"We have to accept the things we can't change but with accepting them only makes us stronger. It will suck, it will hurt, it will depress you and sadden you but in the long run you will be a much stronger person for it. Just BELIEVE!!!" Matt Lehr.
I can post hundreds of motivational quotes or memes and inspire you or remind you that you can do it and you are capable of doing it. I can list off competitors whom have dealt with injury and health setbacks as proof anything can be done if you believe. I can do all of that and even try to convince myself that it is true, but the reality is, until it happens to you, nothing seems to make sense or work until you are ready to accept it and move on.
See that's the funny thing about being part of this industry. Once you have sort of established yourself in a certain way or become known for being/doing a certain thing, that becomes your trademark and "brand" and when you waiver from it or are not as on point/on the ball as you have become known to be, things seem to spiral out of control with the way others react to you and how you even deal with and cope yourself.
This is a mental sport and industry like no other. There is drama no matter how you phrase it, between competitors, companies, sponsors, coaches, media and the list goes on. No matter what you do when it comes to this industry, you have to keep your mental game and focus strong. But what happens when that is challenged with a health issue/concern/setback? How are you to act and what are you to do? Do you try to keep up with what others have known you to be or are you "allowed" to have that break and act the way you really feel without judgement or pity?
It is hard no matter how you look at it, until you are there, it is not an easy thing to answer.
Now I have written about many topics within this industry over the last 2 years - covering things to know and do for a show, to sponsorships, to supports to actual show coverage. I have also been fortunate to interview and work with many of the great names in this industry and learned from them their tricks of the trade so to speak. Some of the best lessons and messages always came back as staying and being mentally strong. No matter how physically strong you are, the moment there is mental weakness, there is breakdown...and no motivational quote or meme can get you out of that.
I believed in reading those quotes and memes as pick me ups, until a year ago April. This piece is a bit more of a personal one for me than other articles I have written. This is me sharing with you the struggles I have faced this last year with my health and the unknown that still is with regards to it, as well as the overall affect it has had on me and I know with how I have come across and dealt with others. I had that mental strength and body of armour set and ready to help me take on this issue the day I walked into emergency, but as the hours, days, weeks, and months went on...I started to lose that strength and truth be told, me.
Back in April 2014, after weeks of feeling off and unusually swollen, my coach at that time made an emergency doctors appointment for me with his doctor who was a competitor - meaning it would be someone who understood this lifestyle and what we as competitors go through daily for the love of and obsession with the sport. After talking to him, he sent me for blood tests and because of his insight and knowledge, asked for tests a regular doctor would not ask for. Days later I went in for my tests and that night at midnight, the lab called me and told me it was a critical situation and I was to get to the hospital emergency room ASAP. Hesitant and shocked I chose to wait until the morning to talk to my doctor but by the time morning had come, off to emergency I went. Test after test and hours later I was told that I was a critical patient and needed to have more tests done and be seen daily at emergency to monitor me so as to not get worse. Great!! Now what? From not having a single major problem I went all the way to left field with an "unknown". I do not know what was more troubling - the fact that I had no clue what was wrong with me or that the doctors didn't.
The list of what I could not do was huge. You take someone like me, who trained twice a day and ate 7 clean meals and tell them no gym for one month and get off the diet food...this is where the battle of mental strength began, fell, and is being built up daily each and every day.
Now almost a year later, I am still ill with an unknown health issue that has me in emergency frequently for tests, check ups, and more lists of what I am not allowed to do. Two of the main health issues that have been "found" is a permanent heart valve condition due to critically low blood count levels and the realization that my body is no longer absorbing protein and has not been for over a year - hence the insane amount of swelling. I am not allowed to train like I used to. I am not allowed to eat only diet food. I am not allowed to do cardio (that is not so bad) and I am to basically undo everything I have learned and loved where this industry and lifestyle is concerned and do the opposite in order to heal. Yes I still go train at the gym everyday at 5am, and I was actually encouraged to do so to help with my mental state and that my body does not go into complete shock, but when I am there it is not the same....no lifting above my head, no heavy weights, check on my breathing and heart pressure blah blah blah...walking around with the constant fear of having a heart attack has not been easy nor has feeling sore in my muscles not because of a great workout but because of muscle breakdown and no repair. The hardest thing for any bodybuilder is being told you are not building muscle and have not been for a year - each and every day that I am in the gym is a reminder that my muscle is not growing, I am not repairing and I feel like someone who has never worked out a day in their life.
The mental battle to get out of bed everyday to get ready to go to the gym is hard - why bother going if I cannot train like before or truly lift? Why have people look at me like nothing is wrong but yet chuckle when I go for the 10lbs because anything higher tends to hurt or cause heart pressure? After all, I look healthy and fine from the outside, I cover up my swollen legs and body with the biggest shirts and hoodies I own and the colour has come back to my skin. To say that it is heartbreaking to not know what is wrong is an understatement. To not feel like "me" is hard. I want to get better but it is defeating that every time I go for an appointment, there are still no clear answers and it is a waiting game/process of elimination of what this can be or what they find.
Mentally...I have my good days and bad days. I know that because I am "watched" on social media, I write for the industry and I work within an organization that runs competitions, eyes are on me. There are days when I just want to break away from it all and have a good cry or scream but what good will that do? Or the wanting to post a post of just curse words to truly express how I feel. On the other hand, I know that I am still lucky in the grand scheme of things with it all. I have a great medical team working with me (my doctor is a little House like) and I have my over protective parents on me and a few friends who have my back when I am a pain in the ass, but they get it. There is no motivational post or quote out there that will ever be enough or mean enough as either a friend just being there and me working through it all, but the truth is until I get a full clean bill of health and am told that I am good to go I do not think that I will ever be over that mental battle. There will always be doubt of my abilities in the gym, there will always be that constant fear that one wrong lift or move can cause a heart attack, there will always be that frustration that my body and muscles are not where they should be because I lost a year or more of growth...and there is the mental battle of knowing that if I ever wanted to compete again (which I don't) but that choice was taken from me because I got sick. This setback also put a mental block on my writing and I truly lost that passion and drive to write because what could I offer when I lost my love and ability to truly enjoy the gym? How can I share and write about "gym things" when I didn't even want to be in a gym anymore? Yes I was still writing bios and doing interviews but that wasn't the same for me as sitting down and truly putting my all into a piece to entice and entertain readers.
Maybe this piece is not of the quality that I am used to putting out or what my followers and supporters have come to expect, but for me this was a step forward in my healing process and acknowledging that things have changed. Each day is a struggle and when you are not in the mental mindset of what you are used to, you don't have the same drive and passion to do the things you normally do. My writing has always come from a place of passion and the heart so how could I put something together for others to read if I couldn't believe in it myself? But with all things in life, there is that moment when you have to make the choice and only you can do it. No one can tell you that you are ready, no one can make you feel positive and happy, no one can live in your head for you but you. This is all up to you and you have to be ready and wanting to see that there are better days and moments ahead and like all things you have faced before, this to shall pass.
I have been so fortunate to have few very close friends who have been there with me every step of the way...and I know that without them being there, I would not have been able to get through each appointment, test, breakdown, training session and moment of frustration. Their support and understanding goes well beyond what you want to put on a friend and there are no words to ever truly express my love and gratitude for them. When you feel like your world is falling apart and you do not want to be around people and burden them with what is troubling you, those are the times you need to realize that it is okay to reach out. I know for me, for the longest time I kept it all to myself because I didn't want to burden anyone because I was seen by a few as strong and did not want to be seen as needy or weak because I was having a "bad" day and I learned that it is okay to do and to worry about what some may say is nothing compared to the words of support from those that matter.
Being healthy and active for as long as I can remember and having that all taken away in one day messes with not only the physical but mental side of life and living. To be strong means to be strong mentally before physically and to find the strength to admit to needing support. I have a long road ahead of me with more tests and appointments and so many more factors of the unknown but by being able to put a voice to my situation after almost a year is proof that each day I am finding that inner strength to find me again.