APiD Ep. 043 | Like the Phoenix Rising
Updated: Oct 8, 2021
Check out the full transcript here.
So...funny story. My guest in this episode not only has a remarkable story to share but also the dubious distinction of having dated me more than 20 years ago. Don't worry--she exercised much better judgment in the years that followed!
Lindsay Nohl is just glad to be alive.
There were many moments over the past two years when she was not at all sure that she would be much longer. Lindsay's story is one of profound mental, emotional, and physical anguish, a remarkable recovery, a new lease on life, and a new outlook on life, too. And Lindsay courageously brings her whole ordeal and what she's learned from it to this conversation to encourage and serve all of us.
This episode is packed with insight about choosing courage in the face of fear, the sacredness of the present moment, the power of empathy, and how Mortality can propel us to live with even more guts, gusto, and abandon.
A Word of Warning
This is a tremendously life-affirming story. But the journey to "life-affirming" passes through a prolonged season of desperation, when suicide was on the table for Lindsay. For some of you, this part of the story might hit too close to home, so I wanted to be sure you were aware in advance that it would come up if you tune in to the full episode.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
Meet Lindsay Nohl
Lindsay currently lives in Victor, Idaho with her two dogs Owen & Brady, where she serves as executive director of a non-profit called Mountain Bike the Tetons. She is also a mountain bike coach and certified life coach (CLC). Prior to moving to the Tetons, Lindsay spent 18 years working for the National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS, as a field instructor, director of the Southwest program, and in other administrative roles in Arizona and Wyoming. She's a life-long athlete, and her initial passion for soccer carried into her early twenties. After attempts at playing soccer professionally, she dove headfirst into various outdoor sports like rock climbing, canyoneering, caving, and more recently, mountain biking. Today, her favorite outdoor adventures are long bikepacking trips in the desert southwest.
Reduced to Ashes
In August 2019, Lindsay’s 8-year relationship with her partner was coming apart. Then, on a routine pre-run lap of a mountain bike race course, she crashed, landed on her face, and split her chin open. She got checked out, stitched up, and sent on her way. The visible injuries healed up, and she moved on.
Two weeks later, though, while talking to a friend at a social gathering, things started to get weird. In the middle of the conversation and from out of nowhere, “kill yourself, kill yourself” popped into her head. And things quickly went downhill from there.
Over the next nine months, Lindsay’s life burned to the ground in a conflagration of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and bizarre physical symptoms.
She hid her household knives from herself--painfully aware that the impulse to kill herself could at any time get the best of her. She lost her job of 18 years along the way, too, a consequence of both the deteriorating COVID situation and her own debilitated mental, emotional, and physical state. She wasn’t eating, her gut was in shambles, and she lost 15 lbs. She couldn’t perform some of the most basic life tasks. A laundry list of antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds weren’t up to the task of righting Lindsay’s ship. She checked herself into a behavioral health center to be placed on suicide watch and did a stint in a treatment center, too. Nothing provided relief or a glimmer of hope for a better future.
The Tide Begins to Turn
Then, mercifully, when the last fragile threads of hope were almost gone, the tide began to turn in Lindsay’s favor. An integrative medicine doctor helped Lindsay heal her gut through nutrition, and gradually Lindsay’s physical and mental health began to improve. So much so, in fact, that she was able to drive and ride her bike again. Then, a therapist helped Lindsay realize that her fall on the bike 9 months earlier had in fact given her a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and the TBI was substantially complicit in causing her descent into mental, emotional, and physical hell. Until that moment, neither Lindsay nor anyone else supporting her through the ordeal had seen the connection.
And this time, the right medication became the final piece in the puzzle of Lindsay’s recovery. On May 23, 2020, within 48 hours of beginning to take Wellbutrin, Lindsay texted her dad:
“Dad, I feel normal today. I'm cleaning the house and not really tired. And I feel ‘happy.’ It feels crazy. I think the Wellbutrin is working."
Wellbutrin is a norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), and it works by making the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine available to the brain’s neurons for longer. (from verywellmind.com)
“It was so clear to me that I had a dopamine issue in my brain with how fast that stuff worked for me,” said Lindsay. “It was like the key went in the lock and I turned back on, you know, as a human.”
Like the Phoenix Rising from the Ashes
It has been an upward spiral from that point forward. Lindsay feels 95% normal again, with the main lingering symptom being diminished short-term memory.
“I'm like the Phoenix rising from the ashes here. And I have the ability to put the pieces back in any way I can...As the months have gone on, I've thought a lot about what decisions am I--I make decisions every day, many times a day and are those moving me in the direction I want to go with my life, you know? And so when everything's gone, it makes you think a lot about what you want.”
Lindsay has put the pieces of her life together in impressive fashion--including getting back on her bike and conquering races more challenging than any she’d tackled pre-TBI.
The point of this podcast is to help us all tap into the power of our Mortality to become the people we were made to be and live the lives we were made to live--to equip us with the mindset and the means to live with guts, gusto, and abandon. And to do so BEFORE a crisis hits because then it’s too late. So, what transferable lessons are available to us from Lindsay’s story that we can put into action in our own lives right now?
Live in Community: Lindsay’s friends and family were rock-solid supports for her through every grueling step of her ordeal. She says they literally saved her life.
Treat Every Day Like a Bonus: Post-ordeal, Lindsay feels like every day is a bonus. Be willing to see each new day as a bonus in your own life--full of potential and possibility that didn’t exist just one day before. See each day as a gift.
Get in “f@%$ it” Mode!: Go for it! Why NOT do the scary or hard thing?! (Not recommending foolhardy recklessness, BTW...)
Live Like There’s No Tomorrow: Lindsay is more aware than ever now of the sacredness of the present moment. It’s all we have. So make this moment, this day, your primary focus. How can you make it the best day it can be?
Choose Courage Over Fear: Do the hard thing. Venture outside of your comfort zone. Don’t waste time trying to get rid of fear; instead, practice becoming MORE brave.
Be Kind to Others: You don't know what they’re going through
Remember, Lindsay has been to the edge and back. She knows what it’s like to stare Mortality in the face, and those are some of her big takeaways from that experience. We can borrow what she’s learned and put them into practice in our own lives RIGHT NOW if we simply choose to--without having to experience a catastrophe of our own first.
I think that’s a WAY better strategy. What do you think? I think the alternatives are tragic.
Let Today Be the Day!
"When everything's gone, it makes you think a lot about what you want." Wow. That hits home.
Listen. One day--maybe even one day very soon--you'll run out of tomorrows. You'll run out of second chances. You'll run out of time.
Grab yourself by the scruff of the neck today and shake yourself awake. Wake up to the reality of your Mortality, to the sacredness of this present moment--the only moment you've got.
Make the phone call to the estranged family member or friend. Take the first step toward fulfilling that big dream. Do the hard thing now. Start the big thing now. Tomorrow never comes, ladies and gents, there is only today.
Let today be a day like none other before it. The day that you summoned the courage to live with even more guts, gusto, and abandon by looking your Mortality square in the eyes and holding its gaze, unflinching and with resolve.
This is your one and only life. What will you make of it?
Remember, you are going to die. But you’re not dead yet. So get after it!
I Can Help
Becoming the person you were made to be and living the life you were made to live with guts, gusto, and abandon is heroic work. It's not for the faint of heart. And it happens best in the company of others who have your best interests at heart.
Connect with me to learn more about how a powerful, confidential 1-1 coaching partnership or participation in a Graveyard Group can help you live even more courageously and die regret-free.
And I'm excited to share that the first-ever women's Graveyard Group will launch soon, too!
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Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
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New to APiD?
I’m so glad you found Andrew Petty is Dying. This podcast is a mix of long-form interviews with fascinating people and short-form solos on topics that will help you acquire the mindset and the means to live with guts, gusto, and abandon.
If you’re wondering where to start in the archive of episodes, I recommend these three episodes, in this order:
Ep. 001 | You're Dying: How to Make the Most of It