This year hasn’t had the easiest of starts, with changes in my sight, trouble with my hearing and ‘other’ issues; It has all been a bit much to deal with at times.
All of this compounded by a need to explore who I am and where I belong, and it isn’t hard to realise that my anxiety and mental health has also taken a beating.
But that’s ok.
It is alright to not be ok ALL the time.
And it is ok to admit that; however hard it may be.
There are a few things I want to tell you about, I have realised I never finished off my 2017 BMC Paraclimbing competition blogs, or even mentioned the Team Selection Day back in February 2018.
So, for now I am going to spend some time going ‘backwards’ but as all posts are dated to (around) when they happened, humour me.
And once I have completed these, take a good look through the past six months. I can promise you there will be laughter, whit and sarcasm. But be warned there will also be sadness, upset and moments of total despair.
On 20th March 2017 I found myself sat in the audiologists office having my hearing aids fitted; which I wrote about in What does sound sound like?.
I had previously been told I would only need a hearing aid for my right ear, yet when I arrived at my appointment I was actually fitted with a hearing aid for both my left and right ear; a pleasant suprise, yet a very welcome on. Because in giving me hearing aids for both ears the audiologist was able to programme the strength in each side differently so that I heard the same.
I wont’t lie, I hated wearing them.
It took me a long time to get used to ‘hearing’things again. The little things, like the kitchen clock; the dogs gnawing on their bones; the sound of my feet on the pavement. But (following the audiologists advice) I soon learnt to ‘not hear’ or rather ‘tune out’ these sounds; sounds that my brain had learnt to ignore (just as it does for most people who can hear perfectly well)
I also quickly learnt how little and inconspicuous my hearing aids were. With very few people realising that I actually wore them.
When they were originally fitted, I had them set by the audiologist to automatically adjust with no input from me. However this was not while I got used to them.
In July ((1 beep, 2 beep, 3 beep, 4) I had my hearing aids adjusted and since then I have gone from strength to strength in using them and wearing them each and every day, just as I would with my glasses (even though I now get so little from wearing them-wearing them is a daily habit)
I have also added to my ‘tech’ to go with my hearing aids, with my amplicomms personal t-loop system I am able to listen friends in busier environments, have calls streamed directly into my ears with the microphone around my neck; I am also able to listen to audible and music too.
My CPiC and I are working on using it as an aid to my climbing….. But that is a whole other blog post!!
So, what have I gained in the last year?
I have learnt that just like glasses for me, hearing aids to not ‘fix’ my hearing; however they do enable me to hear more and clearer than if I don’t wear them.
I have been able to feel safer out and about, especially with hearing traffic and its direction. So much so, that in recent months I have gone back to enjoying walking into town (about 2.5 miles) with Fizz guiding me.
I have also learnt that I can ‘shut out’ noise if I want to sit quietly with a cuppa or a cold pint, then I can turn my hearing aids down, put them into the induction loop setting and I can sit peacefully. So I can have ‘selective’ hearing too!!
Its been an interesting year of wearing hearing aids, I would be lying if I said I am getting used to them….. But I am finding the postitives with them, both with my own hearing and with the connections I have made with other people who have hearing and sight issues.
I am still wanting to work on fundraising for my own pair or ReSound Hearing Aids, which are so much more ‘tech’ friendly with my iPhone and Apple Watch, but that is a work in progress.
Today marks International Women’s Day. A day where social media and such goes CRAZY over ‘inspiring women’ well I am bucking that trend. I think that inspiration can come from ANYONE. Man, Woman, Human, Animal ….. You get the idea!
In recent months with my changing hearing and sight I have been working hard on myself. On how I deal with a situation and how I do not allow my ‘disabilities’ to take away my sparkle, to rob me of my mood or emotions.
If I said it was an easy task I would be lying. But it has been a task I have set about with great vigger and enthusiasm; not always successfully I may add.
Within my climbing, Be it with fellow Para climbers or (regular) climbers I am free, everyone at any wall is always happy to offer support or suggest a different move Or body position. But some of my greatest inspiration has come from fellow Para-climbers.
From my very on CPiC who has Fibromyalgia and Aspergers, he is continually in pain or ‘foggy’ which high levels of medication can simply ‘reduce’ but not ‘cure’, He finds a great strength from within to push through it and to climb his ass off, always pushing himself and yet still there to offer me continual support and help ME with my climbing.
There is also my dear friend Anoushé, her ‘visable’ disability is that she has no arm from just below her elbow on her right side. She also has many other health conditions that are ‘invisable’
We first met in September 2016 in Ratho, the first paraclimbing competition for us both. And we have grown closer upon each meeting and now regularly try to fit in training sessions together.
I look at Anoushé and feel humbled to watch her climb (mostly via videos or in photographs ) As a guide dog owner and a long cane user I am more often than not walking with either my right or left hand full (be it with a harness or a cane) but if I REALLY needed to use both my hands, I can.
I am not, nor will I ever compare my disabilities to another person (not even another hearing and visually impaired person) as just as humans we are unique; how we live with ‘differing-abilities’ is also unique.
My disabilities have been a platform for me to meet so many people from different backgrounds, and just as I believe there is something to learn from each of the people who have come and gone from my own life; I hope that others can look to me for those lessons and ‘alternative’ views.
So, today on International women’s day I want to say THANK YOU to all of those who have enabled me to grow.
I watched a climbing film this morning about a climber with progressive cerebral palsy. He took up climbing as it looked more fun than physiotherapy. When asked what he enjoyed most about climbing he answered:
I am equal to everybody else.
This comment has had a profound effect on me. A friend asked me a few months ago; how do you feel when your climbing?
I couldn’t answer. I told her it was something I would have to think about and come back to her on.
It is a simple enough question isn’t it?
How do I feel when I am climbing?
I feel free.
No-one is looking at me when I am climbing, they are all too busy concentrating on their own climbs or climbing partners.
I have no idea what it looks like to climb (not first hand, without zooming in on pictures) therefore I do not feel conscious of how I look. Don’t get me wrong there is the odd occasion I come down off a wall and I can feel the sweat stinging my eyes and I have a fair idea of how red and sweaty I look, but that is no different to any other Climber that has just given their all.
Climbing is not something I have known with much better sight. It is not like the sight I had 15 years ago, which although pretty poor was much clearer than the sight I have now; the sort of sight that wearing glasses made a real difference; where as now they only really help with REALLY close up things.
An example, as a child I rode a bike, as an adult I rode a bike and even up until last year I felt comfortable riding a bike. Since my hearing loss I have found it a real struggle to feel safe on a bike. Not the physical movement of actually turning the peddles and making the wheels move, but the ability to even judge how far my foot is from the ground.
I refuse to give up on ever riding again, but my days of riding alone or just taking the kids out are gone.
[I have digressed slightly….Fogive me]
With climbing there isn’t this feeling. Because the routes on walls are very rarely the same after 3 months, there is no ‘marker’ to judge my changes in sight.
The only way I can judge my climbing is the same as anyone with any type of sport…… How I feel the next day !!
I am working on stretching and movement, on endurance and core strength, which in turn is improving my climbing.
When I am on a wall, only the thought of reaching the next hold and getting further than I did before is on my mind.
My sight loss and hearing loss don’t come into it. They make up such a small part of me as a person, and yes they clearly do have an affect on the way I climb.
But for me I JUST CLIMB.
And just as Nik Royale (BMC Article linked here) commented how he felt about climbing over 5 years ago; I find myself absorbing his comment and believing in it, regardless of if you take part in Paraclimbing or other forms of competition.
Climbing is about equality. A climbing wall doesn’t care about the colour of your skin, how your body looks or even how your body works. It enables you to find a way, to reach personal challenges and milestones.
Round 1: Paraclimbing competition for 2017 (2018 team selection)
EICA – Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, hosted by BMC and MSC.
One year and one week to the day of my first ever competition and I was back to do it all over again.
And in that one year and one week many things had changed. I have most definitely changed; my climbing has most certainly improved and although my sight and hearing have had their setbacks (as detailed standing alone) I thought I was in a much stronger position physically and mentally for this competition.
I wasn’t sure though, why I hadn’t been as prepared for the 13 hour drive that had seen us be diverted off the M6 and not arrive at the hotel until after 1am on Saturday morning. After all, thanks to said sight and hearing impairments, I wasn’t able to share the drive with my CPC (Climbing Partner in Crime). The whole horrible job had been left to him to endure and in turn exhaust him mentally in ways, that as having never been a driver I can’t quite understand; yet one I can fully empathise with.
This year was different, this year I didn’t have the apprehension of a new Climbing Centre, the apprehension of never having competed before.
This year I had a bench mark; a place to beat and a score to improve upon.
This year I always wanted to EARN my podium place (not just get it by default-having been the only competitor last year!) Which although I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t have competition I was setting myself a personal goal to get me up on the podium.
After a bit of a wobble I found myself ready to set about the day. My first move was a bouldering problem which was actually marked as the hardest of my 3 problems, but it wasn’t something I was aware at the time.
it was to start from a sitting position, it was also then I realised that my routes where only to cover 2 categories; interestingly the 2 categories where VI and Upper-Body Amptutee.
It happens some times that some routes are set for particular categories and not others, for example a route set for lower body amputees would probably not be suited to an upper body amputee. And for a reason I do not understand it is often that the Vi and Upper-amputee are grouped together.
All competitors (from each of the 9 categories) had the same Boulder 1 and 2, in addition to Climb 1 and 2, but when it came to the 3rd of each problem this was where the VIs and Upper body amputees had a different problem on each.
This meant that the queue of competitions on these routes were much smaller; hence my school girl error of actually doing my hardest first.
So, going backwards I then completed with a flash (getting to the top on 1st attempt) Boulder 1.
I wasn’t as successful on Boulder 2, where I misread my footings and started off all wrong, a silly error I repeated on my following attempts.
Time for lunch and freshness break for Guiding girl Fizz, who had made herself lots of friends while benched as I climbed. And was sporting a slightly grey colour around her ears; afyerall a black dog around all that chalk isn’t the best mix!
Then it was onto the climbs. (Which unlike the Boulder, you only get one shot) Climb 1 was over before I realised, it was a great warm up climb and one I didn’t need any guidance from the ground on.
Climb 2 was a busy climb, with each and every Climber using it I got to enjoy watching (through the camera on my iPhone) the others who went before me. It was a much higher climb, with a column and yellow holds on the grey wall. It was time for me to climb, just as my CPC had returned from completing his 3rd Boulder (not the same as my 3rd Boulder) he told me how he had scraped his knuckle on the wall and would just need to sit and rest. (I later discovered that he had popped a tendon and actually had to have it strapped up and imobilize his middle fingers)
So, off I went and got myself tied in for the climb. I was about 2 m off the ground when I realised I didn’t have the support. My ground support wasn’t there, I was on the climb alone and had to up my game and concentrate on my hands and feet. I heard no instruction, I just had to focus and more importantly; remember to breath !!
….. Something is very easy to forget when I climb…..
It was a long climb, it was a climb that went from left side to right side and back to left, it wasn’t easy with the little contrast, but I did it. Or I hoped it had! When I got to the rope top (the rope didn’t finish at the top of the wall) I reached around but couldn’t find another hold, I had to just hope I had the last one, but I was worried I had missed it!)
Thankfully coming down I confirmed with the judge, I had got to the final hold and I had flashed the climb.
Phew….. I could relax.
It was then I discovered my CPiC’s injury and worked with him to support his injury to enable him to finish his own last two climbs.
And given the shortage or judges, there was a fair wait for me to finish my final climb. I was however able to watch two of my fellow competitions complete the climb (yet as they were both upper body amputees, their climb was different to mine…….. Even though it was the same route and wal)
It also gave me the opportunity to watch my CPiC complete his climbs too.
Then it was time for my final climb; just in time too as they announced it was time for the last climbs.
And this climb looked like a great contrast; black holds on a light grey wall. I hadn’t worked out why my fellow climbers had ignored several of the obvious holds, that was until I got on the wall.
The ‘obvious’ holds were in fact not holds at all, they were black gaffer tape taping over quickdraws and other such climbing accessories. A feature that had apparently been on the other walls too. But as the holds on those routes weren’t black, I hadn’t even noticed them.
I took on the climb, it was most certainly a challenge. But a fun challenge at that.
I had a move planned in my head, I moved my feet to make it an easier set a ste and then ….. OUCH!
I had missed it, it was such a simple move, but one I never made, instead I scraped my elbow off the wall as I dropped quite far. (My belay has been getting ready to take up my slack, which gave me more rope, sc I when I missed the move he found himself unexpectedly giving me more rope-which was no issue as I was fairly high up the wall!)
It was the final climb though, I had no second chance and one I am proud to say that “I climbed until I fell.” Not something I had done in previous competition; not something I had been doing while climbing in general until very recently.
And yes, I fell….. But it felt AMAZING !! I climbed until I couldn’t climb anymore.
And it got me a Silver Medal!
Out of the 4 competitors in my category I came second. A medal I am more than proud of. And can’t wait to improve on at October’s competition!
Roll on round 2, when I get to climb at The Castle !!