Every week you attend practice. You warm up, catch up with your teammates, learn new skills and improve on older skills, improve on your skating and playing, piece by piece.
Roller derby is a sport that the vast majority adore. It gives you a greater sense of who you are as a person, allows you to grow in ways you didn’t think possible and opens doors for your emotional and mental states of mind. You fall in love with roller derby for a variety of reasons, never once contemplating that derby may actually kick you in the face when you least expect it, when you hit a negative wall – even with your teammates and friends around you, supporting you, it is you who is generally the only person who can make a change for the better.
The last few months I have been pretty much ignoring the existence of this blog, complete radio silence since my last blog announcing the break. I thought about blogging maybe 2 or 3 times? But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now I feel up to it, let’s go back to where it began. If you haven’t read my previous blog, you can read in the previous post or I’ll do a brief catch up now – 13th July. Last scrimmage practice before my first bout as a Harlot. Warm up 4 wall drill with an active opposing jammer. I was blocking in the 4 wall. Something happened, I fell forwards then some how backwards and onto my toe stops/ankles and as I went down I heard a cracking noise. It was painful initially and I knew something didn’t quite feel right. Usual protocol was followed, checked over, skates removed, help to stand – I realised I couldn’t comfortably put weight on it… hopped over to a chair with aid and then sat there for two hours watching the rest of scrim thinking that it was just a sprain. Hours later in A+E… verdict? Broken. Backslab and then finally got a proper cast (and some pretty horrible ankle/leg manipulation..!) on the 17th July. I returned to work a week and a half later after another visit to the hospital and consultant to check that no operation was required and everything was healing and bonding in the right place (with many lifts in and out, a disabled toilet key and a desk on the ground floor until I could return to my own marketing office!) Didn’t need to see me until my cast came off.
I think I was definitely on an incredibly positive level (or just drugs in the system) when I posted my last blog post. I have been on one hell of an emotional and physical roller coaster since July 18th. I wanted so badly to watch practices whilst I was out, keep up with drills and where the team was at, NSO on Scrimmage Sundays. It was set in my mind that I would do all the things! But when it came down to it? It was too much for me to handle. The pain of watching my league skate, partake in drills, scrimmage, along with knowing that other skaters were missing practice/scrimmage (for various reasons) when I would have given my other ankle to be on track… it broke me into pieces. I knew that physically being broken would be tough, but I don’t think I originally quite grasped how tough it would be mentally. There have been so many low points in which I thought – screw it. No-one will notice if I don’t come back, no-one will miss me on track, why am I even bothering when I know I wasn’t actually a good player/skater, I think I’ll just sell my skates. Screw it. I hit a major low, I felt alone, isolated and just overall rubbish. I reached out a few times, and it is difficult because the world doesn’t stop when you are broken which means no-one else does either, and many people have a full week of roller derby, have commitments relating to family or friends, have heavy work commitments or just generally ridiculously busy schedules. And when you reach out, you always have to remember that if you don’t see people, it’s not because they don’t care, but because they are busy and have lives, and it is incredibly tough. I have spent a lot of my broken time feeling very alone and isolated. And maybe I should have done more to see people (which in retrospect, relying on lifts is bloody hard!) but there was a large part of me that didn’t want people to stop what they were doing just to see me. I felt like a burden and I did not want to put that on anyone, especially with the large amount of negativity I was dealing with. The hardest part of this experience was the way in which I had previously looked after my body, MECFS and made sure I rested etc, simply was not possible. The physical and emotional strain of breaking my ankle made dealing with the previously under control illness, so incredibly difficult. I was drained and exhausted, physically and mentally. I had bouts of depression and in some parts let this affect relationships in my life. Thankfully everyone has been wonderfully patient and put up with all my broken and tired crap, now I’m through the other end and he is still looking at getting his skates on! I will also note that I sang/performed at two shows with my band Little Mammoth whilst sat on a rather Westlife-like bar chair! Dedication to the cause! Even though my ankle bone/fibula is now healed and I am just working on the muscle/tendon/ligament strength etc, I am still mentally/emotionally struggling. I NSO’d again last week during a friendly scrimmage with another team. And when I sat in my car post-scrim to go home, I broke down. Everything hit me. Everything was real again. It felt like as I was walking, dancing, driving and my ankle was healed, that I should be on track skating with my teammates. I felt so many emotions rushing around at that point. I managed to put myself together, start driving home, but had to pull over about 2 minutes later from just feeling sick and breaking down again. At which point a teammate pulled over and just really saved me from myself. I really owe her for sitting there with me, talking through everything with me and just being there in general. Everyone needs a Charlie! Never underestimate the power of a friendly face and positive/supportive words!! Another integral part of my Ohana has been looking after me from overseas, as well as kicking my butt when giving up was mentioned. Mika has been a big rock, even though she has not been here in person she has been there, offered me advice, supported me and otherwise just let me rant and get everything out of my system. I can only hope that I can be of as much help when she needs my support! She is coming to visit soon and I cannot wait to see her, so much excites! A big turning point in terms of support, came in a strange form. Lanny – who had initially helped me out of the hall into the car the day I broke – was also off skates due to injury and operations, was so fantastic in offering me a support point and texting me to check in. She made me feel like I was not alone. And I still owe her a coffee date! But she added me to a group on Facebook which I am oddly proud to be a part of. The UK roller derby crips – in association with Team Metal Legs. A group of broken and fixed skaters, some with metal parts, some with non metal parts, but a group who when put together created a beautifully strong bond and had so much hope for everyone around them. These people encouraged everyone to have hope and be positive, gave them support when they felt down, or just made jokes and put a smile on your face. They also had the serious side covered, where you could reach out to people with similar breaks and get an idea of the healing process, especially as a huge part of this is not only physical healing, but the mental/emotional healing you need to do. Through this group I have found a new strength, I have found new friends, people who I have my own little link to, people who are going through the same or often worse with surgery and the likes, some who have returned to skating, some who have yet to return to skating and a few who have been waiting an awful long time. But these people? They are filled with determination and hope. And this strength, hope and resilience that all these skaters share is just inspiring. I am proud and honoured to know & be friends with these people. I went to watch some previously broken skaters skate in a bout known as Team Metal Legs (returning injured skaters to derby) versus Team Crazy Legs (skating out for invisible illness) – both teams of which I resonate with very strongly. But to stand in my plastic splint as I watched this group of talented skaters bout, I felt proud and I felt a strong sense of hope. This group of women had battled through injuries to return to play a fantastic game. I had wanted to skate for the Harlots and do them proud before, I wanted my spot on the team – after watching this I wanted it even more.
In my last post, I wrote about whether I’d be able to return to skating. Whether I would be able to do full contact? Would I just find solace in the world of Zebra? Would I be forever Team Grey? And at this point in time, the answers to all the above is still unknown. I hope it will be that I do get back on skates, continue to hunger for a spot on the team and play alongside my brilliant league mates. I am full of so much determination to skate again, scrim again, bout again. I want this. So what about returning to skate? The hospital refused to give me physio. I heard the immortal words from my consultant when the cast came off and she gave me the news on how long it would be until I could skate again and the refusal of physio…. “It’s only a sport!” Commence the floods of tears. Again. When I look back, I know how lucky I was to be given 6 weeks until I could try to skate. At the time it seemed like the kiss of death to my derby life. I was to immediately weight bear, with a plastic splint for two weeks, then without for the final four weeks. I Googled alot in a bid to find some sort of physio help, thankfully there is quite a bit of ankle rehab information out there and it is all essentially the same. So I started working on my own physio. Whilst I’d been in a cast, I had been trying to work on my core strength (which sometimes caused my leg to respond in the general fashion of “What. The. Hell. Are. You. Doing.”
In the last week of September, everything seemed a lot closer. The six weeks until I was allowed to skate was flying by and everything was so much more real. I spoke to my teammate who had undergone operations on her knees, returned from injury and still kicked much butt on track – Rosie has an incredible wealth of derby knowledge and experience, is a force to be reckoned with on the track and has gone through serious derby injury and returned to skate at a high level. She is also a fantastic person which has made having her there as a form of support just incredible! She had spoken highly of her physio who had managed to guide her and work with her on her return and so she passed me her number and I went to see the mystical derby physio Jen! This was probably one of the best decisions I have made. Jen was so understanding and with the knowledge of what derby demands of you physically that she had gained from working with Rosie amongst others meant the advice she gave was ideal and I felt comfortable and safe with the exercises she was giving me and where to go from there. I will be seeing Jen again at the end of October to see where I am at and what the next steps are! The key things from my physio trip was that Jen told me I would definitely be allowed to return to skating this week and that for my own sake & my body, I needed to. My body is protecting my ankle, even though it is healed, it is protecting it from stretching/moving where it needs to go. By strapping on my skates, my body will relax and allow me to continue improving. Under her advice, I purchased a soft Mueller ankle support (£18 clearance sale from SportsDirect – bargain!) which will softly support my ankle in the initial stages and help with my confidence whilst starting back at skating, and I will build up to a neoprene support, then eventually… no support!
I have been NSO-ing and supporting Team Grey. I won’t be able to scrimmage for a month or so yet, so I will continue to honor and support Team Grey! This allows me to catch up with NSO’s, continue to be involved with the league and keep an eye on what the team is doing so I am prepared for returning to full contact.
So tomorrow is D-Day for me. Tomorrow I will be putting my skates back on properly and having a pootle around the hall. I did a small living room pootle on Friday night to test that my support fitted under my boot ok, and to overcome any initial nerves, and I did a thousand times better than I thought I would! T stop, plow/plough stop, crossover….!! I am really hoping more than ever that 20 years of skating will mean that my muscle memory totally has my back! I know it will be tough, both physically and mentally, I need to get back my strength, my stability and above all my confidence. I have come out the other side of a broken ankle, and I have come out fighting. I will continue to fight and I hope I continue to have amazeballs support around me!
Today I am full of determination and hunger. I want to return to skating, I want to get my place back on the squads, I want to finally claim my spot on the team. I am determined to push hard, do everything in my power and prove myself as a skater and as a Harlot. At the end of the day, I will do this. I will not rush this, I want to be safe, I want to be as strong as I can be, have my strength and stability back in my ankle. And then I will work my butt off and get where I want to be.
My ankle break timeline.
13th July: I broke my ankle (fibula)
17th July: Got a proper cast
28th August: Cast was removed
14th October: Back on skates
The thing with not being good enough is that your mind becomes your worst enemy. The last week has been very hard for me, it has been emotionally and mentally draining. I have been very alone. Today I was excited but at the same time ridiculously nervous. The first time I’ve returned to the track in a scrimmage scenario. It has felt great to reach this point and now have the ability to learn from other skaters! It has also been terrifying. I am scared. I will admit that. I used to primarily be a jammer but pulled my fair share of blocker duty. In the last year I had experienced a lot of negativity and comments surrounding myself and my skating and ability in both roles and my confidence has been at an all time low. I told myself to be brave today, to man the feck up and jam at least once today. I did not jam. I blocked, badly but I blocked. Every moment on track the comments replaying in my mind. All those years of derby has accumulated to what would appear to be nothing. Part of me considers the option of recreational skating, I do not at this point in time feel as though I’m good enough to be skating with the fantastic ladies that surround me. I am having a serious crisis of faith and self belief. A the part of me feels that I am simply not good enough. I have been put down to the point that I now believe it. I wanted to put that jammer panty on so badly. Tried to recall when I scored a 14-0 jam and use that for courage. But I was scared and stood back. I had no courage to step up like the superhero in a film and save the jam when everyone was tired and wanted to sit out of jamming for a few. What upset me the most about today is the way I let my emotions take over. After a tough week everything has built up and reached a breaking point. I cried. I cried like a little girl. Now my mind is telling me that people with think I’m an attention seeker, that I’m a dramallama which is far from the truth. I have worked my butt off for derby. It came into my life 5 years ago and I haven’t looked back. Yes I have been knocked around and had my ass kicked both physically and mentally. But I have always come back to derby. How can you feel like you are good enough? Is it enough to look at all your victories no matter how small? How can you outweigh the bad with the good? And how can you ignore the negative feelings when it’s yourself that uses your experiences to make you feel like you are not good enough. I don’t really know what use this post is in comparison to my other posts. I guess it’s more a way for me to get this off my chest and not feel so alone. So if you can take anything from this post then let me know, any way we can turn negatives into positives! As for jamming, I’m not sure if I will put that panty on my head in the near future. I would like to think that I will. I loved jamming. I will set the record straight – I was not a jammer for glory. I was a jammer because I enjoyed it. I loved finding and exploiting holes in walls, watching my blockers hold the opposing jammer with such ability. Watching teamwork and learning how to help other jammers when blocking. Til next time bluemonsters x
So… there are only two sleeps left between today and Saturday.
What is so important about Saturday you may ask? Well.. Saturday happens to be a pretty awesome day.. infact this Saturday I will be playing my first bout with the Mansfield Misfits. Oh yes… awesome stuff.
Though while this is an awesome thing, I am also cacking my derby panties.
At the start of this week I was excited, kinda like the way I get around Christmas. We had a good scrimmage practice on Sunday night, I felt good about jamming in my newly broken in boots, figured out what I need to focus on/avoid and noticed how my team are looking – confident! But Tuesday… Tuesday I started to panic. For some reason, something in my mind clicked and sent me into partial meltdown mode on Tuesday night.
I have never really been nervous before, not like this. Some people have asked about being nervous when I go on stage…. like skating, singing is natural for me and I have been doing it long enough to know I can just get up on stage and enjoy myself. In a way singing and derby has close links, when I get up on stage I’m not just Holly, I am this confident kickass person who take’s no crap and is there to have a good time – and for derby it is the same. I am not just normal Holly, I am Hollycidal Violation, I may not be an entirely different person but my derby name and persona allows me to let go and be who I am on track. Yes. I have been skating long enough for it to be natural and second nature, but the pressure is different. It may be because it is my first bout with MM. That we have people coming to watch, especially MamaCidal… it means so much that these people are coming to see me play for the first time, MamaCidal has seen me figure skate but this is so so different. I was good at figure skating, but I really took to derby with such ease and confidence and I genuinely feel like this I something I am actually kinda good at.
So this notion of nerves is a strange and new one for me. I did not realise how quickly excitement could so easily turn into nerves. So now I am trying to control my emotions, not supress or disregard, but control them. I spent a while looking advice online on getting to a positive mental state and found some positive results from Rollerderby Athlete amongst others – who highly recommend acknowledging when you are not in control, relaxing and then refocusing that energy. And I feel this to be positive and worthwhile advice. Though sometimes you cannot always be in control, as seen by our lovely Walnut Whip getting excited and nervous about a friendly scrimmage with a local team and ending up with a neverending nosebleed. Good memories! But a prime example of a confident skater pysching herself out.
Now the reality has hit me, I have gone from being excited about lining up on that jam line to suddenly feeling the pressure of being on that jam line. I have no serious worries or disbelief in my ability on track and as a jammer, I do feel confident. Although there is that annoying little voice in the back of my head that does point out the possibility of failure. But if anything happens, I must remember to get my head in the current jam, have specific jamnesia for the negatives in the previous bout.
Another piece of advice I will be taking is surrounding the organisation and stress side of things. I aim to be packed Friday evening. Saturday morning I hope to recheck my derby gear, make sure I have spares/backup bits of kit, make sure I have my overnight bag, eat breakfast, mentally prepare, fuss the dog (as it will be impossible to avoid the dog), pack the cheese/pasta I make Friday night along with other snacks and make sure I have extra water! Then go pick up the wife and make our way to Barnsley. Get there early and meet in the carpark for some team chillout and whatnot.
As it currently stands my feelings are as follows:
- Skate hard and skate clean
- Enjoy myself and learn from the experience
- Be proud of myself and my derby wife for how we did
- Be proud of my team for simply getting to our first bout
- Watch some awesome mens derby
- Eat cake
- Get drunk
- Win the afterparty
Sound good? Bagofnerves.