Monday, March 24, 2014

Amputee on a Ski, Part 3 of 3: the Eye-opening Stuff

These adaptive skiing posts started out being about my five days as an amputee in the Greek Peak 2014 Winter Challenge program, but it's really about my whole winter's skiing. And bruises. And self-discovery.

I expected it to be challenging, sure. I figured it would be physically difficult. But I didn't expect it to be my new form of therapy. Wasn't expecting to find so many left over emotional pockets of panic and powerlessness. I thought I'd pretty much purged my psyche with all the therapy, meds, time and self-knowledge. Wrong again. 

The most rewarding part of skiing this winter was how I learned to accept both my fear (the panic that still ambushes me) and my trust of the incredibly supportive skiers who helped me. You may not have noticed, but I have a slight (ahem) tendency to charge at life determined to conquer everything on my own. I carried this attitude into amputee-hood. It's important to be stubborn and independent. But it's just as important to value people who want to help. 

When I shut up and listened, I began to trust. I stopped feeling overwhelmed and started to progress, slowly, but surely. It took a month for my bruises and pulled muscles to settle down, but then I went back every Sunday I could the rest of this season. March 16 was the final day of the adaptive program and we celebrated with a dish-to-pass  lunch and a very moving awards ceremony. 

That was also the day I began putting some turns together with more confidence and reliability. I 'm still on Alpha, the beginner slope, but I'm gaining tools and confidence. I can imagine the day I'll venture onto another slope--with my entourage, of course. Scott, one of my instructors (who masquerades as a para in a wheelchair but is actually a maniac on a monoski) told me, "Pretty soon you'll be off to the top of the mountain! You'll see!" He also told me, during one of my mild but recurring panic attacks, it took him two years to work through the panic.

This sense of community has opened my eyes. Admitting I need help opens up opportunities. After my above-knee amputation seven years ago, I climbed back on my horse and sort of battled at riding. One-legged-ness wasn't going to slow me down! Except it had, along with being middle-aged. To ride safely, I need help. And guess what I'm not good about asking for?

But skiing has limbered up that part of my brain. My friends at the barn where my mare lives want me to ride. They are supportive. I don't have to feel limited by not being able to charge out into the woods or over the biggest jumps. I'm looking forward to getting back in the saddle. I wasn't expecting this gift from my adventures on a monoski.

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