PTSD has settled heavily upon me…

My PTSD has been pretty bad the last few weeks.  It gets worse with stress, and there’s been plenty of that to go around.  My dad had that stroke, my climbing gym just closed, and I won’t have any place to climb unless I drive two and a half hours in the winter weather of Montana (potential icy road conditions and possible pass closures) to Spire Climbing Center in Bozeman from Billings for the next two weeks.  My PTSD and Major Depression has really flared up, which kept me from enjoying the last few weeks of my climbing gym’s time open.  I’m very sad today – yes, depressed.  My climbing gym closed yesterday.  I looked at my watch at 1805 hrs and had my own little moment of silence for the loss last night.

I don’t handle change very well.  I’m afraid of losing all my friends because the new gym is going to be in a different location with different hours and I may never see them.  It would really help to be able to set routes at the new gym in order to get my mind used to the idea of the new gym and become comfortable there before all of the people get there.  Setting routes would also make me feel like I’m part of it and that I’m welcome there.

There are a lot of things that are so uncertain when a big change like this occurs and it’s really hard to deal with, even if it’s a good thing.  This new gym is going to be huge compared to the old gym!  It’s going to have roped climbing, both lead and toprope, with auto-belays and separate kids’ and adults bouldering areas.  It’s going to have a fitness mezzanine and training area above showers and a yoga studio.  The owner of the old gym is going to run the gear shop portion of the new gym and, as he puts it, “be the mascot”, which he’s happy with.  The other two partners in the new endeavor will introduce the “bigger business” side to the gym, and I foresee a more organized and procedural way of doing things coming out of that.  I will have to get payment for my membership straightened out and sign a waiver.

I will also have to get toprope and lead belay/climb certified, like I did at Spire in Bozeman.  At least I’ve been through that procedure so that hopefully my test anxiety doesn’t get to me too badly and foul me up during the evaluations at my home climbing gym.  I worry about it, though.  But why?  I’ve been taught by the most safety-conscious and technical people around, and I’ve done it outdoors hundreds of times with AJ and Emily and James…  I’ve roped up at Spire with Lou Renner and Leon Kaatz, too, and everybody was confident in my skills.  Each gym does their evaluations differently, though, and Jim was telling me that he wrote up the evaluation procedures for SteepWorld Climbing and Fitness (SCF).  Jim, without a doubt, wrote them with absolute safety in mind, so you can either do it or you can’t.  It’s a ready-set-go type of deal, he said, and you have to demonstrate and communicate with your partner both the hard and soft components of each procedure from start to finish in order to get certified.  Jim knows what he’s doing there.  He has a lot of climbing experience.  I’ll have to practice with AJ a few times to get the jitters out before I go for the real thing, I think.  That should work.  An anxiety disorder is a terrible thing.  At least it doesn’t leak over into my climbing.  It’s test anxiety, not climbing anxiety.  If I can get into the mindset of just climbing instead of thinking of it as a test, I’ll do fine.

I actually do well under pressure when I hold someone else’s life in my hands and vice-versa.  That’s part of the PTSD.  Deal with the crisis now, think about it and fall apart if you have to later.  Climbing has actually been very good for me in that regard.  I take safety very seriously and I would die for my buddies – literally – so climbing has had this sustained and intense focus component to it that outlasts any kind of stress that could be trying to destroy my concentration while incorporating the movement and motor skills component as well.  When I have someone on belay, I’m completely focused on them and their safety so they don’t have to worry about anything but climbing while knowing they’re in good hands.  When I’m climbing, I just focus on the next hold and climb, which eventually leads to that “pure movement” release where my brain lets go and allows my body to move the way it knows how to across the rock.  Life and how great it is goes through my mind when I’m climbing instead of the doom and gloom of the PTSD and Depression.  There is no fear.  I have left that far behind, thankfully, and I commit everything I’ve got and everything I am to climbing, one move at a time.  Climbing has been good for my trust issues, too.  You really have to trust someone to let them hold your life in their hands on belay.  Think about that.  Think really hard about that.  Belaying is a skill and a very serious commitment to the person who is depending on you to be paying attention while they’re climbing on the other end of that rope.  Don’t let them down!  I only allow people whom I truly trust to belay for me.  Another thing that climbing has been good for is my social interactions.  I have friends and healthy relationships.  With this new gym opening, who knows?  I might end up with even more!

This new gym – SteepWorld Climbing and Fitness – will be great.  I know it will be.  I just have to get through this period of mourning and change, and I’ll be fine.  It might take a bit to get through, but I’ll get through it.  Doing something about it is the main thing.  Behaviors can change emotions just as well as emotions can change behaviors.  I just have to figure out how to get some climbing in and I’ll be good to go!

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