. AFter grabbing a shuttle to the swim start downstream, we waited in line for the race to start. I opted to not wear a wetsuit and in the end it was a good decision for me. The water was warm and the current, as it always it, was with us. It’s a swimmer’s dream. I exited the water in 1:04. I’ll never swim that fast in an Ironman distance again. I loved it. I felt like it was easy and it wasn’t the crowded mess of Ironman Arizona.

Onto the bike. I had the fortune of riding the IM bike course about a month prior so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the course, but again, it was an Ironman. And the last time I raced, it didn’t end well. Oddly enough, none of that was on my mind. I just got on the bike and went. I had my own 2 Pure Bravery athletes racing and I wanted to show them I was strong and proud of my coaching and my bravery. I went on my training plan and surprised myself. Seeing friends along the way was fun and I made it through the first loop without a flat tire and without bonking. By the end it was tough, but it always is. It’s a LONG ride. I pushed myself and ended the bike course by actually getting OFF my bike in one piece…..and my parents were there to see it. Priceless. And a HUGE IM bike PR too boot. I made it off in about 6:30-ish. Surprised even myself!

Volunteers in the changing tent are amazing. One gal literally helped me change and kept sharing with me how proud she was of my efforts. This woman didn’t even know me but made me feel like I was a rockstar, and she reminded me what I had just done was a big frickin’ deal. Thanks gal.

Onto the run. It’s a wobbly feeling initially. Challenging to say the least. You’re using different parts of your leg muscles and it’s fun to take off a bit faster than you know you’ll be using down the road, mostly from the energy of the transition corund. I kissed my mother and high fived-my dad and told them I’d see them at the finish. They got to hang out with Ann’s family and I was glad they weren’t alone.

I’d run the IM run course before too so I wasn’t unfamiliar with it, although I knew it wouldn’t be easy. IT’s a hilly run course. It just is. And I felt nauseous for the first few miles….not sure why but ended up realizing I was behind a bit in electrolytes and needed some nutrition. I took nutrition earlier than I had intended but it helped. And seeing those awesome Base Performance guys Tony and Matt made my smile. Love them. Love Base.

On the first loop I knew the hills were coming. Thankfully a TON of my teammates were there to cheer me on and proudly enough I toughed it out on the first loop. My coach biked with me a tad and I was pleased I had been following our plan thus far! Never underestimate the ability to see people you love and love you back on the race course. It means more than I can express. Their belief in you will carry you through the dark times and it seriously did.

After the first loop I went out on the second and slowed a bit. I knew I had started too quickly on the first loop and although I know better, it happened. Lesson learned. After finishing the awful hills AGAIN On the second loop, I knew just a few miles and I'd be finishing. I hadn’t looked at the time but would come to realize I’d have an immense PR. Pushing it along I really tried to take it all in….the crowd, the support, the racers around me I chatted with, and the race itself…...I came back from almost dying a year ago and was about to finish an Ironman. Alive.

I pushed it in and finished a tad about 13 hours. My first IRonman experience in Lousiville 3 years prior was over 14:15. I had set a new record for myself just by enjoying my experience and doing MY race well. My coach meeted me there at the finish line and cried with me, just as she had done when she walked in my hospital room a year prior. It was a huge moment and meant the world to me. I was an Ironman…..again.

My parents were there and caught my finish. They have seriously got this Ironman spectator gig down well by now. And I'm so glad they were a part of my day. They have always been in my corner and supported my dreams. I’m a lucky gal.

I stayed around to see my friends finish and then went back to my hotel, changed clothes and came out for the finish. I walked into a hotel room with champagne from my Arbonne leadership team, supporting me all the way. All in all, a memory I’ll never forget.

While a lot wasn’t where I wanted for this race, I showed up...and that in and of itself was a feat, considering how I felt many times during the training year. I had wanted to quit so many times. I had beaten myself up so many times. I had made poor decisions so many times. But I showed up. And finished no matter what. I’d be grateful for the experience even if I had been the last person across that line.

I'm not sure what kept me from writing this race report….maybe I wasn’t sure how to put it all into words. Maybe I didn’t feel like it was a “true” comeback. I know it’s silly but emotions aren’t rational and they are what they are.

I’m looking forward to racing Ironman Arizona in 2016. I have some unfinished business.

Be proud of Ironman Chattanooga 2015. Be Better Late than Never. Be Brave.