Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Treat every setback as an opportunity for a comeback...!!

It’s a while since I scribbled some thoughts down on my blog, in fact it was last year (which makes it sound a lot longer ago than it actually was of course!). And whilst you might think that someone recovering from an injury would have plenty of free time to spend writing, I’ve managed to be ridiculously busy and not have a free moment for ages…this is clearly a sign that life is returning to some kind of “normal”…well, “Normal for me” anyway!

Normal life is (starting to be) resumed! (Photo: Claire Bennett)
I’m now 12 weeks post-shoulder surgery and pleased to report that thanks to religiously sticking to my gruelling daily rehab schedule (the reason for a large proportion of my time being taken up every day!), things are progressing well on the shoulder front. I was told by my surgeon and physio initially that 12 weeks was the absolute minimum before I could start skiing, swimming, mountain biking and climbing, but thanks to all the hard work I’ve put in, got the go-ahead to do most of these a few weeks ago, which obviously made me a VERY happy person! 

It might not be much but that little muscle represents a LOT of hours work!
I can still be found every morning in the gym, building up strength and dynamic stability, but being able to start doing the things that make me “Me” has given me a huge boost of motivation and sense of feeling like there is a light at the end of the tunnel again! It has certainly not been the easiest 4 months, and there have been plenty of low moments, a lot of pain, frustration, and anxiety, as well as serious amounts of effort to stick with the pretty tough and strict rehab program...but it's starting to feel like it's been worth it...I may even end up stronger than I was before I got injured...now that would be a bonus!!

YES!!! More of this now please!

To most people who didn’t know I’d had surgery, it would probably seem now like there is nothing wrong with my arm at all…I can function fine in an every day sense. But I know it’s not quite there yet. It will be several more months before I don’t notice my shoulder at all or start doing things without worrying about how I’m doing them and whether I can or not…this will be the acid test that it is completely recovered I guess! It still feels “weird” compared to the other one…not painful, but like it’s not quite fully part of me, and I definitely don’t fully trust it just yet!  This probably sounds really strange but it’s hard to describe the exact feeling! Partly it’s just that there’s a difference in strength between the two arms so until that’s balanced out it’s going to feel a little bit weird.

So, aside from all the time in the gym, what have I been up to that’s kept me so busy?!

Some of last year's highlights...
Well November is normally a month I’d spend away on adventures, my mind needs to be occupied with positive thoughts and memories in this month where there are a lot of very sad and also traumatic ones which dominate my mind. But that couldn’t happen this year due to my pesky shoulder. I’d also normally have some time post-summer season where I’d take some time to be on my own…and I hadn’t been able to have any of that since my injury either! I couldn’t have got through the last few months without my wonderful mum and dad looking after me, and I’m very grateful to all those friends who’ve been there to cheer me up through the painful, boring, and very low points I’ve had since the op….but I’m a person who needs alone time too.

Time in the mountains to sit and think....(Photo: Leanne Callaghan)
I spend most of my time working with and surrounded by people, and I love that. For the most part it means I only have small amounts of time to myself and not enough to feel lonely, just enough to enjoy being alone. In actual fact, whilst it might not sound like this makes sense, the times I have often felt most lonely since Gareth died are when I’m in big groups of people. I think when I’m alone there is less noise in my head, less distraction to my thoughts, and I can clearly remember the sound of Gareth’s voice, the things he said, think about moments and memories shared and special times and places that meant something only to the two of us. 

Climbing Lake District Ice
I can imagine him with me and how safe and comforting it felt to have him there…just his presence provided me with a confidence that has been hard to explain and re-discover without him. The knowledge that he would be there to support me through anything made me feel stronger, to know he had my back and I his. So it’s good to spend a bit of time alone with my own thoughts, thinking and remembering….

Gareth on a perfect winter's day near Loch Etchacan, Cairngorms
Between Christmas and New Year is always a time when Gareth and I would go away together…usually to Scotland, always to the hills. Christmas is not an easy time of year for anyone who has lost a loved one…and it’s hard to share some peoples enthusiasm for it sometimes…
It can feel a very lonely time if you aren’t in a relationship and don’t make plans to keep yourself busy... everything is geared towards doing things as a couple…or at least it can feel that way if you spend too long watching romantic themed films on tv, watching the seasonal adverts, and looking in shop windows. It’s not something I ever noticed when Gareth was around, and I doubt any of my friends who are in stable relationships will either…but it’s a time of year when you can feel very aware of being single if you are, and also at a time focused on celebrating loved ones, it can be a cruel reminder of all that you have lost, and happier times in years gone by.

Anyway, for these reasons, after a lovely quiet Christmas with my family, I decided to plan a mini roadtrip for that strange time between Christmas and New Year.

Emma, Inver and I on a windy walk up the Cobbler in the middle of storm Frank
It was great, just what I needed, but I somehow managed to plot a roadtrip that basically headed wherever Storm Frank was wreaking havoc! From windy wet Munros and Corbetts in the NorthWest Highlands, to trying to reach a very soggy Tweed Valley, to then heading back into the eye of the next storm in the Cairngorms…I couldn’t have found worse weather if I’d tried!

Despite this I had a great time…It was my first taste of being able to do things for myself again and have some freedom! I spent a fun New Year with good friends, drank far too much prosecco and danced for far longer with some glowsticks than my shoulder could really take. Ticked off a couple of big walks, and started off the new year with some fun…

Not a bad view walking down from Creag Meageadh
I then met up with my sister Steph over in Newtonmore for a couple of days. Again the weather was pretty grim with storm force winds up high. But we managed to tick off a couple of Munros in the Monadhleith mountains, as well as a cold and windy ride and a walk up onto Creag Meageadh.

Steph on a wintery looking Munro
Not long after getting back from Scotland, I flew out to Chamonix for a taste of proper winter!
Good friends Jim and Alison had kindly offered some time staying with them so I could have a change of scenery and some time in the mountains, and I gladly took them up on the offer! It was like my own cold weather training camp week!

Daily uphill training...there are worse views to train to!
I quickly found a routine of skinning (ski touring) up the hill each day (the first day nearly killed me but fortunately it got easier as I got fitter!), very carefully skiing down (no falling allowed!), followed by coffee and a croissant (obligatory when in France), then a few kilometres of swimming and gym exercises at the leisure centre each afternoon, and time spent catching up and chilling out with Jim and Ali in the evenings.

Smiling because we're at the top! (Photo: James Thacker)
It was brilliant…It kick started my return to fitness and increased strengthening of my shoulder and I came back motivated and determined to get my shoulder back to 100% asap.

Beautiful clouds above the Aiguille du Midi

Sunshine, snow and Mont Blanc...all good for the soul!
Since getting back I've been found in the gym for several hours each morning, along with spinning, swimming or running each day, as well as being back on my mountain bike! It’s so good to get muddy and fly down some trails (very carefully of course!), and I can’t wait for more. Having enforced time off due to injury has certainly reminded me of how much I love being outdoors, on my bike, or skiing, or climbing, just being active in beautiful places, and of how important those things are to me. I feel re-energised and motivated and excited about getting out and doing things again!

Muddy legs and big smiles!
I’ve started making some Big plans for this year now everything is starting to fall back into place slowly but surely! It promises to be an exciting year ahead…watch this space!

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