I’ve never been one who sets New Year resolutions. I don’t like the idea that some random start time for the year is what you wait for to make a change in your life. I tend to choose personal life events as benchmarks for progress goals – and it works for me that way. This year my life events have synched up pretty well with New Years so I figure I may as well get on the bandwagon for a change!
At the end of 2021 I was scheduled for knee reconstruction surgery (my fibula was basically torn off from all upper attachments and PCL was shot) and I decided that since I would be down and out for a significant amount of time, I would make the most of it. I did not like where I was stuck in life and had been unhappy for quite a few years, so the forced “stop” of everything seemed like my cue to shake things up and rebuild.
First step: I got myself into regular therapy in the fall of 2021 (a few months before surgery). I wanted to try to sort out what was wrong with me that I couldn’t just accept things as they are and be happy. I highly recommend anyone who feels stuck or at a transition point in their lives get a good therapist who is trained to help with the process!
I had been in a financial hole for a long time. Chronically underemployed my entire life (as is the tale for many other autistic adults), I’ve learned to live on very little and just try to keep a positive “make the most of it” outlook. Around the time of my surgery, I received a job offer from one of my team mates to work as a project manager for his company. This would be something completely new and different from how I have lived my life previously which is a terrifying prospect. However, what I had been doing wasn’t working for me anymore, so I decided to go for it. What I found was a perfect fit for me, with great coworkers and a supportive work environment.
I also decided that a total break from my old training academy was needed. This was super hard to do as I had invested over a decade of my life into that place, but as time went on things changed and it was no longer a system in alignment with my or my coaches’ ideals. Coming to that realization meant I had to give up on it and admit that I had failed in my goals to be that person who could help keep things together. Continuing to struggle against a system not aligned with what I want out of my jiu jitsu journey would just lead to more stress and tension for all parties.
I left with no idea where I would be training once I returned after surgery, but I had reached a point where I could even see myself not going back to bjj at all. Shortly after I left, things happened resulting in my coach dropping them from the team and immediately starting the planning process of opening a new academy. It was a slower process than anyone wanted, but now we have a gorgeous new facility with coach teaching the majority of the classes and pretty much everyone in class is someone who I have enjoyed training with for years.
These three changes: Therapy, new job, and leaving the old academy have brought about so much positive change! When visiting with people I had not seen in a few years they commented unprompted that I had my sparkle back.
I now have excellent health insurance through my new job. I have been without insurance for over a decade and went in with quite a list to dump on my new PCP. So far, I have been officially diagnosed with hypermobility syndrome which explains a lot of my chronic pain and injury history, as well as a few other ongoing issues (the echocardiogram for that was fun!). I see a dermatologist in the spring and the geneticist is offering to do a DNA screening for autism markers that any inquiring family members could check for.
My insurance also (amazingly) covers my official neuropsychological screening that I completed last week. I will see the doctor in a few weeks to go over the results of that. At my intake session for that in October she said she could confidently diagnose me as autistic without testing, but since insurance covers it she ordered it for more insights.
Having an official autism diagnosis has done wonders for my mental health as well. I’ve “known” for a long time, but to have the professional assessor agree with me really validates everything. I’m feeling more free to be myself on a daily basis and am learning how to take better care of and be kinder to myself.
So now I’ve got a solid foundation to work with again! I have a good job that pays well and is fairly flexible for training and competing, training bjj directly with my coach once again and getting reconnected with the vibe that got me hooked so many years ago, ongoing therapy and official diagnosis for how my brain works to help guide me going forward, and I was able to move into my own apartment and be able to build a homey retreat for recovery.
I signed up to compete at the European championship tournament next month. I’m still trying to drop the surgery weight so I’m competing in the medium-heavy division. Coach said I’m strong enough to do heavy weight if I wanted to (thank you year and a half of physical therapy), but I’d rather work my way back down to middle or light weight since I move better in those divisions. Who knows? Maybe I’ll move up permanently – I’m just happy to be getting back out there! I want to see what my baseline is, so what better way than to just dive into a huge tournament? My surgeon said it would be another 6-8 months until I get back full functionality in my knee, but that it is safe to do full impact now and would heal more quickly and completely with more usage.
I get several weeks of PTO per year but I am trying to save that up for trips to Brazil and Japan, so I’m attempting to do Europeans as a “work from home” option and bring my work computer with me. If it works out well, I may be able to do that for other events. I am also signed up for the Atlanta Open and Pans already. I plan to hit the Abu Dhabi pro circuit once I have found my stride a bit more.
It is going to be a fun process moving forward in life with official diagnosis for my physical issues as well as my autism. Knowing where I have deficiencies, I will be able to work and strengthen around them easier instead of just guessing. It also gives me slightly more confidence to advocate for myself when needed. Just because I CAN push through doesn’t mean I have to, especially when the recovery period for my “push through” is so much longer than it is for others and affects more than just that moment. Affording myself that grace to recover properly as well makes my “on” moments much higher in quality as well!
In a nutshell: 2022 was all about tearing down and rebuilding my foundations. 2023 and on is going to be about building a structure on that new solid foundation. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially I am in probably the best balance of my life and I am excited to see what I can do!