My journey through Lyme Disease- Healing my body and mind.

Learn to fail and set yourself free!

on July 4, 2013

Today’s post is a little different from the past couple of posts and addresses something that I think many of us can relate to, Lyme-Disease or not. But, before I go further, I think I should update you on my health since my last post was following one of the worst nights of my life. I am feeling MUCH better now. Back to my “new normal”. My energy is back up, brain fog is gone, and muscle and joint pain is minimal. Yay! I did go through one more smaller Herxheimer reaction after starting treatment again after the sauna incident, but it’s because I unknowingly started both of my antibiotics at once instead of starting one and waiting five days before starting the other. Two lessons learned. Anyways, thanks for the thoughts and encouragement. It really does help. Having support from loving folks like you, is priceless. I GOT this!

On to the topic for today, and that is: Failure. Ick! It’s a scary word and in the past, has elicited a huge fear and shame response in my body and mind. It’s no secret that I grew up in a very competitive household being the child of a dedicated cyclist who raced seemingly every weekend and a mother who was a competitive weightlifter (until steroids came on the scene). My sister was a successful collegiate cross-country and track runner. It seemed reasonable as a child to assume that success in sports was required to live an acceptable life. Competition was just part of our family system. There are many healthy aspects to competition and obviously, being raised to appreciate the outdoors and activity has benefited me GREATLY as an adult. There are, though, also some shadow sides to competition and being part of a competitive environment that can creep in unknowingly. For me, it was fear of failure.

Something interesting about my history that I find curious is that every time I would find a sport where I excelled and had potential to be a competitive athlete, I would either get sick or injured and would be taken out of progressing in that endeavor. It’s hard to think that it was all just chance. When I was a kid, it was gymnastics. I was a very competitive gymnast that learned very fast and loved the sport immensely. As soon as I started competing, I believe that fear of failure kicked in and I would “train” everywhere I was, even outside of the gym. So, I ended up falling in a grass field because I stumbled on uneven ground while doing a backflip. I completely destroyed my elbow in the fall. Emergency surgery. It was a pretty terrible story, that I’ll save for another time. I still to this day cannot fully straighten or bend my right elbow. I tried my hardest to go back to gymnastics, but you can’t be competitive with an arm that doesn’t straighten. That ended my gymnastics “career”.

After my arm healed, I started riding mountain bikes with my dad. It was awesome to learn how to ride with him. By far, some of the best memories I have as a child. Soon after learning to ride, I of course, wanted to go race just like he did. I started racing and did pretty good for a little 13-year-old girl. As soon as I started becoming successful, my fear of failure response kicked in. During the first race that I got my butt completely kicked by another woman, I became so nervous about losing that I crashed and hurt my tailbone and was even further behind. I lost interest in mountain bike racing soon after, because even though I didn’t know it then, I couldn’t successfully lose.

In college, I learned how to rock climb and fell instantly in love with the sport. I learned really fast and progressed quickly. Seeing my success, I entered a bouldering competition and won my division. Soon after, my fear of failure kicked in. I trained relentlessly to get stronger and better and ended up with a partially torn rotator cuff that needed rest that I refused to give. I had surgery on that shoulder and following the surgery, was advised that I needed to “take it easy”. I could no longer climb as hard as I wanted to, so I moved on to the next thing.

The next thing was learning how to ride downhill mountain bikes. I moved to Washington and lived for riding my bike. I was progressing quickly and it felt so good to learn new things nearly every ride. The euphoria from high-fives and cheers from friends for doing a new jump or riding a sketchy line was priceless. Naturally, I decided to race. The first couple of races I did, I won by a significant margin. This was scary. I was happy that I was doing well, and I really did love the sport just for the riding, but I now felt like I HAD to do well. What if I didn’t? What if I failed? The cheers and high-fives would be replaced by people being disappointed in me and questioning my poor performance. It would be unbearable; or so I thought. My fear of failure response was FULLY engaged as I prepared to go to US Nationals to race downhill. I took my training up four notches beyond what I had ever done and started doing CrossFit in the mornings and riding in the evenings (on top of working 50 hours a week at a stressful high-paced job 3 hours away from my home). You guessed it, I got sick. This time it wasn’t a broken bone or injured shoulder. It was Lyme. Lyme that my own immune system had put into remission years earlier had come out and taken over. Thus, taking me out of competition once again.

Lyme will demand that you learn to slow down. I have learned to slow down, but it hasn’t been easy and I am certainly still learning. I started a Kettlebell lifting class to keep moving through my Lyme recovery. One of the things that I loved about kettlebell lifting was that I was NOT instantly good at it and I wasn’t even remotely the best. Interestingly, I have not had my fear of failure response with kettlebell lifting. I think it mostly has to do with the personal growth that I’ve done over the past two years and the incredibly awesome and supportive people in my class. It hasn’t been obvious to me exactly how much I have learned through my experience with Lyme until last night.

At my kettlebell lifting class last night, we did one of the hardest workouts that I have done in a very long time. The workout was a “1776” workout to “celebrate” the 4th of July. It was a 1,000 meter row, 700 meter farmers walk with 16kg kettlebells, 70 russian twists, and 6 turkish get-ups. We all started the workout on the row and I instantly felt that ping in my stomach of, I need to hurry up, this is a race. My body immediately reminded me that I needed to go my own pace, no matter what that meant for my performance. The awesome thing about this is, I LISTENED. Woooooohoooooo!!!!! This hard head of mine has LEARNED! I backed off a little and found my own pace, which felt really good. As I finished the row, I started the farmers walk. The farmers walk was carrying a 16 kg kettlebell in each hand for 700 meters. I picked up the kettlebells and they felt really heavy. Normally, I would have immediately dropped down to a lighter weight, because if I didn’t, it would mean I would finish last. Finishing last has never been an option, because of my fear of failure. This day was different, though. I wasn’t scared. I knew it would take me a really long time to walk 700 meters with that much weight, but I wanted to do my best even though it meant I would be last. I felt so strong in who I am and knew that person is not defined by performance of any kind, that my fear of failure was completely gone. I understood in that moment, I mean really understood, that no matter how successful I was in any endeavor I chose in my life, I was loved and accepted regardless. That’s powerful stuff and I have Lyme to thank for that.

I had only walked 100 meters before I had to set down the bells to rest and that felt like success!  Carrying those dang things 700 meters was the hardest thing I have done in so long. My awesome coach, Jenn Flick Lockwood, walked with me for the last 300 meters and it felt supportive and awesome. I am certain that in the past, something like that would have made me feel ashamed. When I finally finished the farmers walk, I came back to finish up the workout and everybody else was already done. That definitely would have triggered my shame response in the past, but not once did I feel that. I finished the workout and felt so proud of myself for finishing. I finished last and it didn’t even occur to me to be upset about it.

I went home and made a smoothie for my recovering muscles and was enjoying reading when Jason said, “How was the workout?”. I said, “Really hard. It was good, but it was definitely hard”. Then, I went on to brag about how awesome my coach is and how she walked with me for the second part of the farmers walk. I then found myself bragging about finishing last.

As somebody with my upbringing, I had been certain that finishing last, which is what I would have termed “failing”, would be this horrible yucky feeling that would make you want to crawl into a hole and not ever try again (AKA, shame), when in fact, it was the complete opposite for me yesterday. When I realized that I had learned to fail, it was the most uplifting and empowering feeling I have ever experienced. When I realized that finishing last in something does NOT mean that you are a disappointment to others, it evaporated my performance anxiety. Who cares if you try something and fail? The answer is, NOBODY! So do it! Get out there! Try something you’re not sure you can do with other people watching. Try it! Learn to fail, and set yourself free!

2 responses to “Learn to fail and set yourself free!

  1. Angi says:

    Amen, Lyndsey! This is a powerful message. Thank you for sharing. I admire your ability to find the positive in a negative experience and got chills when I read “and I have Lyme to thank for that”. You are a fantastic role model to us all. Thank you!

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