Published on September 17th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor19
Photo: Val Weiss
Getting My Head Back in the Game
By Betty Beretta
Over a year ago, I nervously shared my experience with the derby world. In May 2012, I was diagnosed with epilepsy after a major concussion. I took a beautifully accurate and legal hit to the chest, sending me backwards on my head. It was by a newer skater on my team that made me proud and regardless of the consequences, I will never tell who she is. She still makes me proud.
I shared my story in Five on Five because I wanted to bring awareness to concussions, helmet safety, and self-care. I hoped it helped anyone out there. A lot has happened since then. As of late, I am returning to play roller derby in early 2014. Insane? Maybe a bit. It’s just right.
A bit of history, I have been involved in flat track roller derby since 2005. Starting with the rough, new beginnings of Mississippi Roller Girls. I moved there from Michigan to stay with my parents after Hurricane Katrina. I broke my ankle in that era,and that required multiple surgeries. I moved back to Michigan in 2007 and tried out for the Detroit Derby Girls. I failed my skills test 3 times due to the nerve damage in my ankle. I stayed involved by being an NSO until I passed that next test in 2008. With the diagnosis in 2012, I had to retire from skating, remaining active alumni and WFTDA Rep with Detroit. I then had the opportunity to bench coach for the Ann Arbor Brawlstars, the all star and hardest working team I have come to love. That is where I remain today and until 2014.
I have had to become healthy, active, and aware of my body signals at all times to prevent seizure activity. I am lucky, the people I have met in the epilepsy community suffer grand mal seizures all day. I was able to be stabilized in a short period of time. However, still conscious all day to prevent triggers.
I felt this whole time like something was missing. I figured it was just adjusting to my new life. I am a biology major, intending to follow a career path as a pathology assistant. College had to slow down like everything else. I was frustrated, depressed, and full of anxiety. It has taken a full year to even feel comfortable being in public alone, holding on to my medical bracelet like a pacifier. I spectate every bout I can, I bench coach for a team I love, I get full love and support from every derby skater who are old teammates, and those who know my story. It has been humbling and I feel that love. However, it has not filled that part of me that felt like something was missing. It’s the play. I am a skater. I have been a skater and it’s what I do. Simple and to the point. I have overcome a lot through roller derby, rather it being physical, mental, and emotional. Rather it being derby related or not.
I did my own medical research, reading study after study, talked to my neurologist, and my epileptologist who say if I take care of myself, returning should not be an issue. However, the real opinion would come from the two people who have given me my strength since day one, my parents. My stomach was in knots when I went for it. I spoke with my dad first. He asked if I was insane first, but then laughed and said if he sat in the room with these doctors and they told him they give the green light, he would support it. We were much more concerned about my mother’s reaction. I sat in the chair for our weekly mother/daughter time when she braids my hair. I took a deep breath and said , “I want to play derby again.” To my surprise, she gave a big sigh and said, “Don’t sit around waiting to die. Do what makes you happy.” I cried.
I am taking this return slowly. My remaining commitment until the new year is bench management for the Brawlstars. I have never stopped skating, but I have fears.
-”What if I have a seizure and someone gets hurt?”
-” What if other skaters don’t feel comfortable with me on the track?”
-”What do I do adjusting to derby training, cross training, and bout play?”
Just a whirlwind of thoughts and questions. These are questions that can only be answered by other derby skaters who may share my experience. To ease my mind.The doctor and research say I have a much higher chance of having a fatal seizure in my sleep than returning to play. This info is based on other contact and collision sports. They say this will actually lower my seizure activity by being more active, less anxious, and improve general quality of life. The research and medical degrees are there. I am calling on my derby community, my home, to be willing to share their experiences with me. To know I am not going back into this unreasonably and with rose-colored glasses on. To know the full truth.