It has been 3 months and my life is finally returning to a state of normalcy, after weeks of being primarily homebound, unable to do much besides sit in a recliner chair. I can drive again, so I don’t have to rely on a chauffeur (mom and dad), to take me to work or to doctor’s appointments. More importantly, I am regaining my wellbeing-both physical and psychological, as I am able to run and ride my bike, and I am back in the pool at 5am Master’s swim practice. People will ask me how I am doing and how my neck is feeling. My usual replies are: “It is alright;” or “I don’t feel as good as I would like to, but I am getting better.” Physically, I have been on an upward trajectory for about the last month and a half. The progress has been slow, and I have a few bad days here and there when I have more stiffness and soreness than I would like, but overall the physical repair is heading in the right direction.
The healing process that usually gets left out of my status updates is my mental and emotional healing. While my body took a serious beating, my heart and mind were not immune to harm as the result of suffering from a serious injury. Some of the damage is due to the trauma of the whole experience. The rest is the hurt I feel from being unable to use my body in the ways that bring me happiness and fulfillment, through training and pushing myself to the limits of my physical abilities. Between my injury and the temporary handicap that resulted, I was incapable of evening walking up and down stairs one foot at a time for most of December. Forget about swimming, biking, and running.
I truly accepted the situation at first; I could tell my body was working overtime to heal itself, and in my constant state of exhaustion I relinquished myself to being a sloth. I had never been this broken in my whole life, let alone all at once. At this point any training would have been counterproductive, plus it was only December and there was still plenty of time to get ready for the season. Then the New Year arrived, when I initially thought I would have been free to get going again. The plan changed, and I was not cleared, but I knew I still was not ready. However, I did start to get antsy. One night at the dinner table, I started stabbing at the ice cubes in my water glass with a straw. I needed an outlet desperately.
The whole sitting around all day, in the house alone, was getting old. And I began to feel as if doors that were cracked open before, were being slammed shut. I felt so much sadness and anger. I did not accept a huge risk in taking a detour from pursuing my career in medicine to spend most of the time injured (which has been the case thus far). I took a risk so that I could see how far I could go in the sport and realize the true potential of my abilities. While this is still possible with the relatively short amount of time I have, I feel like there will be an asterisk or a “yeah, but…”
Yeah but, this “yeah, but…” mentality is no way to think, because it just leads to such a low and disappointing feeling. But it kept creeping in as I found myself in a bit of a funk. It was not an all-day, every day funk, but there were moments. At the lowest points, a pervasive thought was that I was making a huge mistake in pursuing my passion, as all signs seemed to be pointing that I should not be doing this, and I should have gone to residency. Fortunately, getting back into the swing of things and falling into a semblance of my old routine has lifted my spirits. Brian has even picked-up on this in our email exchanges, by my change of tone.
The psychological recovery has been lagging behind the physical recovery, and it is still a challenge to get out of this “injured athlete,” mindset, but I am moving further and further away from it with each workout I complete. My confidence is returning, my anxiety about getting into shape is dissipating, and I am starting to get excited about the prospects of racing again. I am slowly making progress in training, taking great care to not do too much too soon and quitting while I am ahead. As I have said before, I am no stranger to coming back from injuries, so I have fairly well tested methods of how to safely increase training volume and intensity. I also trust my intuition of knowing how much my body can handle. Having made a successful comeback less than one year ago, I know what it takes, and I feel assured that I can do it again. I just have to keep my blinders on, and focus on myself and my progress, as well as celebrate the victories, both large and small, along the way.
So how am I doing? I am recovering and getting stronger each day-mind, body, and soul.
One final note, I do not usually post my workouts on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, unless a workout moves me to the point of tears or makes me jump for joy, but there is a social media outlet just for posting workouts called Strava. And I am on it. Follow me here!