Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Member Highlight: Bryn

When Bryn Overton was 10 years old, she began suffering from her first petite mal seizures. It began in gymnastics when her father noticed that Bryn kept zoning out. It was a scary time for Bryn and her family... But she grew out of the seizures by the age of 16 and epilepsy seemed to have become a thing of Bryn's past. Until she experienced another petite mal seizure while driving, leading to a car accident that scared Bryn and her entire family. Then, about a month after the accident, Bryn experienced her first grand mal seizure. 
 
"I got really depressed as a kid, I was different. I was so excited when I got off the medications, so getting re-diagnosed with epilepsy really took a toll on me. But it taught me to cope with everything, just deal with what happens. It is what it is, you can't change it. I mean, it definitely takes a sense of humor to deal with what you've been handed, so I just try to keep positive.

It could have been worse."
Who has been your biggest supporter in this? 

"My parents have been there for all of it. They've shared laughs and tears with me. My brother has been a huge support. I talk to him about my travels, when I'm really nervous. He always responds with "It's going to be fine. We're going to take care of you." My best friend, Heather, too. She's luckily never seen me go through it, but she always makes sure I'm okay. 
They're my rocks."
Favorite adventure you have embarked on since your diagnosis? 

"Being a heli-ski guide in Valdeez, Alaska. I get to go out and spend time 30 miles outside of town, working in a lodge and skiing in the backcountry. Getting to
go in a helicopter and ski runs that only a couple of thousand people have skied before is pretty amazing. Best job perks ever. I also got to take a summit flight of Denali in a 10-person plane and fly around the summit. Now, I'm in the Grand Tetons, kayaking, rafting, and horseback riding."

When you get scared or overwhelmed, what do you think to push past that fear?

"Other people can do it, why can't I? If anything happens, I have friends and family that care about me. I just have to do what makes me happy. Becuase I know that the feeling at the bottom of this mountain is going to make me so high. Total adrenaline junkie."
Do you have any dream adventures?

"Oh yeah! Heliskiing is checked off the list. Southeast Asia is on my list, which I actually just got my passport for. 2-3 months of backpacking. I want to go to Italy and eat pizza and pasta. Oh and see the Alps, and climb in Yosemite. A big wall climb, like El Capitan."

What would you say to others living with epilepsy?

"Whether you have your seizures under control
or not, just work to get through every day. Remember the good times and cherish every minute you live without a seizure. You can lose it any day. But every day is a new day."

Bryn is currently preparing for an extended backpacking trip through Southeast Asia and living big every day. Happy trails, Bryn!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Adventure Scholarship Report: Maggie

    Outdoor Mindset's Adventure Scholarship wants to provide those who live with neurological challenges the ability to go on their dream adventure! Maggie Morehart, an avid OM member and exercise enthusiast was one of the most recent scholarship winners!

    Maggie has been through a lot since high school, but she doesn't let that stop her in her pursuit of living a healthy and happy lifestyle...
    "I was diagnosed with migraine and related conditions in high school. My diagnosis led me to learn more about my brain and the way it functions (or sometimes malfunctions as a result of my genes). Having a name for my disease allowed me to learn more, but I also found that there is a lot of stigma around these kinds of diseases. Over the years, I’ve encountered a lot of that stigma, which I think Outdoor Mindset is helping to slowly dispel. I love that OM is focused more on ability than disability and encourages members to accomplish their goals despite neurological challenges. When you have a chronic illness, it’s important to remember that you still have the potential to do awesome things. Maybe you do them a little differently, but that’s ok.
  I’m lucky to have a great doctor who helped me find a relatively successful treatment plan. Since I started the medications I currently take, my quality of life has greatly improved, and I feel like I have more control over my symptoms and my life. I’ve found inspiration in other people who have overcome obstacles... My friends and family have probably been my biggest inspiration. I’m lucky to have a wonderful support system that includes some great role models who keep me moving forward. 
Read all about her experience with OM's Adventure Scholarship:

   "During my trip, I visited four states that I'd never been to before - Massachusets, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. It was a great opportunity to explore a new part of the country. I met some really inspirational people and learned a lot along the way. I attended seminars, where I met some of my favorite authors and athletes. I also watched the Boston Marathon and saw some of the fastest runners in the world compete alongside wheelchair and hand cycle athletes. To be so close to the finish line and experience all that positive energy was awesome.

   At times, I almost felt like I'd treveled back in time. Between the Freedom Trail in Boston and the historical tour of Salem, I saw a lot of American History come to life."
   Maggie had been in close contact with several OM members living in the area and was even able to plan a hike with them through a portion of the Appalachian Trail!

   "It was great to actually meet them in person. The hike was beautiful, and we even got to explore some of the Appalachian Trail the next morning!" 
Does it seem like Outdoor Mindset would be a good fit for you, too?
Do you have an adventure in mind?
Sign up for our Adventure Scholarship, then get out there and chase your dreams like Maggie!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Adventure Scholarship Report: Hans

May 2016

      The first OM Adventure Scholarship of 2016 was a huge success! Several of OM's staff and board members were able to participate with the scholarship winner during the adventure. It was a day full of laughter and discovery. 

About the winner: 
      Just over a year ago, Hans Updegraff was an avid outdoor enthusiast, always staying active and getting outside. Then, in December of 2014, he was involved in an accident and experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI). 


"My TBI affected my life initially by requiring me to relearn how to walk, swallow when eating, run, and many other activities. My TBI also erased my ability do simple activities that require higher brain functions and processing information - these directly effect my readiness to drive a car which hasn’t happened yet." - Hans

     The road to recovery has not been an easy one, but he says that he is constantly inspired to keep progressing because of the support of his mother, brother, girlfriend, and the therapists at Craig Hospital

Hans' favorite quote:
Hans' thoughts on the event: 
      "Having the opportunity to meet others who had experiences similar to mine helped me not to feel so alone. I had a hard time explaining my experiences and emotions and eventually began to feel very alone. This activity allowed me to meet Outdoor Mindset staff and participants who who were all very encouraging; which in turn made my life perspective more positive."
"I was very satisfied because the staff worked so well with me and other participants.
They made me even more excited about the activity. It was a chance for me to
nordic ski and be in such a positive environment.
The arrangement of the adventure was relaxed, exciting, and very friendly. It also put me closer to being approved from my therapists to
downhill ski again."
"I do feel like [OM] is a good fit for me because I really liked the arrangement of the adventure with OM. OM creates a positive time to give participants a chance to step back into a life that they value. It’s a good fit because for me encouragement is so important. I tend to be hard on myself when I don’t do well. OM was a good fit because I could tell the staff and participants were all there to just have fun and learn. It helped me relax and enjoy learning with everyone."
Does it seem like Outdoor Mindset would be a good fit for you, too?
Do you have an adventure in mind?
Sign up for our Adventure Scholarship, then get out there and chase your dreams like Hans!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Introducing the OM Adventure Scholarship!

Happy New Year!
The year end gives us time to reflect on the year, and take a big breath to settle the mind and return to a positive state of being; whether we experienced something tragic, enlightening, or downright dull. 



With the New Year, comes the view of the horizon. It’s time to look forward to a better future and plan to take action.
 


At OM we look at the New Year as an opportunity to reengage, reignite, and re-imagine the future.
 


To start, I and the Executive and Advisory Boards will be having a retreat on MLK weekend. We will be reflecting on our accomplishments, examining our current state, and planning for a big future! These are exciting times at OM! And in the spirit of reigniting the spirit, I am excited to introduce a brand new program:
 




The power of the outdoors to lift our spirits, to clear our thoughts and center our state of being, in history, was a gift that only gods could give. For many of us, the time we spend outside and in nature defines our character and how we view the world. We may dream of climbing that special peak, travelling to that amazing place and living that once in a lifetime experience. These experiences bring strangers together and friends closer, with memories and feelings that will be shared for the rest of their lives. It is at these precise moments when you take a deep breath and say, “this is what life is all about”!
 


Outdoor Mindset thrives on those moments and understands that the impact these extraordinary experiences have on our health and wellbeing is priceless! OM never intends to compete with the gods, but perhaps we can help provide the funding for you and a friend to get closer to experiencing a special peak, an amazing place and a once in a lifetime experience – an item on your bucket list that you have always wanted to complete.
 


Our goal with the new Adventure Scholarship is to help support OM’s mission to enhance the quality of life of our members, engage our members and encourage our community to connect with one another and get outside and live big!
 


El Chalten, Patagonia. Put it on your Adventure Scholarship
bucket list!
OM will be awarding at least one Adventure Scholarship per quarter. We will be awarding at least $500 per Adventure Scholarship! Applications will be accepted starting today, and applicants will be given until February 12th, to submit. Applicants must be an OM member, and the Adventure Scholarship must be used for an outdoor activity with at least one other OM member. Keep in mind, anyone can become an OM member and it’s FREE! And most importantly, the Adventure Scholarship awardee must have a great time!!!
 


Please click here to view the official rules and apply. Good luck!

 

Don’t forget to Participate, Engage and Promote! 
 


I can’t wait to see you outside and look forward to sharing more exciting news in the coming months!


~Sean

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Meet-Up Spotlight: Ohio's Maggie

Meet Maggie, our Ohio Meet-Up group leader. Her connection to Outdoor Mindset runs deep and we're fortunate to have her as part of the OM family. Here she tells her story about her neurological history that has an amazing outcome... because it brought her to our organization!

"I remember one day when I was probably a junior or senior in high school. I came home from school in severe pain and instead of going straight to bed or taking a hot bath, my anger got the better of me and I decided to go for a run. I was so sick and tired of the constant pain and the feeling that I couldn't really be myself. I was fed up and pissed off. So I put on my running shoes and ran.

I don't remember running, but I do remember stumbling into the house about twenty minutes later, doubled over, pressing the palms of my hands into my forehead as hard as I could to keep myself from vomiting. I could hardly see; everything was too bright and blurry. I couldn't talk, because my own voice triggered a chain reaction, starting with the nerves behind my right eye and radiating down my spine. I couldn't eat, because the nausea made it impossible to swallow. At that point, there was nothing I could do but crawl in bed and wait it out. The next day would be the same, but about 15 hours of sleep might give me the energy it would take to make it through school the next day.

It's strange to look back over the last 10-15 years and realize how much has changed. In the days before I found an effective treatment, it was hard to even imagine spending more than a day without pain or nausea. Now, my bad days are few and far between, and I feel like I finally have the ability to be myself and do the things I want to do.

I was finally diagnosed with migraine after my family doctor put the pieces of my genetic puzzle together: my dad had mostly recovered, but had suffered from severe migraine when he was younger, and while my symptoms presented differently, they all pointed to migraine. At the time, I didn't really understand what that meant. I later learned that migraine is actually a brain disease that affects the entire central nervous system, and it explained the severe stomach pain and nausea I'd experienced when I was younger, as well as the cognitive impairment and other symptoms. Several years later, when I was in college in Kentucky, I was also diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which could have a connection to migraine and contributed to the severe fatigue.

During the two years I was in Kentucky, I struggled with pain, nausea, fatigue and sometimes even cognitive impairment, making it difficult to have a normal social life and succeed in school. Medications I had tried before just made me sick, and I didn't know if I would ever find a treatment that would help me be "normal," whatever that meant for me. At the time, I just wanted to be free from the pain. But I didn't realize how many areas of my life were affected until I got better.

When I transferred to go to school back home, I spent the summer working with my doctor to find a treatment. Around the time school started, I was beginning to adjust to the medication that would change my life. I was starting at a new school, with a new major and hoping and praying that this time things would be different. I didn't really like high school, so I had always looked forward to college: the chance to start over, study things I actually cared about and get the real "college experience." Kentucky had been a bust, but going into my junior year armed with a medication that actually worked, I knew things could be different.

And things were very different. I was no longer afraid to be around people, worried of what they would think when I couldn't keep up with the conversation or it took me an unusually long time to respond to a question. I could go to events and meet new people, because I was there to have fun, not to merely survive until I could get back into bed. I could run for fun; I could go to parties; I could even speak up in class discussions, because I was able to follow them. That's when I realized how much I had been missing out on. It wasn't just the physical pain and limitations that had made things so difficult, I had also lost my personality, my passion and my ability to make connections with other people. I literally didn't know who I was. It was almost like meeting myself for the first time; I learned that I was actually an extrovert and loved meeting new people. I found a passion for fitness, running, biking and other outdoor activities. I joined a sorority and found out that event planning and fundraising was another passion of mine. I learned photography and picked it up as a minor, because why not? I took advantage of every opportunity I could, and I wasn't afraid to try new things.

When I ran across the Outdoor Mindset website, I had no idea there was already an organization that combined some of the things I care about most. I am now a trainer for Planet Fitness and I'd eventually like to specialize in working with clients who have neurological challenges and mental illnesses. I feel like I can relate to some of the challenges that those with neurological diseases face, and I know from experience how exercise can change lives.

I also know how important it is to be surrounded by people who care and support each other, especially when you're facing a chronic illness or disability. I was lucky to have my family and a few close friends by my side while I struggled with my illness, and I don't know what I would've done without them. That's why I'm so excited to be a part of Outdoor Mindset and grow a community in Ohio. Through outdoor activity and social connections, we CAN make a difference in the lives of those with neurological challenges!"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Super Woman Sally

Sally is an old friend and colleague of many of us at Outdoor Mindset. A few years ago, she scared us all senseless when she was in a serious backcountry skiing accident in Jackson, WY. We, along with her 8 billion other friends and admirers, have had the pleasure of rallying around her and watching her come-back from this accident. She is a true inspiration and rock star, and it's an honor to have her be a part of the Outdoor Mindset family.

Raised in Colorado, I started skiing at age three. (But I went in my dad’s backpack in the backcountry at six months old!) My family has a cabin in Leadville, so when I was young, I skied at Ski Cooper. Once my brother and I “graduated” from Ski Cooper, at about age 12, I went over to Copper Mountain. I skied there for most of my younger years, and at age 15, I started the Junior Ski Patrol program. While I was in college, and for a few years after, I was a volunteer patroller, with skills as an EMT.

After college, I worked many ski-related jobs in Boulder, including being the online editor for SKI Magazine. I worked there for a couple years, considering it my “dream job.” I skied in places like Canada, New Zealand and Chile, and trips like these were fully paid for- but I was laid off from that job. That was a Wednesday, and by Friday, I had another offer on the table.

I accepted that job, and within two week, I packed everything I needed in my car, and headed to Jackson, Wyoming. I absolutely loved it there: the PR company I got a job with, Denny, ink., had major ski industry clients like Arc’teryx, Dynafit and Nordica, so I went skiing for part of the day and it was considered “work.”

Skiing with three of my Jackson friends one Saturday, we rode the tram up at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and hiked to where we wanted to ski. We were going to ski “Once is Enough,” but we had to ski another, narrower run to get there. When we got to the top of our run, we clicked in, and my friend went first. He gave me two thumbs up, telling me it was safe to go. I started downhill, took a few turns, and then my ski fell off. I crashed, and slid downhill for 550 feet. I came to a stop by bashing my head on a rock. I was unconscious, but everything else was fine. My one friend who went first hiked up to me, and my other two friends skied down.

Once I got off the slope (which took a really long time), I was airlifted to a hospital in Idaho Falls, where I was placed in an induced coma. Even though I was only in Jackson for a short time, a lot of friends I had came to visit me. I stayed there for three weeks, and then was okay to fly back home, to Colorado.

I had multiple injuries—a broken back, neck, and ankle, and I had to have back surgery to fix that break. I wore a neck collar for a long time in the hospital so that my neck would heal. And I still have foot problems from the break. I wasn’t eating at that time, so I have a belly scar from where they put in the feeding tube. I lost a ton of weight- 30 pounds- so they gave me a smoothie with stuff that made me gain weight.  I remember when I first got to eat by myself, and I forgot how great that was.

A few months after I lived at home, I got to go back to Jackson and thank all the people I knew there. Since the PR company I worked for had some clients in the ski industry, a lot of ski stuff was donated, which gave people another reason to come.

There were a lot of things I had to go through to recover- physical, occupational, and speech therapy. And even though I was 25 (and I turned 26), I lived at home. Living in Colorado Springs wasn’t great, because most of my friends were in Denver or Boulder. But I needed that time to still recover- I wasn’t able to live on my own.

Now that I live in Boulder in a condo that my parents helped me buy, I’m in a much better spot- I can see friends more often, and since I don’t drive, I can take the bus everywhere. Getting back to the life I used to have will never happen, so I struggle with loneliness. My friends from before my accident are finding new jobs, getting promoted, and/or having kids, but I feel like I’m stuck in the same place. I used to have a great job, and was doing really well at it, so this injury has stopped that. I just have to find a new way to gain happiness, beyond my job. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m still working on it.

I am so glad that I have come this far, when I was so very close to death during my accident. But the way my friends acted during my accident saved my life, and luckily, worse things didn’t happen with the bones I broke. My life will never be the same as it used to be, but I’m lucky to be alive so I can adapt to the changes.

Post accident, there are a lot of things that are important to me now, that I never used to consider important. Balance is one of them- I still have trouble walking. I don’t ski like I used to, and that was so important to me that even my job revolved around that. Riding bikes is a problem- I never realized how balance plays into that. My parents have kept their tandem, though, so I can still get my biking “fix.”

Yes, things aren’t how they used to be, but I’m learning new ways to do them and find other things that make me happy. I’ve now realized that the sports I used to do were the main source of my happiness. Now that I can’t do them the same way, I’m trying to learn other things that make me happy.

Outdoor Mindset has really shown me that there are more people who struggle with the same things I do, so it’s good to know that I’m not alone. It’s the simple things like having coffee with another Outdoor Mindset member that matter the most. I find pleasure in the simple things now, because I’ve realized how important they are. Before my accident, I thought bigger things were more important—like traveling, being a bridesmaid in someone’s wedding, or having success at work. Now, it’s the little things that matter the most to me, and Outdoor Mindset helps with that.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Heidi joins OM & the Denver Meetup Group

Heidi is a new Outdoor Mindset member, who recently joined the Denver meetup group. We're super excited that Heidi is part of the OM Community and appreciate her sharing this blog post:

I don’t even know where to begin – this I know for sure:  I know I am a typical Colorado native.  I love the great outdoors; skiing, camping, hiking, you name it…………………. .oh, and of course The Broncos!







  
I was an educator. I love learning and had taught children for 17 years.  I love people, cultures, and travel. I traveled to Croatia, Germany, and Switzerland, studied in Italy, taught in Mexico and explored the US too.  Backpacking the Grand Canyon was incredible. My 5 yr. old niece and I are going to “The Big Hole” when she’s 12. I possess the independent spirit that accompanies all of this.     
Well, I suppose I don’t know where to begin because I also know that I am beginning a new life.

Although the desire that beats the heart of all of these “known’s”, these “loves”, essentially the pieces of my identity, still exists, my ability to live them altered.  I must fulfill my identity differently because who I am is not going away and nor are the challenges that brought on by epilepsy.  How do I marry these two?  That is what carving this new life is all about.

I began having seizures four years ago.  The seizures increased in severity and occurrence over these years until I was only safe under supervision or just within the walls of my small condo.  Often my bits of solitude merely came on the heels of persistent insistence.  My independent spirit was wearing on me and my dear loving and supportive family.  However, it usually produced our only refuge.  I had taken every medicine, suffered extreme side effects, and withstood countless tests and hospital stays. 

My family had been stretched immeasurably.  I was completely dependent, a bus ride let alone a drive were out of the question.  It had been four years of an incomprehensible whirlwind.  My mind could not begin to process the changes my life was going through at even half the pace with which they were happening.

This complete redefinition of life, health, and future led me to a decision that, as difficult as some may find, was rather obvious to me.  Three months ago I decided to have brain surgery.  I couldn’t be more grateful; language is inadequate to express this. The world has supported in ways I didn’t know were possible…friends, family, doctors, acquaintances, and beyond.                                                                                     

I have now experienced three months without a seizure and have even begun to dip my toe back into the outside world. I have gotten out on my own, ridden the bus, taken walks, and even met friends for lunch.  Okay, I won’t be hitting the back bowls or even jumping on a bike.  What do they say about, “Running before you can walk.” ? 

I am taking it very easy and so glad that through my struggles I have met Lisa Avram, a leader in the Outdoor Mindset Denver Group.  I met Lisa, and a really moving group of people who also struggle with epilepsy, through an art therapy group.  Our continued gatherings regularly provide me with a unique strength.  Through their support and my experiences I have learned the importance of listening to my limits vs. what our culture expects of us.  I am enjoying things I never believed I would.  A bus ride is quite an adventure, a joy all its own and one to celebrate!  Sure, not the south rim nor Yellowstone but a gift nonetheless.

As I get out again at the pace that my health dictates, I am grateful for the resource of Outdoor Mindset.  Yoga is wonderful, I look forward to walks around Cheesman and eventually there is hope for much more.  What I appreciate is the spectrum of challenges I can choose from through OM. I believe I have found a tool to help me marry who I am and the challenges in this new life. 

I look forward to it all and am so grateful - bus rides to mountaintops!   

 - Heidi