I Pulled My Armpit?

I’ve been having issues with my right arm for months. I figured it was just lingering from my unfortunate encounter with a chair a few months ago. It would get better for a while and then not, and then get better and then not, and you get the idea.

I’m sure it’s not that big of a deal for most people but when your legs aren’t normal on a good day and your arm is sub-par you’re basically down to one fully functional limb on any given day.

I’m normally sore for a while after a trip too.

So, I just waited it out.

Until I thought maybe I should stop waiting.

I mentioned it to my trainer and he found a fairly large trigger point in the region of my scapula.

I texted a friend with a rehab background after my session to find out what she knew about it.

“Um, serratus anterior?……Basically the muscle on your side below your armpit.”

Awesome.

Wanting to know more about what I’ve gotten myself into I came home and looked it up for myself.

serratus-anterior

How someone can find an injury within this mess without the aid of additional studies is beyond me but I’m glad it’s possible, especially so early in the “Medical New Year” when I avoid any doctor related anything like the plague.

Being a swimmer with CP I’m realizing I have to be a different kind of careful when it comes to my upper body.  

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A “Fit” ting Realization

I’ve made a few changes in my fitness routine. I won’t go into the details because I don’t know how much of the new will “stick” and how much of the “old” return, or if at all. It’s also more complicated than just feeling the need to change things up; although that was part of it.

In the midst of all of the change and transition I’ve realized something about myself.

I would make the worst workout partner on earth, possibly the universe.

Exhibit A: I’m on an elliptical next to someone else on an elliptical. I’m barely able to keep the machine going under my own power. That someone else inches from me is going close to 100 rpms (or whatever) while texting full conversations and listening to an iPod, like it’s no big deal.

I realize we look like an exercise infomercial, and he has no clue what he’s doing (and how his actions may be effecting the self-image of others.

I resist the urge to push him off the elliptical, mostly due to my personal safety (balance) than any other repercussions.

Exhibit B: I’ve just finished up a few minutes on the recumbent bike. A feat that would have been laughable not that long ago but now I can keep a steady (albeit painfully slow). The seat also has to be “just right,” pretty much the ultimate short people setting but not quite. I hear a lady behind me say she hates the bike (can’t say I blame her) because she’s too short (she’s actually a little taller than me). I think, she’s going to be pretty surprised when she realizes she’s going to have better luck today.

I watch her out of the corner of my eye and she peddles twice (or maybe it was four times) and quits.

I resist the urge to give her a five minute lecture on how it took me years to do what she just did and she gives in, because she probably surrounds herself with people who allow her to throw in the towel far too soon.

Exhibit C: I get to the pool 5 minutes “late” (5 minutes after opening) so all the official lap lanes are taken. I “trudge” down the pool ramp wishing it was deep enough that I could roll my wheelchair to the edge of the pool and “jump” in.

The lady in the lane next to me is doing “the old lady dog paddle.” She shouts to my mother (who has to bring me to the pool because of a lack of automatic door openers) that she forgot to close the door (the door closed by the time she got back to it). She does 2 more laps before getting out of the pool. She uses the ladder (which happens to be in my lane), she almost kicks me in the head in the process.

I stop myself from wanting to shout at her about noticing an opening a barely open door yards away but she can’t manage to keep her heals within striking distance of my eye.

Exhibit D: I’m using the upper-arm bike trying to keep a pace in the 50s rpm range. I realize I’m actually keeping steady in the mid-60s without much difficulty. Someone is using the upper-arm bike next to me.

It doesn’t take me long to realize I’m trying to out due them, without knowing how far they’re going or who they are. But I did get to 70 rpms.

Exhibit E: Lest we forget why I spend the extra money (which I don’t really have), because I’m not the best person to be left to their own devices. For all intents and purposes I need a “babysitter,” because if you tell me to do 3 sets of 10 of anything and walk away I’ll just make it look like I’ve done 3 sets of 10 & then lie to you about it.

But at least I’m honest about my dishonesty, within reason.

Exhibit F: Even when I win (a board game, cards, anything) I don’t consider it a real win unless it’s by a fairly large margin.

My name is Sarah, and I think I have a problem.

*A similar version of this post was written on October 15, 2014

 

CP See, CP Do

“Breaststroke, drill, 6 count glide.”

My coach says at some point during practice, somewhere between warm up and the time when I wish I was in bed sleeping.

I love breaststroke, even though my stroke is 100% pull and 0% kick, so just hearing the word “Breaststroke” makes me happy (or slightly less unhappy depending on the previous set).

But hearing the words, “Breaststroke, drill, 6 count glide,” at this point makes me roll my eyes (thank goodness for darkened goggle lenses).

Although it’s my favorite stroke the drills are killer.

Why?

I have no back end to speak of, literally I’m working with half of what everyone else has at their disposal, especially in Breaststroke. I’m well aware of this, at this point almost everyone else is too, but that doesn’t get me out of doing drill work, and on the rare occasion it does I’ve at least tried the drill.

But this time is different. I know I’ve done this drill, my brain just can’t pull it up. So, I turn to my teammate, “It’s pull, 1-2-3-4-5-6, pull, 1-2-3-4-5-6, pull. Right?”

She puts her arms in front of her and does the drill using every verbal cue to match the visual cues. My teammates (and coach) also know I do better with visual cues and having verbal cues doesn’t hurt.

I stay behind as everyone else heads to the other side of the pool. I’m sure I know what I’m doing but I want to be really sure. I scan across the lanes and pick someone to watch.

“The goal isn’t to go fast. Make it clean,” my coach says standing behind me. This isn’t new either. Although I took up swimming a few years ago, drills are still new. My brain is used to stop or go, not maximize what you have to use less energy. She’s now used to giving me a single focus, spelling it out before I completely tire myself out trying to do what I think I’m supposed to be doing.

“Don’t go fast. Make it clean,” I say outload and scan across the lanes one more time before I push off.

Pull.

1-2-3-4-5-6.

Pull.

1-2-3-4-5-6.

Pull.

I’m saying everything in my head while I’m doing it. Keeping my neck long and straight with my head down all while my arms wobble erratically in an effort to keep my body balanced. My chest is starting to burn and I can feel my heart beating lightly in my ears. This doesn’t feel like what I see anyone else doing.

I forgot to breathe. When am I supposed to breathe? Oh, yeah. 5-6.

Pull, breathe.

1-2-3-4-5-6.

Pull, breathe.

It’s better but still awkward. Eventually, pretty much an eternity, later, I touch the wall.

“That was a really nice Butterfly pull at the beginning of that last one,” my teammate says with a smile on her face. She knows I messed up & I didn’t realize it. I didn’t do a Breaststroke pull until my 2nd pull.

I’m mad, but at myself. I can’t even do things I like right, never mind well.

I remind myself why I’m here & why I’ve stayed with this group. A few months ago, I would’ve finished out practice and kicked myself until the next day, at least, over it. Now I know no one really cares how I do the fact that I try to do it is enough.

I’m lucky that I’m with a group of people who care about how I do but help me keep my personal expectations in check. I want to do things perfectly the 1st time every time. No one can do that. When someone laughs, they aren’t always laughing at me, they’re trying to get me to laugh at myself, because they’ve been where I am.

I’ve even luckier that I have a group of people I can watch. I can see it before I do it rather than just thinking I know what I’m supposed to do. I have a good idea of who to watch depending on the stroke, distance, and/or drill, and it really does help.

I sometimes joke that my team is a motor planning think-tank because sometimes it’s how I can get the most out of practice.

  • See it.
  • Plan it.
  • Do it.
  • Make needed changes.

Things That Make You Say Ow

A few weeks ago, I woke up & I knew something was wrong. I laid still for a few seconds trying to gather up the courage to admit the truth.

My neck hurt.

I hurt my neck, to put it more accurately.

I could turn it slightly, but not without pain, so much pain I wondered if I’d throw up.

I thought back to the week before: what had I done?

Nothing came to mind.

I was hoping it would go away as quickly as it showed up.

I wasn’t that lucky, when I discovered the potential culprit of my injury I felt downright ridiculous.

I hurt myself by sitting in a chair.

No, I did not fall out of it, just the simple act of sitting in a chair caused this annoyance.

People think that ergonomic chairs are good for everyone, well that’s not exactly true.

Ergonomic chairs, just like normal chairs, are built for normal bodies.

A person who is 4’11” and has CP isn’t normal.

Therefore, my spine turned into a pretzel, more than usual, and my neck took the most punishment.

The first thing that came to mind was, How quick can I get this fixed, I have practice.

(Further proof that I have made the shift to athlete)

I hate missing practice, because even when it’s not fun something about it is fun & I need more opportunities to practice than people who don’t have CP.

Having an injury is also difficult when you have CP.

Because your muscles don’t necessarily have an “off switch” it’s harder to heal, much like getting a cold, the recovery time just takes longer.

And it sucks.

It’s also a delicate balance between giving yourself time to heal but not staying so still that spasticity begins to run amuck, making any injury harder to heal from as well.

It’s an easy cycle to get into but hard to get out of once you’re in it.

One of the most “fun” parts of being an athlete with Cerebral Palsy.

There you go, it’s possible to hurt yourself in any way possible when you have CP.

Then to add insult to injury, pun somewhat intended, it’s harder to recover from it.

Athleticism + CP = ?

Personal note: The timing of this post and the events in my personal life are in the realm of “God laughs at me, all of the time.”

Growing up people always seemed interested in whether or not I had athletic aspirations, conversations which never seemed to go how you would expect. I was always picked last in gym class and never could try out for a team. I was somewhat relieved when I went to a high school that didn’t offer team sports, then my answer could be “my school doesn’t have sports” without further questions. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t have athletic aspirations.

I didn’t think I’d ever become an athlete but now I can’t help but call myself one, if asked. Although I do get more quizzical looks now than I probably would have way back when people would ask about my interest in sports.

People think I swim as part of rehabilitation, that’s how it started but that’s not what it is now. Are their rehabilitative aspects of it, sure, but that’s not the primary goal these days.

I’ve made the mental shift from recreation and rehabilitation to athletic pursuits and then the physical shift followed.

As I spent more time in the pool I realized I needed to spend more time in the gym. The more time I spent at the gym has meant, among other things, that I’ve needed to spend less time picking myself up off the floor after a fall.

The more time I spend at the pool and in the gym the more I ate, and the more attention I paid to what I ate. I can’t just eat whatever I want and expect it to sustain me through a 2 hour swim, just one 25 yard sprint makes that point really fast.

Never mind the fact that people with CP burn calories at a faster rate than able bodied individuals, and that certain foods seem to have adverse effects on muscles prone to spasticity.

If I don’t have the fuel I can’t workout. If I don’t have the right fuel I can’t get the most out of my workouts.

Not everyone can be an athlete, but having a disability doesn’t automatically exclude you from becoming one.

People with CP can be athletes. I know, because I am one.

On Marathons & Misconceptions

There used to be a meme floating around F@cebook about F@cebook in college vs F@cebook in your 20s & 30s, basically in college your timeline is full of party pictures and other events whereas in your 20s & 30s your feed is filled with baby pictures and marathon times.

Well the joke’s on social media because the 20s & 30s timeline started in my college days, at least the marathon times part.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been friends with people who have considered themselves runners, probably just as long as I’ve had swimmer friends. In fact, I had friends who would just run laps around the playground at recess. I’d sit there and watch, wondering what the appeal was, because even if I could run there’s no way you’d see me doing it, especially for fun.

I’ve even had housemates who have never run a marathon before run in one because we lived in a town that hosted a marathon every year, while I stayed home and watched Walk The Line, again. Yup, I’m that person that can’t even be bothered to get up early to wish people luck, although I’m pretty sure I told at least one of them “just don’t die,” at some point before the day of the race.

During the 1st group retreat I made in the Northwest while people were asking each other how they liked their new homes. At this point most of the runners in the group were aware of the fact that my house was in a marathon city. There was a small window during that weekend where I thought we’d have countless people in our house, people we barely knew. Although I don’t think it would’ve bothered me as much by the time of the marathon came around, a small part of me is thankful that it never came to fruition.

I remember one person in particular asking me if I had heard about the marathon and if I was considering running it. Now I realize that at this point she had only just met me but I thought it was pretty clear that I was having some trouble getting around the wide open spaces of Eastern, flatter than flat, Montana. But then she asked if I ever thought of getting “one of those wheelchairs you can run with,” before I could laugh.

I explained that it was hard enough to get anything covered by insurance and something like a racing chair is horribly expensive, especially if it’s made well and for the user (which it should be whenever possible), and not covered by insurance because it’s considered recreational. Still she encouraged me to consider it “because people with disabilities run all the time.”

Lest we forget I find staring at a black line at the bottom of the pool a lot less boring than running just because. I’m aware it makes no sense to a majority of people but I’m not one of those people. I admit that running a marathon is mentally and physically challenging (like swimming) it’s just not a challenge I’d find fulfilling (I don’t think).

That being said if the so-called “runner’s high” is even a fraction of the rush you get after a sprint set with a new personal best time then I maybe, sort of, kind of, understand why people run.

I think the able-bodied community has misconceptions about persons with disabilities and sports. In my case it seems to be that people think I’m all into every sport I can get into or I participate in sports as a form of therapy (and I’m sure there are others out there I just haven’t heard them). The truth is, neither one is the case, for reasons to lengthy to get into here and now.

Honestly I had a negative point of view of adaptive sports for many years, partly because they seemed too separate from “real sports” for me. Also I was usually one of the least disabled kids participating so I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just play with the normal kids, because I saw myself as more able-bodied than disabled.

Once I understood the true nature of adaptive sports I kept my ear to the ground but wasn’t very optimistic because adaptive sports costs money, just like able-bodied sports. And at that point, as well as this point, I don’t have much money for stuff I might quit anyway.

People with disabilities are more like those without disabilities than people think. I think I’ve said this before, and more than once. We’re just as apt to like sports or not like sports as everyone else.

However, I will say that whether or not someone has spent most of their life in physical therapy in exchange of, or in addition to normal childhood sports related activities can have an effect on whether or not they’ll participate in recreational sports later on.

Let’s not forget that things like having surgery and the recovery process can be marathons within themselves.

I realize that I probably just contradicted myself but my last 3 points in particular were ones that I feel needed to be made, even if it does make my point less clear, because my points, like life, aren’t always clear but still important.

Running is great, but it isn’t for everybody, regardless of ability. If the only grounds for participating in an activity was the slightest chance of basic ability, then almost anyone or rather almost everyone would participate in Ironman Kona, climb Kilimanjaro, be a multi gold medal winning Olympian, and God only knows what else.

Not everyone is meant to be good or interested in everything but if you know someone (or are someone) with a genuine interest in an activity, especially physical, be as supportive as possible (or try to seek out as much support as possible). Desire is one thing. Talent is another. Access is yet another, which is often overlooked and/or taken for granted.

Practice Makes Almost Perfect

I was sitting on the side of the deep end of the pool looking at the bottom. The last time I attempted any sort of dive was at least 10 years and 2 surgeries ago. I knew it wasn’t impossible I just couldn’t picture it, but here I was about to attempt it.

“The worst that can happen is that you fall in the pool.”

That is the worst thing that could happen, God willing. I spent a few summers at camp practicing water safety so I know what to do to if I fall into a pool and do my best to protect myself from serious injury. Plus, I was sitting next to a woman who had worked at the same camp so although we don’t remember each other from back then we can find some common ground when needed.

We figured out the mechanics the best way we could without actually doing it. I made the remark that it’s been so long since I’ve done anything like this that I really wasn’t sure it could happen, physically. She agreed that I was different physically since so much time had passed, but said nothing about the tight muscles, metal plates, screws, etc.

“I have to worry about normal people stuff too!?!” came flying out of my mouth, and I meant every word. I joined this swim club to have more disability/ability focus so I wasn’t thinking normal body mechanics (thanks to puberty) would come into play.

One of the most common challenges for people with Cerebral Palsy is motor planning, something I’ve alluded to a few times already, so executing multiple moves in the span of a second, or in this case less, isn’t something that comes easily (and on the rare occasion when it does you hang onto “your way” as hard as you can).

There are a variety of ways one can execute a dive in the world of Para-swimming. The trick is finding what works for you.

I knew a standing dive was out of the question, between my spasticity and startle reflex there would be little chance for consistent conditions to get the most out of practice.

I knew what kind of dive I wanted to do. It seemed like the best of the possible “happy mediums” to be able to maintain correct posture and come off the wall as quickly as possible without expending a lot of energy, but that was out of the question too (thanks to high riding patellas).

That left me sitting on the side of the pool trying to find my “sweet spot” the place where I would have the best balance and having the longest dive possible. And if that meant falling into the pool a few times that’s what I would have to do.

It wasn’t the worst time of my life but I can’t say it was all that pleasant either. I was able to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what I need to fine tune.

A few days later I was at the gym and explaining the mechanics of diving to my PT, which basically comes down to three-ish parts.

“That’s a lot to do in a split second.”

No kidding.

Now I’m not saying learning something new isn’t impossible but it can be tricky when motor planning is pretty much the exact opposite of your forte. It’s important to practice, obviously. But it’s also helpful to practice with someone who knows what they’re doing better than you do, if possible, so they can provide the needed feedback, in my humble opinion.

I know how things are supposed to look but I don’t know how things are supposed to feel in order to achieve that look, my brain just can’t compute. In all honesty I can’t imagine how normal brains are capable of processing something like a dive with less difficulty, maybe some aren’t, I have no idea.

That’s where the need for practice comes into the picture.

I was once told, “Doing something once is easy, repeating it is the hard part.”

Once I’ve gained a skill, of any sort, I have to practice it in the most ideal conditions in order for it to stick. Then I need to practice it in slightly different conditions to plan for the unexpected, as much as possible.

I can’t speak for everyone but it’s mentally and physically tiring, and usually my mental stamina gives out first because it can be just so boring. I’m not even going to get into the frustration of seeing someone achieve the same goal and knowing you’re going to have to work at least twice as hard, but I will say that this is where having smaller goals towards bigger goals helps.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “practice makes perfect,” and it’s true. However, when you have Cerebral Palsy you might have to redefine what makes perfect “perfect.” People with CP are wired differently than our able-bodied counterparts, and I mean that pretty literally. The whole world is running on Wi-Fi and we’re still trying to function with dial up, and when that doesn’t work, fax machines.

From Here To There

I’ve given you my thoughts on SDR 30 years later, but what I don’t think I really told you is what that can sometimes mean for me when it comes to daily living.

Having Cerebral Palsy means my brain can’t always communicate with my muscles effectively, or at all. Not only do I have to think about every move I have to make but sometimes I have to think about every step of the process. As John Quinn says in his book Someone Like Me it’s not uncommon for me to have to think out how to walk, as in ‘Go. Pick up left foot. Put left foot down. Pick up right foot. Put right foot down. Stop.’

Now because I’ve had a SDR there’s always some extra thought in the process, especially if I’m doing something new, requires correct form, or it’s hard for me to see my feet. I have pretty good spatial awareness given my deficits but it can take a while for my brain and the rest of my body to get on the same page.

I’ll give you three examples:
-If I’m asked to move my feet laterally I have to be looking at my feet in order for even the most remote chance that this could happen.
-If I’m going to be prone on an exercise ball I often ask someone to “set my feet” before I start any exercise, because being able to look at the position of my feet and stay balanced on a round movable object and then move my feet if necessary. I have gone to check the alignment of my feet only to find one-foot laying parallel on the floor and the toe of my other foot pointing to the other one. When you can only feel pressure in your feet it’s pretty easy to think you’re balancing on your toes.
-If I’m going to cross my legs I usually have to pick up one leg and cross it over the other, unless I want to chance flinging myself out of a seated position by allowing my legs to move under their own power (which has happened).

” Does that make sense?”

“Up here it does, but who knows what’ll happen when it gets down there.”

This isn’t an uncommon interaction between a physical therapist (or trainer or coach, etc.) and myself; you see it’s not so easy to get instructions from here:

To travel down here:

Spine

To end up here:

boots

And get the desired results.

Yet it happens every day, multiple times, more than any of us can probably count.

So we should all count our blessings for each time traveling from here:

To there:

shoes
(or anywhere else)

Is successful.

Because sometimes it ain’t so easy.

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on February 23, 2010

On Goalsetting

There’s this really annoying thing that happens when you spend most of your life in Physical Therapy instead of dance classes and after-school sports.

Your life is determined by goals (and the predicament is even worse if you’re in Special Education).

I still remember most of my long term PT goals, mainly because I haven’t achieved them. Most of them started as a 4-week goal, then got moved to an 8-week goal, then 16 weeks, etc.

I’m convinced that wherever my pediatrics records have ended up there’s a list in my file of “Bucket List Goals;” and “getting up off the floor using a half kneel” would be somewhere on that list, if not at the top of it.

It’s something I can’t do, still, it’s not on my goal list, I don’t think it ever was to be honest. I tried it a few months ago at my PTs request but when my protests were accompanied by pain it went back to “the never ever” list.

I used to hate goals. They didn’t seem like something to accomplish rather something to do because someone else said so, like standardized testing.

I started to set goals for myself after my last surgery. I needed to, before I went crazy. I went from being fairly independent to needing help with something as simple as putting on a shoe in less than 5 minutes. I needed to give myself a reason to get out of bed (or sometimes get in bed) that was dictated by me only.

The 1st time I set foot in a gym we talked about goals. The big ones were obvious, I was there to learn to walk again (since insurance had cut off my PT) and smaller ones were mentioned, like getting on the Stairmaster for 30 seconds and not want to die at the end, but I kept my personal goals to myself for a while.

I found one worthy enough to be shared (as in I knew people wouldn’t think I was insane) but the training for it ended up being something I couldn’t do; in fact, it may have contributed to my nagging injuries.

When I went back to PT I had one goal. Fix my hip and get the hell out of there and back to the gym.

I started swimming again while going to PT 3 times a week. As frustrating as I found PT I found my return to the pool to be even more frustrating. My brain knew what to do and so did my body but somehow I was struggling to get from one side of the pool to the other without feeling like I was on the verge of drowning.

I started to incorporate my swim goals into PT, unofficially, especially after I joined a team. “How did your swim go?” is always answered by a list of wishful improvements.

I voiced the physical goals but kept the mental ones to myself, because mentally I am my own worst enemy so those are best kept to me, myself, and I (at least for now).

I found an Inst@gram post that pretty much sums up how I feel about not only swimming but goals in general which says, “Swimming is the most mentally challenging thing I’ve ever done – and I love it.”TheAwesomeSwimmer

I hate setting goals because I fear I won’t ever achieve them, especially goals I’ve set for myself, but once I’ve achieved it I feel good, and wonder what the crap I was so freaked out about in the 1st place.

Although I hate setting goals I’m at a point when I can’t help but do it and I have to say it’s pretty awesome, at least when it’s done well. For a long time, I was afraid to set any goals just in case they ended up being too big.

In reality I didn’t want to discern whether they were really achievable at all, maybe I wasn’t able to, even if I wanted to.

It’s OK to have goals, even really big seemingly unachievable ones. The thing to remember, and in my case recognize, is that most of the time you can, and probably need to, set up smaller goals on the path to the bigger goal.

I may never have been a fan of setting goals but I’m learning to appreciate their true purpose.

About That White Cap

A few months ago my swim cap ripped, so I had to get another one. What’s the big deal right?

(Other than the obvious) The store only had 1, and it was the one color I swore I’d never wear on my head ever again. I seriously considered not getting it but given that it was at the end of swim season & it was half the price that I was used to paying I pulled it off the rack and paid for it.

“It’ll turn brown in a few weeks anyway, just enough time to find another one.”

You see I have an emotional history with swim caps. They were used at a summer camp I went to as a kid to indicate a level of skill, as well as what you could and couldn’t do during coveted free swim periods.

I was a “white cap swimmer” for all but one summer, 1 summer I was the color below the white caps.

A white cap represents being stuck, not being able to make any progress.

A white cap is failure in the form of latex (or whatever they’re made out of these days).

The only saving grace to the whole thing is that any white cap I’ve ever had has turned brown in a matter of weeks so I wouldn’t be wearing failure on my head for very long, or so I thought.

A few weeks later a happened to meet people from Adaptive Sports New England and talked swimming, basically did they have any tips for gaining better access to my current pool or any others.

It turns out I’m not the only one who has had trouble finding a lane to swim in, and safely. I’m still not sure if I feel comforted by this, knowing I’m not alone, or bothered, because it means more people than just the lifeguards aren’t doing their job.

I also mentioned that I’ve turned to Y0uTube for tips on better technique. Which I realized was a ridiculous statement; I didn’t realize just how ridiculous it was until the words came out of my mouth (and I’m pretty sure at least one person wanted to laugh in my face).

They suggested I get in contact with the head of an adaptive sports program that could put me in touch with a swim coach. Now I’ve had similar things like this happen to me before and none of them have ever worked out, so although I was excited I was pessimistic.

I went home and send an email, just to be able to say I gave it a shot.

I talked to the head of the sports program then traded emails with the swim coach, again waiting for something to fall though.

Suddenly I had committed to attending the first practice of the year. I say “suddenly” but really I’d been waiting for an opportunity like this for decades. And I was indeed still waiting for something to make this not happen, because after decades why would this happen now?

And there was one big mental barrier I had to deal with; I still had that white cap, because it hadn’t turned brown.

I practically ran to the store hoping to find another cap, any cap that wasn’t white. I couldn’t bring myself to go to a swim practice, even one that was billed as “nice and easy,” wearing a white cap. If this was going to turn into anything at all it was going to be all about progress, not allowing myself to be held back by unpleasant memories.

And lest we forget that if I got in the water and failed while wearing a white cap I would’ve blamed the cap, regardless of my abilities.

I needed to get the white cap off my head, for good, and bought 2 new caps, just in case.

But as the day approached I rethought my “anti-white cap” stance; actually I rethought it about 375 times. In fact I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to wear until I put it on my head.

I climbed into a pool of real swimmers wearing a white cap and waited to be judged on my lack of ability, just as I had during those summers all those years before.

I faced my worst nightmare.

I’ve been attending team practices since the fall and I love it.

It isn’t what I expected. It hasn’t been easy. But what I’ve been able to accomplish in just a few weeks is pretty amazing, not perfect, but amazing none the less.

It turns out I’ve had more fears to face besides not being a total failure while wearing a cap of a certain color.

It’s all been done wearing the dreaded white cap, which has slowly turned a suspicious shade of orange.

I have no idea where any of this is going to lead because I don’t have any feasible long term goals at this point. Frankly I think I’m still waiting for someone to tell me to get out of the pool because I’m not supposed to be there.