Skydiving With Epilepsy

I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. I can remember watching movies about paratroopers in my teens and secretly having the dream that one day I too would join the ranks of the brave men and women who proudly  served in the airborne units.

In the early days of my short time in the army, I was surrounded by maroon berets and was trained by those who spent time in the Canadian Airborne Regiment. Needless to say, being in this environment, I also longed to complete the infamous jump course, however life had other plans for me.

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After having a seizure while Peacekeeping in Bosnia, I was no longer able to sign up for further training, and eventually, 1 year later I found myself as a civilian again.

For the past 20 years I’ve been dreaming about skydiving, however I let Epilepsy get in the way and never had the courage to sign up. In fact, at one point I gave up on the idea, thinking that I would never be ready so I hid the dream away for years.

My kids entered the picture 8 years ago and in addition to the fear of having an issue with my health while Skydiving, I told myself that it wouldn’t be fair to them if I got hurt or died because I decided to skydive. It would be selfish I told myself.

As years passed, I focused on my health and found I was more and more interested in Skydiving again. I talked about it with friends from my days in uniform and mentioned it here and there in random conversations yet always held back because of the fear of the unknown.

What if something were to happen to me while 8000 feet in the air?

What if the stress of the event got to me and I wasn’t able to do it because of the fear that  I would have a seizure?

Once I started my journey into Coaching, this all changed. I began to understand how important it was to acknowledge fears and emotions. I learned that accountability plays a big role in our willingness to take on new things. I found new strength in my ability to communicate how I was feeling and while on one of my coaching courses, was coached (along with my wife) on this very topic.

This turned out to be a critical time and I can honestly say it was a game changer for me. The coaching was very emotional, not only for Jen and I but also for the other members in the room. It was important to me that Jen was by my side during the coaching and after more conversation that evening, I realized that for many reasons, Skydiving was something I just had to do.

Shortly after that weekend, I set a date for myself and publicly announced that I was going to finally sign up and complete a tandem skydive. A few short months later, and I asked my Facebook group if there was anyone interested in joining me, and soon I had a group to go with…again, more accountability!

My goal was to do the jump before I turned 41 so I signed up for July 16th…but the weather didn’t cooperate with us and we rescheduled for the next week.

As I woke in the morning of the 23rd of July, the skies were grey and the weather forecast didn’t look great, however we went anyway and the clouds parted, the sun was shining brightly and the winds relaxed.

It was a beautiful day to skydive and with my friend Shadie jumping with me as well as Jen and the kids there for support, I geared up, had a refresher of the drills and we were on our way across the field to where the plane was waiting for us.

The stress I had been holding for years was no longer there. Once I finally made the decision to commit to Skydiving my fears turned into excitement and I was looking forward to demonstrating a great life lesson for my kids, my coaching clients and the epilepsy community.

Facing our fears is difficult, yet on the other side of the walls we break through is most often a view we never expected and I was excited for that view!

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Speaking of view, as we climbed to 10,000 feet the view of the Alberta prairies was spectacular and I was looking forward to finally, after 20 years, experiencing the rush of excitement that would come with flipping out of a plane and free falling for 35 seconds!

Let me tell you, there’s nothing like it! I’m afraid I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the experience, it’s one that you will have to try because once you do you will know.

Once the parachute opened, the rush of excitement and noise of the free fall dissipated and transitioned into a quiet, peaceful experience for the next 5 minutes as we enjoyed the view along with a few winding turns as the ground got closer and closer.

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Once we hit the ground, I wanted to go again! I now understand why so many people enjoy this sport, and I can’t wait to go back. There’s so much to see and so much to learn about ourselves when we do things that scare us and skydiving not only allowed me to fulfill a big dream, it helped me understand more about myself.

I know that I can do this again, and like other things that scared me in the past, I know that it’s best to embrace the challenges, and acknowledge that although fear is present, it’s better to use this energy for good rather than to avoid it and spend the rest of your life wondering what if.

I know that I will never fulfill my dream of being a paratrooper and I understand that a tandem skydive is not the same thing, in fact it’s far from it, however I respect the fact that I live with epilepsy and this is what I can do given the circumstances.

What can you learn from my story? What dreams have you been avoiding because of the circumstances of your life? For each of us, the details are relative, so for you, perhaps standing up for yourself is equivalent to me going skydiving. Maybe your breakthrough will come from finally letting go of the belief you have about your abilities.

Whatever it may be, my hope is that by reading my story, and watching my video, that you are motivated to take a big leap and break through the walls that have been surrounding you.

What’s the next step? I’d love to hear about it.

If you are interested in watching the video, it’s a long one but it will give you a good look into what can happen if you decide to book your first tandem skydive.

Big thanks to everyone at Skydive Eden North (especially Olie) for taking care of me on my big day! I also want to say thanks to my CTI Coaching friends for their support along the way, as well as my crew who joined me to finally go for the jump! To my PPCLI brothers who motivated me to finally do this, and of course to my wife…without your support I would not have done this! Lastly, I am grateful that my girls were also there to watch. Having them there was important for me because the opportunity to teach them the value of being brave was not lost on this adventure.

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