“Because one thing she’s learned through all this is that if a new beginning is really new, it will feel like a crisis. Any real change should make you feel, at first, afraid.
If you’re not afraid of it, then it’s not real change.” —The Nix, a novel by by Nathan Hill.
I read those words and suddenly it all made sense. I found a turning point in a novel, of all places, not a non-fiction or self-help book (my go-to literary genres. Are those even “literature”? I don’t know. I like to read them). This is not just any novel. It is quickly becoming one of the all-time greats, so if you haven’t read it, do so immediately.
In the 10 months since I experienced and thereafter wrote the story of my Ironman DNF, I’ve seen the collision of professional and athletic life in a more punctuated way than ever before. Once I pulled myself out of the emotional gutter in the months that followed Ironman Wisconsin 2016, a new career opportunity came my way. After 10 years in the same place, I not only changed companies, I did a complete 180 into an industry that was brand new and utterly foreign–but fascinating–to me.
Leaving a department I thought of as my baby, no longer having the opportunity to work with some of my very best friends every single day, leaving my Mac for a PC (gasp!), and diving head first into a highly complex field was enough to, for the first couple of months, push me to the edge of sanity and make me question everything. Crisis.
The professional change led to many personal changes, including the need for a new chiropractor. While I loved my downtown Dr., the location would no longer be an option. I stumbled across a new practice near my home, Infinity Chiropractic, or rather my husband found it and sent me there. Thanks, Eric. All the months of trying to find relief for my vestibular disorder that ultimately led to the DNF and so many other life issues, and changes would finally start to happen with my treatments here. Functional neurology. I didn’t even know it was a thing, but it is changing my life.
I’ve only briefly referenced my vestibular issues in writing, because frankly I want to send the message to the universe that I am healthy, not sick. In a nutshell: I’ve always been clumsy. I have had multiple bike wrecks. I have myoclonic epilepsy. One day my brain just kind of “blew up” on an airplane. The world started spinning and didn’t stop for weeks. When it did stop, the balance issues and intermittent vertigo persisted.
What Dr. Josh Madsen discovered that no one else could find, is that I have an incredibly weak cerebellum, a weak/damaged vestibular system, and a primitive reflex that is supposed to disappear by the time you are six months old. When it doesn’t, it causes big problems. My treatments and at-home exercises for the past 5 months have been similar to how a child with developmental delays is treated. I never would have known to seek this out. Thanks, new job. Thanks, Crisis.
When I read the words from the above-referenced novel, an immediate mental shift happened in regard to the Career-Change-From-Outer-Space-Crisis. I know how to do Crisis. I have started my life over as a single parent. I have lost my family to a religion. I have survived Ironman Training through friggin’ vertigo. I have survived the devastation of not reaching my goal. This is just another Crisis. Thanks, The Nix.
I have also seen the other side of crisis. I survived single parenting, and I don’t have to do it alone anymore. I have a new extended family of friends. And the vertigo, the balance, the training–it’s all improving. I’m settling into the career too. I have a Coach, a team and a community of triathletes and friends who have stuck by me even if they didn’t think I’d get very far. Thanks, Zoom. Thanks, all of my triathlon community friends. Crisis ends, and things get better.
I have been able to get back onto my legit triathlon bike in the past couple of weeks as my brain function improves. Today I comfortably, even happily, rode in the aero bars for two hours. This is something I haven’t been able to do in two years. There was room in my mind for thought and even daydreaming (and writing), not just overwhelming anxiety. It will keep getting better.
When I was four years old, I nearly drowned in a swimming pool in Branson, MO. Magically, that day did not make me afraid of the water. It made me feel like a superhero. Under the water, clawing for the surface, I don’t remember fear. I only remember I was pulled out by a smiling friend who made me feel safe. There has never been a day in my life when the water scared me. I want to feel that way on the bike. The brain can’t be bullied by sheer will, so I’ve learned. (If it could I’d be a very different athlete.) It has to be gently trained to function properly and subsequently told it is safe. While I ride, I’ve decided to treat my brain like my smiling friend treated me, pulling me from the water, saying, “wasn’t that fun?”
I have been asked why I didn’t just quit training through the challenges, or at least quit riding a bike. My response has been “Because that’s not what I do.” A better answer is, because it’s just a Crisis. And the other side of Crisis is so very, very beautiful.