And Then Things Change

We met on a beach. In Italy.

I had gotten kicked out of Austria for not having a work visa. I was on a spontaneous vacation.

He and his friends had just been promoted. They were on a spontaneous vacation.

I waded into the Adriatic Sea and introduced myself to the “hot army guys” playing football in the water and from that moment on, he and I were inseparable.

June 1, 1996 Jesolo, Italy

June 1, 1996
Jesolo, Italy

At least for those three days. And then we didn’t see each other for nine years.

I had a career. I got married. Had a son. Got divorced.

And then I Googled him and found him, by this time stationed back in the US. We emailed back and forth, updated each other, discussed a possible visit.

And then, without asking, I booked the tickets to go see him and sent him the flight confirmation.

A year later he moved up here and we were married.

And then we had a daughter.

We’ve been married for nine years this month.

But things change.

This month he moves out.

I will not place the blame on any one thing or any one person, although my inclination is to say it’s all my fault. That’s because I’m the doer.

I introduced myself. I Googled. I called. I flew. When indecision strikes, I think DOING SOMETHING is better than waiting. And that’s not always the case.

Out of respect for my very private husband, I will not blog our divorce.

But for me … I just need to put it out there. At least it feels like I’m doing something.

H

***

P.S. I’m ok. Fine, even. I’ve done this before and know how to put the kids first.

P.S.S. Nor am I going to become an anti-man, anti-marriage, angry person …

P.S.S.S. I really have no idea what I’m doing. Obviously.

What Comes After

Everywhere you look in the media, at least here in Alberta, there are photos, videos, and stories of traumatic events. The area is experiencing floods to that many will never see again. Except some people will.

When they close their eyes, when they try to sleep, in their dreams … they will see the events replayed.

hand

This is one of the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and now that the majority of the danger has passed, you need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of PTSD. Many associate this disorder with members of the military, emergency services, or victims of terrible crimes. However, a Canadian study conducted in 2008 reveals that all of us are vulnerable.

The prevalence rate of lifetime PTSD in Canada was estimated to be 9.2% … Traumatic exposure to at least one event sufficient to cause PTSD was reported by 76.1% of respondents … (and) … included unexpected death of a loved one, sexual assault, and seeing someone badly injured or killed. In respondents meeting criteria for PTSD, the symptoms were chronic in nature, and associated with significant impairment … PTSD is a common psychiatric disorder in Canada. The results are surprising, given the comparably low rates of violent crime, a small military and few natural disasters.

In just a few days, 250,000+ people experienced a natural disaster first hand.

Some were emergency personnel – and I witnessed individuals who self-identified as struggling, and co-workers who stepped up to encourage others to seek help. People who work in high-stress environments, while more likely to experience PTSD, are also more likely to receive information on how to deal with PTSD.

For the rest, I hope that this information helps you understand emotions and physical symptoms you or someone you know are experiencing.

  1. Absolutely everyone is at risk. PTSD is incredibly personalized because your individual trigger can be set off by very personalized stressors.  Your personal history with traumatic events – regardless of whether they are flood related – will determine what you react to. Age, income, gender, personality type, occupation … nothing gives you immunity. You are at a greater risk depending on your perception of the intensity of the situation, how close you are to the event, and how much control you felt you had – or didn’t have.
  2. You are not weak. There is no form of mental or intestinal fortitude that protects you. Do not succumb to the belief that this makes you weak, crazy, silly, unprofessional, or victimized. Do not allow others to minimize what you are feeling, either.
  3. Seek help now. The sooner you recognize the symptoms (see below) the sooner the healing can start. It may be a day or two, it may be a week, it may be a month. It may be longer in many cases, but delaying it and trying to numb the emotions and feelings will exacerbate the situation.
  4. Know where to seek help. Resources are out there. MyHealth.Alberta.ca has some excellent information including resource lists.
  5. Identify the signs. For people who see trauma on a regular basis, like emergency services or military personnel, it is important to recognize unhealthy behaviours and take steps to minimize them. I have experienced PTSD first-hand, and even recently I needed to remind myself of my own signs of stress: emotional regulation issues, anger, impulsivity, over-focused behaviour, the feeling that I have to attack even small problems with the vigor of a full hill assault.
  6. Fill out a self-assessment. Be honest but be instinctual and don’t second-guess yourself. Or fill it out with a loved one who may help identify issues you haven’t recognized in yourself.

So what are the signs? Thanks to Alberta Health Services – who issued a memo for EMS peers earlier this weekend – I have some great info to share with you:

Very Common Signs and Symptoms:

Physical

Nausea
Upset stomach
Tremors (lips, hands)
Feeling uncoordinated
Profuse sweating
Chills
Diarrhea
Dizziness
Chest pain (should be assessed at hospital)
Rapid heart beat
Rapid breathing
Increased blood pressure
Headaches
Muscle aches
Sleep disturbances

Thinking

Slowed thinking
Difficulty making decisions
Difficulty in problem solving
Confusion
Disorientation
Difficulty calculating
Difficulty concentrating
Memory problems
Difficulty naming common objects
Seeing the event over and over
Distressing dreams
Poor attention span

Emotional

Anxiety
Fear
Guilt
Grief
Depression
Sadness
Feeling lost
Feeling abandoned
Feeling isolated
Worry about others
Wanting to limit contact with others
Anger
Irritability
Feeling numb
Startled easily
Shocked

Unless you’re an actual hypochondriac people naturally minimize or dismiss some of these symptoms. “I’m just tired.” “She’s just stressed.” “It’s just a tough situation, he’ll be fine.” “I just need a drink.” And you may feel uncomfortable about approaching someone if you are concerned. You may not know them very well, or you may know them too well and assume they will be bothered by your concern. Or you might encounter people that are just jerks who feel uncomfortable with the whole topic – because it might mean they have an issue, too.

Whether you think you have PTSD or not, self-care after a traumatic event is important: rest more, reach out to trusted people, spend time with people or ask people to spend time with you, realize symptoms are normal and they will decrease over time, maintain as normal a schedule as possible, eat well, stay active and fight boredom, express your feelings as they arise – even if you simply journal them, talk to safe people who love you, seek professional help if required.

Be on the lookout for friends and family experiencing PTSD: don’t minimize their experience, listen, spend time with them, proactively offer to listen or provide assistance, reassure them of their safety, allow them to be private if they need to be, but above all … do not try fix the situation by suggesting that they are “lucky” or by pointing out others are worse off and do not judge them for what they share with you. Be a safe place for them. I cannot overstate the importance of being a calm, receptive person and the power of the words “I am sorry this has happened.” Acknowledgement of their pain is crucial.

Finally, recognize that trauma can be primary (experienced the event) or secondary (sometimes called vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue). All are forms of trauma and all can result in PTSD. There is some great information here for those who find themselves unable to tear themselves away from Facebook or Twitter or the news channel and who may be showing signs of vicarious trauma. When we have a personal connection in some way to a traumatic event, we seek out information about it – and some times it becomes unhealthy. Social and traditional media can feed this particular form of trauma.

To This Day

Have you heard of Shane Koyczan? He’s a spoken word poet and … well, his recent video blew me away.

Please watch it … I know that you might watch it and then not come back to read the rest of my story, which will follow below … but that’s ok because he can say things better than I can anyway.

But just watch:

Amazing, right?

It is very easy for many people to pretend that they are OK despite their childhood or school experience, but just having to say DESPITE says more than enough. It is very easy for many people to look out into society and think that childhoods are just happening, schools are just teaching, people are just getting older … it all just happens and we remain oblivious.

But if you’ve been a bullied kid, you know, that school at the end of your street is absolutely terrifying for more than a few kids.

Every.Single.Day they have to go somewhere that they find terrifying.

And what of the kids who also find home terrifying?

Gah. I actually have nothing else to say that is as powerful as that video. Watch it again.

That Which Angers You

I see a lot of anger today.

Election results.

People blocking each other on Facebook.

Viral hate on Twitter.

Hockey coaches hitting kids.

Bullying.

Best Mad Face. EVER.
MUAH.
I kiss that face.

The last 24-hours have been a maelstrom of anger, tantrums, poor decision-making (no, I’m not making a veiled reference to any election), and hurt. Mostly hurt.

And I am not immune. I have spent the last 12-hours being so over-the-top angry at an incident at a local hockey game that I had trouble sleeping and woke up tired, with a headache … and still mad. And here I thought I’d been doing such a good job because I had controlled my temper. I had not over-reacted last night. I was damn proud of myself.

Look at you, the redhead in the mirror said. Look at you being all grownuppy and helping people calm their tits down instead of riling things up.

But inside, I’m still angry.

I keep seeing the coach from the other team, intimidating one of our kids, rubbing his eyes like a crybaby to make fun of him. I keep seeing his one finger salute to our team. I keep seeing one of our own kids skate down the line to shake hands and not raise his hand once to make peace. I keep seeing the charging penalties that weren’t called. I keep seeing one of the boys, crying in the locker room after being checked from behind so hard. I hear the ref saying “well, coach, you should make your kids run the gauntlet so they know how to give and take hits”. I keep hearing the jeering from the other parents, and the jeering from our own parents.

I tried so hard to keep my mouth shut, to keep my behaviour in check. I thought I did ok.

But I was still angry.

Maybe you are angry today.

Maybe you are mad because YOUR kid got hit. Maybe because your candidate didn’t win. Maybe because someone on Facebook said something. Maybe you got blocked on Twitter.  Maybe just looking at Donald Trump’s face makes you mad. Or Obama’s. Or you husband’s/wife’s. There is a lot of name calling and talk of “moving to Canada” and “diggin’ up mah ammo” and “d-baggery”.

There is one saving grace for me today. For an hour I worked out at the gym. For an hour I did not think about my anger.

When the workout was done, I realized, I wasn’t angry any more because I had spent that hour controlling my movements – directing my body in all manner of positions and I had come to terms with the reality:

That which angers you, controls you.

Or maybe better said:

He who angers you, conquers you. I believe that’s the quote from Australian Nurse, Elizabeth Kenney.

It’s what I used to say to my son, many years ago when he dealt with issues of not being able to control his emotions and temper. And it’s worth saying again, to all politically minded friends, to all hockey parents, to all coaches, to all kids … to myself.

It isn’t really about that outward expression of anger. That smack. That word. That Facebook post. That tweet. Those are reflections of your anger. And anger is a reflection of your fear. Don’t let someone conquer you by taking your fears and boiling them up into such vicious anger that your minutes, hours, days are wasted in their service.

For myself I can say:

I was afraid someone was going to get hurt.

I was afraid my son would get hurt, he’s 60 lbs playing against kids 100+ lbs.

I was afraid that my son would think that behaviour was ok.

I was afraid that hockey – his Island of Competence in life – would because something hurtful and painful for him.

I was afraid that a child who has faced bullying so bravely this year would be completely undone by a conquered man. Acting in anger, out of fear. Doing more damage than I want to believe he intended.

I was afraid our coaches would also take part.

I was afraid if I didn’t step up and do something, it was going to get worse.

This isn’t about controlling your anger – it is about knowing the real reason why you are angry, facing it and realizing that it isn’t a threat.

But Heather, what it if it is a threat?

Look, are you sitting at your computer reading this? Are you under threat? Unlikely. You are breathing. Your heart is beating. Unless there is a knife held to your throat, a gun to your head – there is no threat to your life. If there is – fear and anger are totally justifiable. I’m with ya. I got yer back.

But stop slamming the cupboards and cutting off drivers and snapping at your husband (wait, just me?) saying you’re “fine”.

I didn’t want to get too preachy. I really didn’t. I just finally found this calm spot in the day and needed to say something.

Sorry my quote isn’t more eloquent than “calm down your tits”.

I’m no Elizabeth Kenney.

Thank You, Hockey

This post will not be about the terrible behaviour I just witnessed from grown adults. I’m going to let the authorities deal with that.

This post WILL be about how stinkin’ proud I am of my son’s behaviour.

Celebratory Ice Cream

I know, every mom is like this, I get it.

Bear with me, please.

My kid is the smallest on the team. He’s a left winger. When we started in hockey, I had to Google (or as my daughter says, “search up”) “left winger’s job“. According to Wikipedia “Nowadays, there are different types of wingers in the game — out-and-out goal scorers, checkers who disrupt the opponents, and forwards who work along the boards and in the corners.” My kid is the one who works along the boards and in the corners.

During the game tonight, he had some serious hustle. He was on the puck as often as he could be, he skated as hard as he could. I honestly have never seem him play this well.

It was a scary game because of somethings that were going on … but again, this isn’t about that. But he did not weaken. He kept his head up, he hustled, and he listened to his coaches. He didn’t succumb to cheap shots, dirty plays or name calling. He played clean.

His coaches awarded him the Hardest Working Player of the game. This means at the next game he gets to be Captain and wear that coveted C on his chest.

I could hardly talk, I was so proud of him. Mark this day on your calendar. I could hardly talk.

After the game I let him do the talking.

“Mom, I did not like playing that team.”

“I was so frustrated with the refs and the other team, I wanted to scream … but I didn’t, I knew I’d get a penalty or something if I did, so I just tried to play hard.”

“I didn’t get scared, I just tried to get in there and get the puck.”

“Everyone was frustrated, it was really hard to keep my cool.”

Imagine that – an eleven-year old kid, one who got suspended three times in Grade Three for unruly and disruptive behaviour (I believe “willful disobedience” was the term) had more control over himself than half the adults in that rink.

Argh. This post isn’t about that.

This post is about my son, and the character that he has. I’ve said it a hundred times: sport does not create character, it reveals character.

Despite the poor behaviour. Despite the frustration of trying to hold in what my inner toddler wants to say and do. Despite the disappointment in my fellow hockey parents (from the other team, not ours). I still say THANK YOU, HOCKEY.

Thank you, Hockey, for revealing my son’s true character.

Fair Play Rules for Players

  • I will play hockey because I want to, not just because others or coaches want me to.
  • I will play by the rules of hockey, and in the spirit of the game.
  • I will control my temper – fighting and “mouthing off” can spoil the activity for everybody.
  • I will respect my opponents.
  • I will do my best to be a true team player.
  • I will remember that winning isn’t everything – that having fun, improving skills, making friends and doing my best are also important.
  • I will acknowledge all good plays/performances – those of my team and of my opponents.
  • I will remember that coaches and officials are there to help me. I will accept their decisions and show them respect.

A Catalogue of Pain

When a friend recently posted a picture of her injury, it got me thinking about the large database of injury-related pictures I have … not because I’m an EMT (it would violate my code of ethics to take a picture of a patient, I’ve even had them offer to send me the picture with their own phone, but I decline), but because sometimes my family’s first reaction to an injury is “wait, lemme get my camera”. My mom used to do it … and I do it. But these days I’m more apt to share it with everyone on my Facebook page.

Why?

Why do we feel the need to catalogue our pain?

Fell off the kitchen chair at gramma’s.
Right in front of me.

Do we need sympathy?

Stupid Stupid Stupid.
My first summer with red hair and fair skin or what?

Do we just want to feel better?

Attack by “friendly” neighbourhood cat.
Left scars.

Do we need to know others make stupid mistakes, too?

Never try fast, high-impact wheelchair sports your first day in a wheelchair.

Does it bring our pain closer to the forefront so it doesn’t stay buried?

Army feet. Not mine.
Good thing she was rooming with two medics.
“Uh, yeah, it looks broken.”

When we share, do we excise the pain like a tumor?

How exactly does one injure one’s self gardening?

Does it make us feel more human, more fallible, more real?

Head + Window Sill = Glue

Do we need others to know we’re clumsy?

Head + Door = Glue

Is everyone this clumsy?

Head + Round Coffee Table = Stitches

Or does everyone feel like a bad parent when their kid gets hurt?

A horse used me as a springboard.
It hurt.
I learned not to fall off.

Can we protect our kids from every injury?

Teaching my son to ride and *I* get hurt.

Or can we just hope to learn from them?

What do you think?

Things I Hate: A Long List

I wrote a short list of Things I Believe, and now I bring you a much, much longer list of Things I Hate. Why is it longer? I don’t know, maybe that’s just the judgmental, obsessive compulsive other-people-organizer I am.

  1. Hearing people chew their food. I found out that this is an actual disorder which I swearonastackofbibles I have. My husband calls it my hatred of “human noises”. I disagree. I also hate it when I hear the cat bathing itself.
  2. When people are WRONG ON THE INTERNET. Oh boy how I work on this on. I think I’m doing pretty well … I avoid reading the comments on controversial news stories, I practice breathing exercises to tone down the absolute rage I feel when SOMEONE IS WRONG. Look! They put it in writing! I must refute their words! No, mommy can’t play right now, go away, someone is wrong… yeah… more like I hate that this bothers me.
  3. People who complain about their job in front of customers. This is popular at coffee shops… I’ve heard people complain about management, co-workers, wages, hours…. I get that you are working for a fairly low wage and might not like it. What you are saying might all be true. But professionalism and leadership isn’t just for people making the big bucks. Be a classy, hardworking, positive influence wherever you go and you will not just make a career for yourself, you’ll make a life.
  4. When I can’t find something that’s somewhere… I know I saw it, I know it’s there, but it’s just unfindable at the moment. I have wicked mad googling skillz… just ask my husband, I found him on the internet :) Or, stalked, if you have to get technical. When my googling skillz fail, I’m mad.

    Mad.

  5. Stupid quotes pretending to be pictures (for easier Facebook sharing). Especially hateful if the quote is really stupid. Like one I saw this morning that said something like “if you are ignoring your woman, someone else will be paying attention to her”. The list went on regarding “if you aren’t listening to her… if you aren’t there for her … if you don’t comfort her…. someone else will”.  For crying out loud ladies, if your man is ignoring you, won’t listen to you, isn’t there for you, won’t comfort you… don’t go find another man to do it for you, just get out. You don’t actually NEED this to happen in your life. You need self-confidence and maturity.
  6. When you see someone making the same mistake over and over again and you don’t know whether it’s your business or not to say something and you really, really want to but wonder if it will seem assumptive, judgmental or rude… so you just slam your head repeatedly on the wall and hope it gets better for them. Afterall, you made all these same mistakes too and probably wouldn’t have listened either. But still. Hate it.
  7. Pinterest buttons that just lead to web sites full of Pinterest pictures.
  8. Hair on the floor. Anywhere. Especially public pools. Makes me want to vomit.
  9. The crazy black and white cat that gave me the scars on my chest last summer and then chased my daughter up the sidewalk this week. Only cat I take a hose to, the nasty old thing… Huge and mean and really holds his ground!
  10. Annoying things I can’t change like seasonal allergies and my period. (Sorry if you are a boy and you just read that. I know, it’s probably the worst thing you’ve read all day.)
  11. That moment when you realize you missed a really cool thing. Like an opportunity to do something with your kids, or a wickedly cool accident on the highway. (Hey, I’m an EMT, I can’t help it. It’s not that I want you to get hurt… it’s just that I want to be there when you do!)
  12. When friends fight. Mostly because I go from being happy and opinionated to being Switzerland. I guess it’s not too bad being Switzerland, they are cool people. But I still hate when friends fight.
  13. Hypocrisy.
    13a. The fact that I’m a writer and I had to google that to spell it properly.
  14. Media outlets that celebrate and embrace their biases. Really? I really long for unbiased journalism and longer, well-researched articles. I live in an age with Twitter, soundbytes, and instantaneous “news”.
  15. I hate how the public and the media feels they are somehow owed answers regarding personal situations. Someone drowns in a river and the media plays the “it’s about public safety” card and everyone has to ask questions about every small detail of what happened. It may be a kid, it may be a drunk adult, it may be someone ignoring water level warnings… but that was someone’s child and the family has a right to privacy. It’s all a lot of crap with an undercurrent of “oh I need to find out what they did wrong so I can feel better about my smartness”.
  16. When someone in health care is giving a report and says “I have a 25 year old Native male”… uh, I didn’t hear you say “I have a 25 year old white male” or “I have a 25 year old Chinese male” with your last patient … why does NATIVE always have to come up in the report? If you are trying to tell me something, just say it. What does his race have to do with it?
  17. Annoying Orange.
  18. People stealing my credit card number and trying to make cash withdrawals in Washington. Suck it loser.
  19. People in volunteer-based organizations (like community groups, or membership-based professional organizations where all the work is done by volunteers) who complain but offer nothing in return. “I paid my membership, therefore my opinion is valid.” Yep, sure it is, I just also think you’re a jerk.
  20. How terribly infatuated I get with my first world problems and how long it takes me to realize how grateful I should be for living in a world where these sorts of things are my biggest complaints.

And I’m done.

Judge Not – Lest You Judge Yourself

If there’s one thing I have learned from EMS world, it’s that you never judge a fellow EMTs actions if you were not there. Right after I became an EMT, I had a couple people come up to me and tell me about something horrible some medic had done on a call.

And they ask “is that right? would you have done that?”

And every time I would say “I don’t know, I wasn’t there”.

Because I don’t know. I WASN’T THERE.

But more importantly, I find that the I’ve learned from past history … I used to be very judgmental. It was just how I decided that I was OK. I was OK because I wasn’t like “______”. It was OK because I hadn’t done “____”.

But over the long run, instead of feeling better about myself, I felt worse.

If I made a mistake, I knew exactly what others would be thinking or saying about me – because I’d thought the same about others in similar situations. I was familiar with the verbiage because it was already pre-programmed in my own mental recording.

And in the end, you can’t happily sustain any sort of confidence in yourself when you are navigating this world based simply on avoiding judgment from other people.

This is very hard to do, it seems, for people who comment on news articles and blogs.

Most recently it’s come up with the run of dog bites making the news in Calgary. If someone chooses to put the dog down,  people get upset because it wasn’t the dog’s fault. If they choose to surrender it to be rehabilitated, they are just passing the buck. If they choose to keep the dog, they are irresponsible.

What would you do if the family dog bit your child? Some of us would put the dog down, some of us wouldn’t.

I only know that I don’t want to be in the position to make the judgment for myself and I sure won’t judge any other parent’s choice for their family.

And then I punched him. With my eyes.

I was running late for boxing last night.No particular reason other than oh I couldn’t find a sports bra and I had to clean something up after a kid and someone called about the event I’m hosting this weekend. I was 2 minutes late. I hate being late.

And apparently the boxing coach hates late people. It’s ok, I can accept his wrath. Once you’ve been yelled at my Warrant Officer Joseph or The Scary, Yelly Corporal for something you didn’t even do but you know enough to keep your trap shut and take the spittle… all other yelling becomes kind of boring. Yes, yes, yell at me, what are you gonna do, hit me?

But then one of my fellow classmates made some comment about how he managed to get here on time and he “has a full-time job”.

Well pin a rose on your friggin’ nose.

I was so instantly angry at him it was hard not to let loose with a large string of profanity. I was angry. It was a “lazy mom eating bonbons, I’m the man so I’m more important, I’m betterthanyou,you’re not busy” insult all rolled up into one sentence and I hated him even more for getting under my skin so quickly.

I wanted to detail my four freaking jobs, my volunteer commitments, my blog, my overextended life. I wanted to tell him that not even on his best day could he keep up with me. I wanted to rip himoff his little spin bike and punch him in the face. Except all that would mean he had won. He’d gotten to me.

You might remember my last post detailed some boxing ring rage? Yeah, I think it’s carrying over to the warm-up area.

I just shrugged my shoulders and ran my laps. The coach made a comment about how because I was late, I’d just made this class much tougher for me.

“Oh?” I said, “I didn’t realize you’d been holding back.”

That got me an evil smile. It did not end well for me. But I did not quit, I did not weaken, I just did what I always do: I just pushed through and kept punching.

I think what bothered me the most about the first part of the class was this assumption that they knew my story. They knew all they needed to know about me and yet they haven’t had one full conversation with me. As I was starting to do my warm up run, the words “maybe you need a time management course” were thrown my way.

I’ll show you an effing time management course. It’s called having a full life with a multitude of commitments that don’t give a crap about your schedule or your goals. It’s called being a parent and realizing that you are not in control of anything. It’s called taking risks in almost every area you can because that’s the only way you grow. It’s not all boiled down to showing up on time for the gym.

None of this will keep me away from the class, of course. It made me want to leave, but again… that would mean they had won. Instead I finished my class and then went and had a half-hour run on the treadmill. Just because. Boxing had left me cranky, not relaxed, like it usually does. I needed to DO something solitary for a few minutes before heading home for the bedtime routine with the family. They didn’t deserve a crankypants mom just because some jerkface needed a punch in the head.

I’m sure it would give them satisfaction to know I am still thinking about it this morning. But they don’t know that a) it’s just between you and me Dear Reader and b) I friggin’ won anyway, they don’t even know it.

Failure, It Turns Out, Is An Option

Just after returning from Vegas last week, I started to feel a bit sick. Just weak at first and then some chills. A cough. Headaches. Before long I had to admit I had a touch of the flu. Which was aggravating because I had a BFT coming up. That’s a Battle Fitness Test for those not familiar with the army. Every year we have to do one… a 13km march with about 50 lbs in your back pack or ruck sack. And you have to do it under 2 hours and 26 minutes (and 24 seconds).

I kept insisting that I was ok, that I could do it. I wasn’t THAT sick. It was mostly at night as I was shivering under the covers trying to sleep off a Neo-Citran high that I felt really sick. When I got up and took some Buckley’s Cold and Flu… I felt almost normal. High, but normal.

So I spent the night before the BFT weighing my day pack, making sure I was all ready to go for the morning. I doubled up on my Neo-Citran and had a hot bath.I had a fever but it was only at night… surely that meant I was only half sick, right?

The morning came way too early but I popped my Buckley’s and tried to ignore the dizziness in the shower.

By the time I got to the unit lines I was feeling pretty darn good. I had some random hot flashes but I was drinking plenty of water.

We drove to our starting location and off we went.

You have to keep a pretty quick pace to finish on time. Keeping a 10 min kilometer will mean 130 minutes, or a 2:10 finish. An 11 min kilometer would be 143 minutes, or 2:23, just getting it in under the wire. It seems like it will be ok, because I can run a 10K in 1:10 so I should be able to walk 13K in 2:26.

Should.

I’ve never run a 10K with the flu before.

I was keeping pretty good pace, middle of the pack kind of pace. Just 2km in and I was starting to feel hot spots in my feet.

Let me go back a few days. My husband was in the army, that’s why I call him Major Man on this blog. He told me a few times NOT to go. “This is supposed to be a difficult challenge when you are healthy. You shouldn’t be able to do it sick. You shouldn’t go. You won’t finish.” (Helloooo, challenge!)

He knows about marching and feet and boots and all those things and kept telling me to put moleskin on my hot spots.

And I kept telling him, I didn’t get any hot spots on course, so I don’t know where they would be.

Now I know. Pretty much the bottom of the heels and the bottom of the balls of my feet were hot.

By km 4 I could feel the blisters squishing. (Ew. Sorry.)

By km 5 I was getting hot flashes and spots in front of my eyes. I was trying to drink water but when I tipped my head back I lost my balance. I’d look at the water (we were walking by the river) and feel dizzy and stumble.

By km 7 I had pulled the plug and was sitting in the back of the van, the only one not to finish. I had slowed down and was off pace, I wouldn’t finish within the required time. My officers were willing to help me through, but they also told me I wouldn’t pass … too slow already. I was stumbling and gimping at about a 14 min KM pace.

Pin pulled. Kaboom.

Throughout the whole experience I wanted to push through… I wanted to be “tough”. I had given birth to two children, without drugs, dammit! (trump card!!) I kept hearing my friend Sarah (that’s Master Corporal to you, mister) say “shut off and go, shut off and go”) but I was afraid I was going to shut off and pass out.

I think I could have powered though the pain in my feet… but the pain in my head was too much. The dizziness was too much. The dawning knowledge that my husband was right… was too much.

Laying in the van, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really care that I hadn’t finished. I was sick. Chills. Shivering. Aching and aching from head to toe. I’d save the guilt for later.

First. I had to deal with the pain.

You are welcome that I did not post pictures of my feet. Holy. Mother. Of. God. They hurt.

My husband tried to stifle his laughter as I shuffled across the floor. I forgave him his laughter because he kind of waited on me hand and foot for the next 24 hours.

It’s four days post march as I write this. I have finally recovered from the flu. This evening was the first time I climbed my stairs and didn’t feel like I was going to pass out. My four days on the couch have given me time to think. What went wrong?

(Obviously, the flu. D’uh.)

I realize that I tend to overestimate my ability and underestimate a challenge. I really believed I could push through the march. And at the same time I’d tell myself it wasn’t like I was going to DIE on the march, it would just be tough. I could do tough. Insert trump card.

I figured I could just WILL MYSELF to finish. I would just not see failure as an option.

News flash: it’s always an option.

BUT! I’m sure glad I tried. Even though I didn’t make it. Even though I ended up in pain and shuffling slower than my granny for 24 hours (and whining more than her, too), I know what to expect for the next march. I’m all over the mole skin, the better boots, the better hydration, the better training leading up to the march. I am ON IT.

And I didn’t fail out of the army. I just didn’t pass a test that I wasn’t fully prepared for.

And I tried. I hadn’t opted myself out before the test began, I arrived for the test in the best way I could. I couldn’t make the flu go away magically, I couldn’t prepare for something I’d never done before.

In the horse world we’d call this “showing the horse you’ve got”. You can do all the preparation you can before competition, but sometimes you’ll walk into the show pen and your horse will be less prepared than another or will just have a bad day. Instead of navel gazing, pouting or quitting… you show the horse you’ve got.

So. That’s what I did.

And you know, a little failure never killed anyone anyway. Except Darwin Award winners of course.