21 September 2012

Post-Paralympic haze

Well it has been just over a week since arriving back in Australia so I thought I would write about the weird sensation paralympians feel after the end of a Paralympics. Some people call it post-paralympic depression but I personally feel that the word 'depression' is used in everyday conversation too lightly especially when you find out the medical definition of it. So I am going to call it a post-paralympic haze. (Post script - I'm not the only one to call it a haze - some chick called Meghan Montgomery called it that too!)

It isn't jet lag aka desynchronosis (found that fancy pants word on Wikipedia!). It is the weird feeling athletes get once they have come home from the Paralympics and have to try fit back into the world they left behind. For me I left behind the 'real world' on August 14th, over a month ago. For a whole month I have been told what time to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, what clothes I have to wear, and whether I am allowed out in my spare time. I haven't had to prepare any of my meals, load/unload a washing machine, make my bed, pick up soggy towels from the bathroom floor, drive a car or look after any dependants (in my case a special needs dog).

When I got home one of the first things I did was open the stack of mail I had waiting for me and then pay the household bills that were due while I was away. Nothing like a big smack in the face from 'the Real World'. If you take out the money I spent on gifts for myself or others, there really wasn't any need to spend money when I was away. All your basic needs are provided to you. Food is prepared for you and waiting for you, you just need to choose what you want. And there is tea and coffee available. It's not always the best coffee but hey, it's there. Free.

Speaking of bills, getting back into the routine of getting up early and going to work was hard! But the girls at work definitely made it worth while with the working day ending early so we could fit in time for a little celebration party at the end of the day! :-)

2008's bronze came too - work wanted to meet the whole family :-)

Unfortunately being a paralympian is not a job. It is a hobby you work really hard at with rewards of free(ish) travel and accommodation around Australia and the world, friendship and camaraderie, and a few monetary training/equipment/sporting grants every now and then. Unless something fantastic happens in the future in terms of awareness and massive sponsorship, being an athlete with a disability in Australia doesn't replace the need for a job/income. It would be great if we could live off major sponsership deals like some Australian and international sport stars do, but that idea is just a fantasy at this moment in time. I am proud that I have been able to somehow manage work, uni and basketball (and social life!). I have one unit to go and so soon I will graduate uni with a double degree and I am already making a name for myself in the legal profession. Sport could end suddenly for whatever reason at any time (voluntary and involuntary). If that time ever comes, then I have something amazing to fall back on.

Anyway, getting back to the haze: driving my car for the first time was weird. It doesn't last long, but there was a short amount of time where I felt like a teenager who has just passed their test and driving on P's and alone for the first time. Getting used to the feel of the stearing wheel in my hands and the brake and accellerater. In Arnhem you just walked/pushed everywhere. In Cardiff and London you wheeled up onto a bus and the driver drove you where you needed to go.

A big part of the haze is the fact that I have time alone. 'Me time' as I like to call it. When you're away with a team 'me time' is very rare. There were a few times when I felt a bit tired and a little cranky, but the schedule taped to my door says I have a training session, followed by recovery, then lunch, then a team meeting, then a hudl/video session in one of the smaller Glider groups. Sometimes all I wanted is to curl up in my bed with the sheets over my head but I couldn't. Now I'm back home and the concept of a day by myself without having to listen to anyone breath or eat crunchy yoghurt is completely reasonable and possible. Hashtag athlete problems!

Things I don't miss about the paralympics:
  • Getting felt up by security every time I get back from training, a game, or a visit to Westfield.
  • The accreditation dangling around my neck (especially when it blows around dramatically when pushing through a massive wind tunnel between buildings).
  • The question "do you have a pin??" from people who don't even attempt a semi-decent conversation or act of kindness before asking that question!
  • Single sized beds. I love my king sized bed (hubby to snuggle included!).
Ever since returning home I have had alot of people who know I went to the Paralympics but don't know the result ask me how I went. I would say 'I got a silver medal' and they would cheer and say how proud they are and how wonderful it is. I would reply with a nice smile and thank them for their kind words. It's hard though. I am a proud paralympian and I am proud to have a paralympic medal. But wearing a silver medal from competing in a team sport means we lost our last game. We lost the gold medal and got the silver medal instead. Unlike swimmers or runners who genuinely win silver by coming second in their race. I read Lisa Chaffey's blog and she wrote about her Athens experience:

"In a team sport, winning a silver means you lost the gold medal game. You go home with a shiny medal, of which you will eventually be proud, but you lost your last game. It's a hard position to be in. It took me a few months after Athens to start saying that I won the silver medal, and not that I had lost the gold."

It is probably another part of this post-paralympic haze that I have been talking about :-)

If you are in Perth, Western Australia and want to come say hi to me and the other WA Paralympians then come to the Northbridge Plaza between 12 and 2.30pm on Friday 28th of September.
Now that the London Paralympics are over I am going to have to change this blog name and the countdown. I googled the Rio Paralympics and apparently that is starting on September 7th 2016. Wow that is such a long way away! I'm going to be 30!! I have changed so much since Beijing (was single in Beijing, now I'm married!) I can't imagine what I am going to be like in Rio. Kids? Full time job? Or will I have a major sponser and be a full time athlete?? Who knows!? The journey is what makes the destination such a success.  Hmmm..  maybe I should name this blog 'The Journey'. That way I wont have to keep changing the name every 4 years. Your suggestions would be much appreciative! Facebook or Tweet me!

Now that my London Paralympic journey is over, I'm not sure how often I will write blogs. But if anything awesome does happen in my life then I will hopefully have some spare time to tell you about it :-)

Good luck to my Husband and Dean who are competing in Tough Mudder tomorrow in Sydney! They have raised $750 for Wheelchair Sports WA which is a great effort for their first fundraising event! If you want to sneak in a donation then head to their Everyday Hero webpage! Wheelchair Sports WA have seen alot of young kids grow into Paralympic medal winning elite athletes (including myself, Justin Eveson and Shaun Norris) and it is fundraising and donations from the public that have helped them do it. Every bit counts!

Until next time!

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