MOVING FORWARD AFTER A CONCUSSION

MOVING FORWARD AFTER A CONCUSSION

There are two major things I’ve learned from having a concussion:

 

1) It’s more common than you think.

2) No concussion is the same.

 

I’ve been struggling to write this blog for a while now.  But I wanted to share my story to be transparent and hopefully connect with others dealing with their own concussion.

 

I had mine on January 20th.  I’m at a point where I have more good days than bad days and symptoms don’t arise as frequently.  In comparison, my concussion was not that bad – I know people who can barely get out of bed for months, and still suffer years later.

 

Sooooo how did I get the most frustrating injury I’ve had in my life?

 

Eight weeks ago I went downhill skiing for the first time with two people I trust. On the last run on the last hill of the day, I confidently “bombed it” down the hill. From what I remember, I hit a patch of ice and fell face first into the ground and tumbled the rest of the way.  I laid face first in the snow and scanned my body to see where the pain was – it was all in my face and head.  I thought I had broken my nose as it was bleeding, and my face burned from skidding across the snow. At the moment my only worry was aesthetic damage and not the fact that my brain had just rattled inside of my head.

PRE-WIPEOUT: Having a great day with my friends.
POST-WIPEOUT: It looks like I had bad botox.
 

Symptoms started to arise as the day went on.  The headache and pressure got worse, I was dizzy and confused, and REALLY wanted to fall asleep. By midnight I was seeing a doctor at the emergency room who said I definitely had my ‘bell rung’, and would know if I had a concussion over the next few days. Despite the actual pain, the most worrisome moment was forgetting my dad’s first name (it was the security word at the hospital on my account).

 

Since then, here are the symptoms I have gone through…

 

Headaches: For the first month I always had a headache at varying degrees. Now they are less frequent.

Pressure: Predominently behind my eyes and in my forehead.

Feeling “drunk”: This is a combination of symptoms but the only way to describe it.  You know the part of the night after a few too many when your eyes don’t match up with your head? Like that.

Dizziness: This was only a problem at the beginning but I also get it on occasion while exercising.

Sensitivity to light/sound/smell: Yes, even smell. Walking by people smoking or with strong perfumes has given me headaches.

Emotional: It’s like PMS’ing 24/7.  I cried the other day because I dropped an egg on the floor.

Clumsiness: If you know me at all, being clumsy is part of who I am, BUT it has been 10x worse since the concussion.

Memory: I asked my boyfriend 5 times in 2 hours the other day when he’s going to Costco. Also I forgot where I was at the mall the other day.

Inability to read/write: This only happened for a couple weeks thank god. I would mix up letters and put words in the wrong order.

Ringing in my ears: I hear ringing in my ears almost every night when I lay down to go to sleep.

 

 

Luckily I’ve progressed thanks to the support of family and friends, plus the small village of health professionals who have helped me.  I know about SIX people who also have concussions right now, and have become our own little emotional support group. Without them, I wouldn’t have seen my physiotherapist who specializes in concussions or taken as much time to rest.

 

The BIGGEST factor that has been stressing me out? I’m supposed to go to Nepal on April 27th to hike Everest Base Camp with the Dream Mountains team.  Other than not being able to work out for six weeks, I’ve had moments where I didn’t think I would be able to go at all.  When you sink half a year into fundraising for an awesome charity, saving money to pay for the actual trip, and attaching your ego to an adventure of a lifetime, it’s crushing to think that this concussion could hinder that.

 

At this point I’m positive I will be better in time (so is my physiotherapist).  I’ve been cleared for exercise and have slowly been working my way back to normal activity and finding my threshold without symptoms.  Every day I wake up and move on with my day depending how I feel.  This morning I woke up with a headache, so I evaluated what could have CAUSED it and how to avoid it in the future.  I’m in full ‘self-aware’ mode at all times.

 

A few triggers of mine include:

  • Social activities with more than one person.  The stimulation of turning your head and following conversations is exhausting with a concussion.
  • Doing too much in one day.
  • Staring at screens for too long.
  • Being caught in a downward spiral of negative thoughts and anxiety.

 

Things that help:

  • Nature/fresh air/movement.  I feel normal and my absolute best when I’m going for a hike or cross country skiing (while watching my heart rate).  I’ve always believed that nature is healing.
  • Sleeping 9-10 hours a night.
  • Tylenol.
  • Drinking LOTS of water and eating right.

 

If there’s anything I can leave you with, it’s TAKE CARE OF YOUR BRAIN.  If you have a concussion, please be patient and kind with yourself.  If someone close to you has a concussion, understand that some days are worse than others and recovery time is necessary.

 

Lots of hiking love,

Mary Anne

6 UNIQUE GIFT IDEAS FOR THE HIKER IN YOUR LIFE

6 UNIQUE GIFT IDEAS FOR THE HIKER IN YOUR LIFE

Alright, so maybe we’re a challenging type of person to shop for around the holidays. We’ll be the first to admit it.

We know what we like to wear on the trails, have broken in multiple pairs of our go-to hiking boots, can be picky with food, have mastered the art of fitting everything perfectly into our day packs, and tend to get a little vocal when it comes to the “pole or no pole” debate.

So, what do you buy for the hiker in your life who seems to already have it all?

I’m here to help, my friends. Here’s a quick ‘n dirty list of some unique ideas that you may not have thought of…

1) Enamel Camping Mug

Hiker Gift Idea Enamel MugPhoto cred: Emalco.com

Even if your hiker pal already has one, you can never have TOO many mugs, right? Plus, it’s nice to change it up a little. So, why not support a local artist like Black Coffee or get a mountain themed one they’ll definitely dig?

OR, if you’re a crafty little rascal, make it EXTRA personal by designing your own! You can do this with a company like VistaPrint, although buying in bulk may be your only option.

Bonus points are rewarded if you add in a carabiner for clipping the mug somewhere handy for easy access!

2) Waterproof Lighter

Hiker Gift Idea Waterproof LighterPhoto cred: Pinterest

A friend of mine gifted me one of these bad boys last Christmas and it’s been in my pack since then. Here’s a list of the best ones on the market to check out for inspiration!

3) Subscription to Backpacker Magazine

Hiker Gift Idea Backpacker MagazinePhoto cred: Fontmeme.com

It doesn’t have to be Backpacker Magazine. It can be any outdoor, lifestyle or fitness magazine! This is the gift that keeps giving and your pal will think of you each time it comes in the mail.

4) Rent a Yurt

Hiker Gift Idea Rent a YurtPhoto cred: Mary Anne snagged this one!

If your budget is a little higher than the stuff listed above, then splurge and rent a yurt! SO FUN! If you’re like us HikeAdditcts, you prefer glamping over camping any day. This is a fantastic alternative to sleeping on the cold, hard ground while also feeling like you’re one with nature. Ommm.

We’ve stayed at some pretty beautiful spots over the years but I have to say that one of my all time favorites was a yurt in Vermont with this super adorable and accommodating family. It may not look like much from the outside, but the inside was like a magical fairy tail with tiny white Christmas lights galore!

5) Jack&Joel “Gatineau Park” Soap

Hiker Gift Idea Jack and Joel SoapPhoto cred: JackAndJoel.com

 

Jack&Joel is an Ottawa soap company and you know how much we LOVE supporting local! They have a wonderful line of soaps, bath salts and shaving products that will leave you smelling like nature-y dream.

6) Mountain Jewelry

Hiker Gift Idea Mountain Jewelry Photo cred: MMackenzieJones Etsy

We are huge fans of these mountain necklaces made by Mackenzie Jones Designs Inc from Calgary.  From the Three Sisters Mountain to Mount Rundle, the mountains will never be too far from your heart. Check out her Etsy store here!

And, if you don’t like any of these ideas or are still feeling unsure, you really can’t go wrong with a gift card for MEC, Trialhead, Cabela’s, Bushtukah, Ice Breaker, Eddie Bauer or any other sporting stores in Ottawa.

Happy shopping!

MY STRUGGLE WITH ATHLETE’S IMPOSTERS’ SYNDROME

MY STRUGGLE WITH ATHLETE’S IMPOSTERS’ SYNDROME

Athlete’s imposters’ syndrome. This is something I had struggled with a lot growing up. I was a runner, an Irish dancer, a downhill skier, a basketball player, a touch football player… Yet, whatever sport I was playing, these thoughts would always creep up on me:

“She’s better than I am.”

“I have lots of practice to do.”

“I wonder if I’ll ever be at so-and-so’s level.”

“I’m not good enough.”

Turns out I wasn’t alone, though. I brought this subject up with my sister, Heather, and she told me she felt the same way. My sisters and I were thrown into ski lessons as soon as we could walk so we’ve felt comfortable on the slopes for pretty much our whole lives.

When we got to high school, Heather and I began to race competitively (she was always better than I was) but I just recently learned that she had felt like a “poser” or imposter every time she raced. We had literally been skiing for 10+ years at this point, yet there she was, feeling out of place and like she wasn’t legit enough to fit in with the other racers.

Why?

Because she hadn’t been “competitive” until she was a teen?

What was it about us that made us feel so inadequate? Why did we struggle with confidence in things we were actually GOOD at? Part of me thinks that’s just what comes with being an awkward teenager, but I also know a lot of people who never struggled with this (or I guess, more likely, never talked about it).

As I grew up and began to get to know myself a little better, (aka reading approximately 1700 self-help books) these thoughts started to go away. I started to care less about how others surrounding me performed because I realized that 1) I’m no longer competing for any trophies/medals/titles and 2) I’m an adult. I don’t need to compare myself to anyone. HA! Easier said than done, I know.

So, you may be asking yourself: What does this have to do with hiking?

Well, these nasty, annoying thoughts crept their way back into my head about a week ago when someone asked me for hiking advice.

I’ve only been ‘seriously’ hiking for about 3 years now but since then have tackled some wicked tough day hikes like the Bruce Trail in Tobermory, Mount Marcy in Lake Placid and Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

I’ve summited Mount Kilimanjaro, an 8-day trek that ended with a midnight summit night and I’m just about to start my training for a trip to Everest Base Camp in 8 months from now.

Yet, here I was, feeling like a complete imposter when asked for advice.

What made this person think I was legit? I only started hiking a few years ago! Yes, I have a hiking blog with my best friend that I’m super passionate about but little does this person know that I still consider myself a COMPLETE newbie.

This is where I caught myself though.

I’m a newbie. I haven’t been hiking for years and years and I just discovered Merino Wool this past winter. I’m a newbie. I only JUST figured out the proper amount of water to consume while hiking and I still wear a baseball cap on sunny days that has zero back of neck protection from the sun so I sometimes burn. I’m a newbie. My sense of direction is and always has been horrible and I’m still convinced I could survive off Cliff bars alone (shout out to Kristi for never laughing at my hilarious poop joke). I’M. A. NEWBIE.

And… I’m okay with that!

This is a learning process for me. This blog, these community hikes we organize, the various speaking engagements we’re asked to participate in; I’m learning AS I’m teaching.

Isn’t that half the fun?

Vicky

GIANT MOUNTAIN + ROCKY PEAK RIDGE, NY

GIANT MOUNTAIN + ROCKY PEAK RIDGE, NY

Location: In between Keene Valley and Underwood on the 73, NY, USA
Starting Point: Giant Mountain Primary Trailhead 
Elevation: Giant 4,626ft (#12 on High Peaks List)
RPR 4,390ft (#20)
Ascent: Giant 3,050ft
RPR 1,400ft
Route We Took: Ridge Trail to Giant Summit, to Rocky Peak Ridge, back to Giant and down Ridge Trail
Total Distance: 14 km
Time: 8 hours
Level of Difficulty: Moderate (compared to other High Peaks)

This was day 2 of my solo-hiking trip in the Adirondacks to crush out a couple more 46er peaks (the day before I did Cascade and Porter).

The terrain is pleasant to start to the ascent as you make your way through a typical whimsical Adirondack forest.  Then be prepared for lots of rocks and rock slides.  You reach a junction that either sends you to the Giant summit (SO CLOSE) or towards Rocky Peak Ridge.  I decided to summit Giant first.

It was manageable with a bit of scrambling.  The summit was quite busy but it was a beautiful and bright sunny day so it was easy to hang out for a while.

Panorama view from Giant summit.
An example of scrambling up Giant.

Then it was time for Rocky Peak Ridge.  After descending back to the junction, you take a left towards RPR.  At this point, you have to go DOWN Giant and BACK UP RPR. This was the steepest and toughest part of my 2 day hiking days.

Summit of Rocky Peak Ridge looking at Giant.

Rocky’s summit was a lot less busy and just as beautiful. It was even more rewarding seeing where you just came from as Giant is right in front of you.

The toughest part is getting back up Giant.  Since you’ve already put in a long day, the steepness and rock slides are that much more challenging.  But you can do it!

The view of getting back UP Giant from RRP.

Once you get back up Giant be prepared for the long descent back down.  These mountains are both worth it but make for a tough day.

Lots of hiking love,
Mary Anne

CASCADE MOUNTAIN + PORTER MOUNTAIN, NY

CASCADE MOUNTAIN + PORTER MOUNTAIN, NY

Location: In between Lake Placid and Keene, NY, USA
Starting Point: Cascade Mountain Foot Trail
Elevation:  Cascade 4,098ft (#36 on High Peaks List)
Porter 4,060ft (#38)
Ascent: 1,940ft
Route We Took: Cascade Mountain trailhead to Cascade summit, back down to junction, head to Porter summit, return to parking
Total Distance: 10 km
Time: 5 hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy (compared to other High Peaks)

This was my first attempt at climbing any of the Adirondack 46ers and heard Cascade and Porter combined are great “starter mountains” (even though Vicky and I did Mount Marcy last fall, we had no idea it was a 46er at the time).

Don’t be fooled by the easy ranking though, this is in comparison to the surrounding mountains.  Cascade is a perfect day hike and best “bang for your buck”.  It’s pretty, only takes half the day, not too tough and has spectacular 360 views when you get to the summit.

Porter isn’t exactly worth it unless you’re attempting the 46 peaks.

Lots of hiking love,
Mary Anne

 

(Top image view from Cascade summit)

Trailhead
View from Porter Mountain
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR THE HIPPY HIKER

NATURAL REMEDIES FOR THE HIPPY HIKER

I’d like to preface this post by saying that as an outdoorsy girl (click here if you are too – I friggin’ LOVED this post), I have learned in my 27 years on earth that NOTHING works quite like Deet. Nothing. Yes, it’s flammable, toxic and will probably make you sick but if you want to be left alone by all of nature’s creepy crawlers, there’s nothing natural that will do the trick the same way Deet does. Sorry. I wish I could tell you that covering yourself in lemon juice and thyme will make bugs steer clear but chances are it’ll just make you smell like you’ve finished marinating and are ready for the BBQ.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s tackle some tried and true natural remedies that I swear by and frequently use…

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