Hello and a belated Happy New Year!
Unfortunately, I think the infamous Ottawa Winter has finally arrived. Despite the fact that it is a beautiful sunny day, this morning might just have been the coldest one I have ever experienced. Being from Vancouver, I fully acknowledge that I do not understand what a real Canadian winter is. Now that I am experiencing it, I can’t say that it’s overly pleasant…I spilt a bit of my morning tea on my coat, just a few drops, and they were frozen before I could even think about flicking them off. Unreal!
As I mentioned before, I’ve been waging a war against mono now for some time. It’s been 48 days since I’ve last been able to practice full contact, let alone play a game. It certainly hasn’t been easy, the exhaustion, the extreme head-cold like symptoms, the pain from my enlarged spleen; but most of all, it hasn’t been easy to take a step back from the game I love. This is something I’ve never had to do before.
The thing that most people don’t realize about mono is how mentally draining it is. For me, the hardest part was dealing with the feelings, the thoughts that it brought to the surface: feelings of weakness, of not being good enough, of being a failure. For the first month that I had mono, the month where I wasn’t diagnosed and had no idea what was wrong with me, these are the feelings that dominated my thoughts. As far as I knew, there wasn’t anything seriously wrong with me. Yet why was I so much more tired than everyone else? Why was I sore all the time? Why couldn’t I focus on school, sit down and do my work like I always could? Why couldn’t I make it through class without falling asleep? With these questions came answers that lead to feelings of failure and weakness. I believe that I was feeling the way I was because of stress, because I couldn’t handle university workload and varsity schedule. I felt as if everything I had worked so hard to achieve was slipping through my fingers: my schooling, my sport, my life as I knew it. When I was finally diagnosed, that helped to answer my questions, but it did not excuse the feelings that arose. I would have to face these feelings, and yet I did not want to. I think the worst part of it all was the guilt. I would say to myself, “Alex, get a grip. You really don’t have it that bad at all. Your situation could be so much worse. Think of the world you live in, and be grateful for everything you have.” This just made everything so much worse, because this lead to the belief that my feelings were irrational and unjustifiable. And to top it off, the one thing that I’ve always leaned on, my source of strength and calm and focus, was gone. I couldn’t play hockey.
What I’ve learned is that this is not true, that my feelings are real and true and I am allowed to feel them. No one should have to downplay their feeling because they do not believe themselves to be worthy of them. These feelings and fears are natural, and can surface as a result of a number of triggers, not necessarily mono. And despite everything, I’ve grown up through this experience. I’ve managed to finally gain some perspective and to find the positive aspects. I’m healthy again, I’m still able to do the thing I love and I am not a failure. I think the fact that I am a person with super-charged emotions didn’t help, but that is something that can be so positive as well.
This is me facing those feelings. Every year, hundreds of athletes get mono, and I’m betting a lot of them go through what I’ve gone through. All I hope is that by me baring my soul like this, that someone else who’s gone through this realizes that they’re not alone. Today, after 108 days of fighting, I’ve decided that I’ve won. I will be better for this, and I will come out stronger.