Since the day I was born I loved sports. I started skiing when I was 3, played soccer, basketball, baseball, ran just because. When I was 6 I started doing Nordic Combined, and would always do other sports growing up. When I wasn't doing sports, I was either talking, thinking about, or watching sports. That's what I was known as by the people that knew me, and the people that didn't. I've always had the privilege to be able to go out and do whatever activity I wanted to do and to be able to dedicate my life from the age of 6 to become a high-performance athlete, and in an instant that was taken away from me.
So here I am, 19 years old, I've been an athlete all of my life and now I'm just, not... For me, sport wasn't just a part of my life or something I did in my life. It was my life. It dictated where I was, what I was doing, what I was eating when I was sleeping etc. There were days when I didn't want to wake up because I felt as if I couldn't live my life, I just had to watch it slip away from a dark room. I didn't want to see friends or interact with people, mostly because I had nothing to talk about other than my doctor meetings or how maybe my head was good the other day, or something like that. Meanwhile, they're off competing, going to school, pursuing their own goals, they're moving forward and I just felt like an anchor. Looking back, this was the most painful thing about the entire experience, it wasn't the constant headaches or any of the physical things, it was that feeling. To my parents, if you're reading this I am so sorry. I'm sorry for the days I would scream and yell at you for no reason, I'm sorry for the days I would sit on the floor crying from the overwhelming empty and lonely feeling I had. I'm sorry for the days where you didn't know how to help stop my panic attacks and I'm sorry for the days you would try to help, and I would push you away.
There's something I learned later on that will stick with me for the rest of my life. It came from a therapist my dad had found for me, it wasn't until maybe our third or fourth session that I was comfortable enough to truly talk to her about what I was feeling. I was telling her about how I was never going to get better, and that everyone I knew was going to move on to other things and I would be forgotten behind. She asked me "how do you know you're never going to get better, who is telling you that?" I sat still while pondering the thought, who was telling me I'd never get better? The medical professionals and doctors I was seeing said that they couldn't tell me why I wasn't getting better at the time but they never said I would never get better. It wasn't my parents or friends, they were always telling me I would indeed get better. Then I realized that the only one saying that was myself.
We as humans are so filled with self-doubt and fear of failure. The second that we have a negative thought it can take over us, consume us, swallow our hopes and goals in one quick bite. But you have to remember that most of the time, especially in sports that you are your toughest critic, and can be your most difficult opponent. When you get those negative thoughts you have to learn to hear them, but not listen to them. For the past 6 months, I had been telling myself that this was how my life was going to be. That I would never get better, that I would never be an athlete again. How is a person going to accomplish anything if they themselves are the ones holding them back? Or in my case how was I going to get better, if I was the one holding myself back. If by chance the therapist I worked with is reading this I wanted to say thank you. That simple question you asked me I see as the turning point in my recovery, and it's something I will never forget.
I knew that at that exact time I couldn't be an athlete, but I was lucky enough to be able to do other things. Photography became my exercise and sport. It was something I was able to do when those negative thoughts started to creep in. I'd go grab my camera, find a place I liked to go and just walk. maybe I would take a photo that I really liked, or maybe I would take 500 and not like any of them, but that was ok. I was practicing something and getting better at it, I was moving forward. I also started to play guitar a lot, shortly after started to play the piano again, soon I was writing music. I would do this for hours, and it was a way to talk to someone and express some of the things I was feeling without anyone even in the room. I started reading more, playing solitaire, doing things I had never done before, I even tried drawing, that one was short lived, I am not that kind of artist. This was a time that a realized that they're other things in life than sport. I still wanted to be an athlete, I still loved sports, but I was learning that if I would never be able to do them again, then that's ok.
As this was going on Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Canada had formed a partnership with a local chiropractic and physiotherapy clinic. One morning after a bad night of sleep I woke up with a headache worse than usual and a very sore neck. I decided to call the new clinic to see if I could get my neck worked on a bit, this would lead me to Doctor Nardella. He would be the key that would solve the puzzle of my concussion.