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.
3 months of healing, 3 months of fighting against your own body and mind, 3 months of emotional turmoil…. my break experience lasted 3 months. I broke on the 13 July 2014, and was back on skates on the 14 October 2014. Throughout those 3 months, I knew I wanted to return to derby and skate again, train, scrimmage, bout. Yes, there were wobbles on the darkest days of those 3 months, but as soon as I was physically able to and allowed to, I skated. I worked hard to get my body back in a position to return to skating, 3 months of lost fitness and stamina, 3 months that I had to really make up for.
I have since returned to skating as though my break never happened, yes… I am healed. But I’m still figuring things out mentally and emotionally.
Physically I feel strong and comfortable, my fitness and stamina is creeping back up and I keep pushing myself to keep going, breaking through the walls. I now know my body again and I have really learnt to trust it all over again in the last month. I have set goals and targets, small and big, in a bid to get to where I want to be. And when I get there I intend to keep pushing further and further.
Mentally and emotionally? I am not really finding any middle ground just yet, more or less highs and lows. When I came back, I had so much determination and motivation and passion, and it showed as another skater friend commented on my determination. It made me feel happy and strong knowing that my want to be better and work harder showed in a positive light. At first when I returned, I was a little cautious. I think that was a completely natural way to feel post break, but it wasn’t really caution in the sense that what if I get injured again, it was caution in the way that I did not know how my mind would react to situations. What would happen when I got back in a pack, when I fell, when I took a hit? Things I would come to learn to deal with as and when they happened. The main positive about my break was that I had no muscle damage, bones heal stronger and quickly, whilst muscles can be a waiting game – so I knew physically, I was fine. Physio Jen would not have let me return if she had not thought it safe too, and with her track record working on other skaters in my league I fully trust her judgement. And I’m glad I did!
I knew coming back would be difficult, I didn’t lie to myself about it and I was not naive about the process, in fact I surprised even myself at how quickly I was able to pick it all back up and jump into scrimmages and drills again. Of course there have been moments where my wankle (bad broken ankle side, most commonly known in the UK-Derby-Crips world as a wankle!) has been moved in certain angles, that before I would not have thought about, that I have suddenly thought more about and over-concerned myself with the new feel to it. I find myself thinking that this feels weird, but then I wonder how it actually felt before I broke? I never paid attention to it before? I think it is similar to the way I process and tend to over think things, for instance in training I am always thinking how to improve what I’m doing, what I need to do to get a move right, how to correct something I did wrong, being over critical even when I do something good…. then in scrimmage? I just play, I am relaxed and at home and I just do everything that our TC have been working on with us in training sessions just so naturally.
I find when I play that during a bout or scrim, I am focused and fairly centered. But post bout or scrim? I fall really hard. I immediately start to put myself down and look at everything I did wrong or could have done better. I generally tend to brush off anything positive people have to say about me and act like it’s just people being nice and trying to cheer you up. I know at the end of the day that this isn’t true. The women I skate with are very honest and genuine people who won’t turn around and sugar coat things, but they also won’t turn around and just straight up tell you that you did bad. Mentally, I have never felt as though I am good enough, I am thankful every day I get to train at the level I do with the people I do.
Since returning, the biggest mental block I have dealt with has been an odd one. The feeling of not being good enough and being unwanted. Part of me feels like now I have been damaged, I’m not the same and I’m not good enough or wanted now, even though I’m actually ok and any damage has actually made me better after the experience. I feel like I have a lot to prove. Before my break, I was working hard and aiming to skate alongside some of the top members of our league, I had just had a taste of what it might be like and that the opportunity may have arose to do so! I was also at a point where I was not happy with my skating, not happy with my ability as a blocker and as a jammer. Coming back I had a fire in my belly. But I still had a large sense of self doubt and self confidence. I know I have rebuilding to do, and I am working hard to do that. I guess I’m more or less saying it is ok to not be ok. I keep beating myself up about the way I feel, making myself feel more babied than I probably am being. I know people are looking out for me and have best intentions at heart, I think I sometimes take it to hear too much and feel like maybe something is wrong with me.
I am going to continue to work hard physically, but I think I need to begin to balance that out more. I need to pick out something good I did, something that helped the other blockers on track or helped my jammer get through. Even things like saving my point or keeping my communication strong on track. I don’t want to ignore any negatives, but I don’t want to focus on them either. And more often than not, you wake up the next day and think, why? Why did I beat myself up so much over that, because it was no-where near as bad as you thought at the time. I’m lucky to be part of a league where I am surrounded by genuinely fantastic ladies and fantastic skaters who I get to learn from and skate with every week. These women push me to be a better skater, motivated to skate & play harder and stronger. And I intend to continue to do so. I am also lucky that I can call these women my friends. Friends who tell me to keep my chin up, give me that hug, grab my padded pants, laugh over tiny pots of jelly, give you positivity and confidence, and just generally help remind you that you are not alone. These women are there on track with me, they are there off track for me, they are women I will fight tooth and nail to be there for in return. These are my bad asses.
I don’t this particular blog post has too much of a direction in what I am trying to say, this is more of a mental blurt? I think if I had to say that this came with a message, that the message is this….
It is ok not to be ok, you are only human, filled with emotions and thoughts that some days we cannot even begin to understand. There are days you feel amazing, and there are days that you have the horrific urge just to cry with no warning or reason. You are not alone. No matter what happens, you must always try to love yourself, the world is a mean enough place without you being mean to yourself.
Til next time little blue monsters xx
Yes. You read that right. And no. I’m not saying go break a bone!
I guess the better way to word it is that breaking my ankle turned out to be a good thing. By that, I mean that I personally took a lot of positives out of the experience.
For one, I took a step back from derby. For me this step back wasn’t good in the way that I missed everyone, missed practice, missed skating, but that it pulled me away from it all and made me take a good hard look at everything in perspective. It made me want everything so much more.
Yes. I couldn’t walk and lost most of my independence. Yes. It sucked big time. BUT… It took me to a place where I found a new fighting spirit. Firstly, I appreciated being able to walk and do simple things again, I took great satisfaction and enjoyment in being able to do all the small things. But secondly, I worked my ass off.
To get back to skating, I went to physio, was given exercises, and I worked hard. I had so much determination to be able to walk again, go up stairs normally, and skate again. Mentally I grew stronger as my body dealt with the physical side of things. I am lucky to have league mates who are not only friends, but inspire and drive me to do better, be better. And to be happy.
The first time I was able to walk normally upstairs, not on my bum, not facing sideways, but facing forwards bending each body part every way I was meant to, I realised that the harder I worked and the more I trusted my body, the quicker and better everything would come back to me.
I was determined to be able to skate the day the doctor said I could. Nearly three months to the day (broke 13 July – skated 14 October) I skated. I listened to my physio and trusted her to do what was best for my body. The hardest thing was for me to learn to trust my own body again. Know that when I put weight over my wankle I would be fine. Hard work had so far gotten me up the stairs, had walked the dog, had gotten me through gigs. And hard work would get me through skating.
I even carried on my physio exercises right up to the point I physically put my skates on that first time. To the point I did my first drill based practice. And when I scrimmaged for the first time.
Hard work has gotten me this far. But behind hard work has been determination and motivation.
When I broke, I had been lucky enough to have been deemed suitable for the A squad and B squad. A fantastic place to be, I was going to skate hard to show my team that I was worth the chance. The week before my first Harlots bout, I broke my fibula. Having come so close to representing my league hit me hard, but it also started a fire. I was so close to doing what I wanted. And it was taken away from me. Ripped away leaving me with little hope.
I was angry, upset, depressed. Then I accepted everything. There was nothing I could do to change the situation. But I could do something about coming back. Other skaters had come back from worse. From the moment I realised how far I had come since breaking and how close I was to being able to skate again, I had a huge fire in my belly. I had a hunger and determination to get back to where I was before I broke. Then to surpass that and be better. Be able to work with my team as well as stand on my own two as a blocker and jammer. If I can solidify my own ability on these roles, I can better support my teammates on the track. And if I can work better with my teammates, the better I can support my team.
I have scrimmaged. I am gradually getting back to where I was step by step. Back in training. Back in squads. I have worked so incredibly hard to get back to this point. And I am not about to stop here.
I continue to set goals. I continue to strive to be better. I am doing ok at the moment, but I know deep down that I can do better. And I will.
Watch this space little blue monsters!
Til next time xx
(Let’s just ignore the fact I posted before saying 10 years. It turns out I can’t actually count…..)
In 1994 I first began my skating journey. It seems crazy to think about it being 20 years – two whole godamn decades!
In the last 20 years, I have trained and grown as
- A figure skater
- An ice hockey player
- Roller hockey player
- Roller derby skater
That seems manic. Time on ice, time on roller rinks, time on sports courts. Time on blades, time on in lines, time on quads.
It also seems manic when you think about how, although the principle is the same, there is still a fine art to the abilities learned, grown and refined in each of these skate-based sports. Differing weight distributions depending on the surface or skate type and the fluidity of movements or strength and finesse required.
To think at one point I was prancing around on the ice, in lycra dresses, performing solo and group routines, competing against other very talented skaters. Then at another point spending time with strong ladies and men having enjoyed ice-hockey for years suddenly learning to play the game from the teams standpoint, hitting a puck around, scoring angles and defence plays – heck even pulling the goalie for the last few minutes to freak the hell out of the opposing team confused me for months when playing! Then to adapt the skills learnt playing on ice to briefly playing on in-line skates. The sudden difference in effort used in pushes, crossovers and ability to dig in with hockey stops! Then the move to roller derby – the sudden change and difference in being on quads rather than inline blades/skates. Again the same principles yet so different!
Sometimes I look at this and contemplate why I am still not at a place where I feel happy with my skating ability.
Other times? I realise that I have been on one hell of a crazy ride.
I still own hockey skates. I probably still have my figure skates somewhere in my parents loft! I have seen my old lycra dresses somewhere at my parents. I have a file of rosettes and shelf of trophies from figure skating. I still have my Nottingham Ladies ice hockey jacket which to this day I wear with pride! (And also as it is so comfy and so warm and toasty!)
I have come quite a way. From that first day my parents put me on skates at the local ice-rink and sent me off to lessons, to learn how to skate and then gradually grow into this (not-so) graceful ice-dancer. Then somehow move into contact sports, team sports.
I have met so many wonderful people through skating in the last 20 years. I have had so many experiences. Experienced a variety of emotions. At times felt like I wasn’t good enough, times I felt I could take on the world, and other times I just stopped and asked myself what the hell was I doing.
Even though I have spent 20 years skating, I am still learning. Finding new and different ways to skate, new moves, new styles. Meeting wonderful people who inspire me as a person and skater, learning from them and using their experience to make me better. I have reached a point in my life where I can really look back at what I have achieved in the last 20 years. But I know that I still have a way to go.
Even after 20 years of skating experience, my laterals to the left? Like a hot knife through butter. To the right? A little less refined. Yes. I had the hip operated on. But it is about learning again, building strength and having the finesse to finish it off. I had my operation in 2006, and it essentially put me back to square one with anything involving my right hand side, though it is still – somehow – my stronger leg? But it has been learning with baby steps as any new skater would, how to lateral right again, how to distribute that weight, the strength you use to push, the way in which you turn sections of your body.
To the fresh meat skaters, to the vet skaters, heck – to the referees and others involved in skating (which ever style you skate or sport you work hard in) – wherever you are on your journey. Take a moment to look back at how far you have come. You don’t need to be at my 20 years, you may have been skating longer, or are still working things out in your early days, weeks, months, even year. But look at it and be proud. Every move you mastered, no matter how easy or hard, big or small… even simply standing up on skates – that is one thing you could not do before. Work through the frustration, the upset, annoyance and the obligatory swear words. Don’t let that one bad day, the move you didn’t make or the fall you took that night ever stop you. Get upset, cry it out, but do not let it stop you – get back up, try again. Keep falling, keep going wrong, keep trying. One day you will get it. Do not hate yourself for not being where you want to be, take the time, don’t over think anything and just breathe. Most importantly breathe. Steady yourself and compose yourself before you move that foot, relax and allow skating to just be part of you. One day you will reach a point you no longer think about what you are doing, skating will become a natural thing, it may not seem like it now, but one day you will be looking back wondering why you worried so much. And that moment, the point in which everything clicks and falls into place? It doesn’t always happen as soon as you think, it sort of just creeps up on you. It could click early on, it could come to after months or years of work. But work hard and believe in yourself. In the last 20 years, I have experienced emotions where I felt like giving it all up, but I have worked too hard to throw it away. The ability to skate. The joy of skating. One key piece of wisdom I would pass on to you today? Enjoy it. Relish it. It sucks but one day, your body won’t let you do the things you want to. So yes, work hard! But make sure you experience the joy it brings you. The smile you get when after weeks of trying you finally master that transition. The warmth you feel when you help others who are learning and see them progress. The strength you feel when you overcome your fears. Enjoy those moments, they are fleeting moments but do not let them pass you by.
One day you will be where I am. You will be standing, looking back, figuring out where you want to go. If you look around you, you will notice you are surrounded by wonderful (or in some cases not-so wonderful) people – one day they were you. One day they didn’t know how to skate. But today they may be skaters who you look up to, sometimes envy and hate that it all seems to be so easy for them. Once upon time, it wasn’t easy. Yes, some people find it easier than others but it does not mean that they personally didn’t find it a personal struggle. Do not ever once think that you are alone, do not hate yourself or envy others because of ability, we all skate the same path no matter how many different ways it takes us to get there. We have all learnt, struggled and overcome all the challenges we faced. And when you reach this point, take a moment to look at the people around you. Heck look around at them now! Offer help and support in a positive sense or even ask for help and support. I like to think a majority of people on skates are kind-hearted and will remember when they were struggling and still learning, sometimes you may hit a wall and experience rejection, but do not let that deter you.
You are constantly learning. And will continue to learn. Even when you feel as though you have reached your peak – climb it. At the other side of a hill, there is a mountain waiting to be conquered. No matter how hard it seems, just go for it.
Damn I’m gushy today.