Skating My Way to Self Love

As I was sitting in the center of the track, watching my teammates skate past me, I felt defeated. You see, we are 9 weeks into our 18 week boot camp for our local roller derby league. We are half way there, we are so close, and here I am sitting down watching instead of participating. My legs were especially shaky last night and for the first time in 9 weeks I had to sit down because I felt unsafe on my skates. Sure this is a sport based on trying to knock people over, but I didn’t want to unnecessarily take people down with me in one of my inevitable falls. Sitting and watching, I felt tears well up in my eyes and frustration shooting through the core of my spirit. I was angry. I was crushed. I was honestly ready to quit because of this one bad practice. It’s amazing how quickly we forget the progress we have made in the wake of one bad night. Hell, one bad drill. That’s all it was, it was one drill that I felt like I had to sit out of. In the 10 minutes I was sitting out of our 2 hour practice I let myself get so down, and so angry about living with MS that I forgot to acknowledge the fact that I even play roller derby. I am training to play this incredibly difficult sport, which makes even the healthiest of athletes weak in the knees.

By Andrew Potter

But here is the kicker. After practice I saw all of my teammates expressing their frustration with their own bodies and their skill sets. They too, were angry and frustrated and wanted to cry about their abilities and I had a bit of “ah ha” moment. While living with MS makes things generally a little more difficult for me, especially when you strap on a pair of skates, I am not alone in my struggles. It is not uncommon to see people take a break during practice due to back aches, injuries, and general frustration. So why am I so hard on myself when I too need a break? The answer is simple. It’s so simple that frankly it’s almost embarrassing. I still have not accepted living with MS and its limitations. It has been 8 years since my diagnosis and I still refuse to give myself a break when I need one. I have not accepted that I cannot do everything that my healthier counterparts can do, and I am still angry about that.

It is sort of a defeating moment when you realize that you have not accepted your diagnosis. I accepted living with colitis and without a colon years ago. That one was easy, because it was essentially “accept this, or die”. But my MS has been trickier. It’s been more dormant, it’s been more mild and dare I say easy to forget that it’s even there. Until now. Well that’s not exactly true. When I was training for my half marathon, I was quickly reminded that MS is still posted up in my legs. Every time I added a mile, I was reminded that my legs are shakier and weaker than most people’s and no amount of strength training is going to change that. But in the end, I did it. I ran that half marathon and I was able to give MS a big middle finger because I had accomplished a physical goal despite its grasp on me. However, roller derby is different. Running is simply walking faster. I am fortunate enough to be able to still walk and run when/if I need to. Skating is different. Skating involves balance, of which I have none. Skating involves wearing safety gear, which makes my body heat up faster, making me more unstable. Skating involves working with a team, and having your actions affect that team as opposed to running where it’s an individual sport. Even writing this sometimes I wonder, “Why the hell am I putting my body through this?” This answer is a little more complicated. I work hard today, while I can, because I can. I push my body as hard as I can because chances are they will be a day where I cannot push it at all. Even still pushing my body as hard as I can, is not equal to what others on my team are doing. This is something I work every day at accepting. Sometimes it means missing out on team bonding because I have to sleep 10 hours in order to function at work the next day. Sometimes that means sitting out of drills. But what I take away from all of this is that I have a team who supports me. I have a community of MSers who support me. I have a family who supports me (except for my mom who is just worried I’ll get hurt!). I have all of these people around me supporting me, encouraging me, believing in me and yet somehow I can’t seem to do that for myself. Roller derby has been a gift. It’s gifted me with beautiful bruises, aches and pains, wonderful new friendships and a hard lesson in loving oneself.

So to sum it all up, I am not the best skater out there. I can’t even perform some of the most basic skills that are required, but I’m still trying. I may be sitting on the side sometimes but I’m giving it as much as I can when I can and working every day on appreciating the little progress that I do make.

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