Saturday, February 15, 2014


Guess I'm not getting much climbing done for a few days.

Actually, what has turned into a 5 day weekend is a good chance to rest since I'm not feeling the best anyway, and I did get in a fun session at Northwest Branch last Friday before nature remembered that it was supposed to be winter.  I was extra excited to find out that both of my pads fit in the trunk of my new car without even putting a seat down!

For a quick trip after work, it was a fun crew and surprisingly nice conditions.  We started off on the Tick boulder, which is still my favorite NWB boulder even after everything else I've done there.

                                                                     Edit: John Brunson

The main objective for the day was Curtain Call, which I hadn't tried since pulling my back on it a few months ago.  Although I walked away again without sending, the new heel hook beta helped me get through the move that had previously shut me down, and I at least got to see Katelyn and Ward top it out with ease.

                                                                     Edit: John Brunson

                                                                     Edit: John Brunson

I have to wonder if mentally sequencing those moves during my four hours of sleep that night was a factor in me getting sick the next day.  Four hours of good sleep is a hard enough thing to deal with, much less four hours interrupted by a brain that won't shut down.

This may sound redundant, but I've been thinking a lot about obsession over the past few days.  As I was getting ready to go to lunch on Saturday, I was suddenly overcome by dizziness, and shortly afterward was shivering uncontrollably.  With Emily out of town, I spent most of that day wrapped in blankets on my mom's couch.  While it was at least a good chance to watch Olympics, I struggled to figure out why I couldn't warm up, why my heart was racing, why I felt a burning around my sternum, and why it had mostly passed by that evening.

The burning I realized was acid reflux, and having not had any coffee since that day, it's vastly improved.  Of course, the caffeine withdrawal kicked in until I had the good sense to have some tea, leaving me with a whole new set of symptoms to process.

Flash forward to Tuesday night, when I was finishing a teaching session and started to feel an odd heat and pressure in my neck.  Totally disregarding the intense campusing and pull-ups I had done a couple of hours beforehand, I randomly wondered if it could be a blood clot.  And that was enough to send me into another panic attack.  Not the last one I would have this week, as I obsessively monitored everything I felt, and checked my heart rate at least twenty times a day.

Yesterday when I went to the doctor for the first time in four years, I could see him trying not to laugh at me.  After doing all the basic checks, he assured me that I was fine and was just recovering from lingering effects of whatever illness had caught me last weekend.  I still don't feel better physically, but at least the panic is gone, and I had the good sense to set up a physical so I'll have a baseline for the future.  Guess it's a little sad that I'm so proud of myself for doing something that should really be a given as an adult.

Obsession.  I've come to realize that it's simultaneously my biggest strength and my biggest curse.  Channelled correctly, it's the reason I learn and improve at things as quickly as I do.  My mind is always seeking the patterns, the connections.  Always refining and distilling until the information is internalized, whether it's the moves of a climb, the concepts in a textbook, or the words that I'll say when I have to make a phone call.  I become good at things because I can't stop thinking about them, or talking about them.

Obsession can also be crippling.  Sometimes mildly, with sleep interrupted by imagined rock, or bar conversations missed because I'm thinking about pentagons.  At its most extreme, it teams up with my anxiety and leaves me unable to function, with days spent in fear of thinking about the wrong thing and triggering an all but irreversible chain reaction.

Two sides of the coin, both part of who I am.  Fortunately for me it's a coin flip that I have the power to control.  I just need to remind myself of that every once in a while.

Stay warm out there!

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