When I was 21, I had a series of strokes because of a blood clot in my brain. I had a migraine for four days, I went into the ICU at the hospital for three, and then I spent 18 months on blood thinners. I was told by my first neurologist that I couldn’t continue with two of my jobs at the time due to the possibility of injury. (I was a veterinary technician with horses and a dog walker.) I was also told I couldn’t ride my horse or go snowboarding.

Snowboarding in Val Thorens

I’d been snowboarding since I was 16, skiing before that since I could walk. I wasn’t some kick-ass boarder girl with sick moves and nerves of steel, but I was definitely capable of taking a few jumps and going down the hill as fast as most intermediate boarders out there.

My second neurologist (after I dumped the one that didn’t pay the least attention to my inquiries), told me it was perfectly fine for me to continue with life as normal, just to use some precautions. So I immediately went to a sporting store and bought a helmet. I was back out on the mountain that weekend.

But I didn’t realize something. I am very aware that I can be a chicken, but until this year I hadn’t realized quite how much. On a week-long boarding trip with some friends, I was getting so frustrated with being the one holding everyone back. I would cautiously look at the possibilities in the snow for every turn, I would make sure that I wasn’t going too fast. It was really pissing me off, and I’d been like this for years.

Then when I was crying on the lift in pure anger, my husband said I used to be better. I snapped at him. “Excuse me?” He reaffirmed that I had been better at snowboarding. I took a few calming breaths and asked him, “When?” Then he told me something that shocked me and also opened my eyes. Ever since my blood clot, I had been holding myself back.

That next run…I can’t even begin to describe the rage that poured through me and got me down the slope in record time. From there on, I can only improve.

I’m glad I know now what was holding me back. I want to always be aware of the things about myself that hinder myself. I like that as a human I am ever changing and growing, and I’m so grateful for the experiences in my life that have made that possible. (Even if they were extremely painful and emotionally excruciating at the time.)