Climbing has always been part of my life: as a baby I slept in the stroller while my parents climbed in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and later most of our vacations were spent in one of the numerous climbing areas all over Europe. When me and my brother had the choice between hiking and climbing on the weekend, we usually choose climbing, as it meant that we could play instead of going on a “boring hike”. So from an early age on I’m used to spend a lot of time moving outside and on the rocks surrounding me and love it. This scrambling around on the rocks was always playful, not about performance/improving/grades. Our parents never pushed us in any way, they were just happy to share the experience being outside. Maybe one exception: my dad got tired of putting up topropes for me, so he promised me a set of quickdraws for my first 6b on lead 🙂
Even though a big part of my childhood was spent near the rocks, I discovered my own passion for climbing as a (performance-oriented) sport rather late, around 12 years ago. I was asked if I wanted to train with the local youth climbing team and from that day on I’ve been climbing usually four times a week. Even though I spend most of the day doing other things (university, working, friends,…), climbing has been part of every day, every daydream and influencing many of my decisions. Through all these years, I’ve never really been injured, some tweaked fingers or the usual suspect, my right shoulder, but never something which wouldn’t be fine after two weeks rest and taking it easy afterwards.
Right now it’s different story though: I’m in my 5th month without climbing. It started with a strained tendon in the wrist from a weird undercling (which should be fine by now) and more gravely, a bone marrow edema in a wrist bone (lunate). For months I didn’t had a definite diagnosis, I was told it might be just from overuse, could be caused from an intraosseous ganglion/cyst or (worst case) Kienbock’s disease (don’t google that one, trust me).
I should avoid any stress/weight/ on the wrist, which means no climbing/pull-ups/hanging of any kind. At first it wasn’t so bad to stop climbing for a while: no stress with projects/skin/bad weather and a lot more time! Working full-time plus commuting 2 hours a day means I have to organize my days pretty diligently to free some time for climbing.
After a couple of weeks though, my energy levels dropped. I put so much energy in my climbing, but get so much out of it in return! My body and mind are so used to it, I needed something else to replace it. So I did more yoga, running & biking and monkeying around one handed in the gym. Oh well, all fun, but nothing makes me feel as good as climbing… My body misses the movement on rock and my mind misses having goals to work towards. It’s a weird feeling waking up day after day without that familiar soreness from climbing and just as weird going to bed with a crowded mind… Nothing clears up my mind as well as climbing.
I’m generally a very positive person, approaching every problem with the attitude that you could solve this if you think hard enough about it / try hard enough. But with the injury there is nothing I can do about it. Just rest… and wait. And so there were days where I converted to the dark side. The dark side corrupted me with negative thinking and envisioning worst-cases and “what would’ve been if…”. Not really understanding where the injury comes from didn’t help with the trust in my body. Not knowing how long it would take to heal neither…
In the last week the situation changed, as I got a more definite diagnosis: Other examinations showed that the main cause of evil is an intraosseus ganglion grown into the bone, which basically caused a hole in the bone. I will get surgery in a couple of days to fill this hole. So relieved to have a diagnosis that makes sense but on the other hand super bummed to rest for a even more months!
The thought that helps me the most is how many years climbing has been a part of my life and how many more decades it will be. Eight months off in total (if everything heals well) sure sound A LOT, but I have to put them in the perspective of my whole life. Of course then that devilish little voice in my head keeps on telling me: “but you wanted to try this and travel there and do this and learn to do that… When are you gonna do all this?” But as I got older I have realized that I will be never able to fulfill or even try to fulfill all my dreams, even the ones which are in principle realistic. .. Time is limited. On the one hand an unpleasant thought, on the other hand I definitely find it quite comforting that I will never ever run out of dreams, ideas and goals… (Would be kind of sad if that happens, no?) I know that climbing will supply me with enough goals to work for, places to travel and people to meet for more than a lifetime. Some of these will now just have to wait a bit longer…