Row, Row, Row Your Boat

“The sky’s fallin’ on your head, the waves are crashin’ over your little boat, the oars are about to snap.” ~ Good Will Hunting

I have discovered that there are many stages of dealing with an injury. As with everything in running, and in life, it is a journey – a twisting, turning, confusing journey.

It started with fear those first couple days when it was hurting but I didn’t know what was wrong. Next came sadness when I came to the realization that my mystery injury was probably a stress injury. After I got the MRI results and official diagnosis, there was an odd sense of relief that came with having a definitive answer. A couple days later, once everything had really sunk in, the shock came. That was followed shortly by the wallowing, which culminated in my own private pity-party – an all-day event featuring sappy movies, a loaf of bread, chocolate, and an entire bottle of cheap wine.

After hitting rock bottom, I had my realization that this injury was actually a blessing in disguise and that it would give me the time I needed to step back and take care of things I had been sweeping under the rug for far too long. That realization lifted my spirits and gave me hope for the future.

But just because I had discovered the meaning of my injury and had a vision of the promised land it was ultimately going to take me to, didn’t mean the journey there would be any less challenging. Eventually my hope filled balloon, the one I dreamed would carry me all the way through, came crashing down.

Where it landed me, I do not know.

Deep down, I know I am going to be OK. I know that my stress reaction will heal and I will once again be able to run and train at whatever level I choose. I know that the rest of my body will get back on track and that I won’t feel so yucky and off all the time. I know there will be an end to this confusing and frustrating period of my life, and that somewhere down the line, I will be be happy again. I know that the real me is still in there somewhere and that sooner or later, she’s going to reemerge.

But right now, these things that I know are buried deep in the sand. Right now, I find myself miles away from shore, aimlessly rowing towards health and happiness, lost in the middle of an infinite and treacherous sea.

One thing Arthur always talks about when people are dealing with injuries is to not ‘circle any dates’, meaning don’t try to be healthy by a certain date or hold yourself to healing within a certain time frame. Yes, for certain injuries there are rough timelines for how long the healing process typically takes (X number of days, weeks, months, etc.), but none of that is set in stone. Everyone is different. Every injury is different. Therefore the healing process is going to be different for every person suffering from any given injury. Another thing he reminds me of frequently is the fact that healing isn’t a linear process. Healing happens in stages, some slow, others fast. Its intermittent and sporadic nature make it all the more impossible to measure or predict.

I wish my journey and progress could be monitored and measured like in The Sims. I wish there was this little magical meter floating above my head that showed me exactly where I was at. No matter how slow or sporadically the meter moved, it would comfort me just to see it and know definitively that progress, however, small, was being made.

But there is no meter. There is no charted course. There is no ETA.  All there is, is the big blue sea.

Strangely enough, the no running thing I am surprisingly OK with. While I certainly don’t like it, and am insanely jealous everytime I see a person jogging down the sidewalk, I accepted from the very beginning that running wasn’t going to be apart of my life for the time being. What I am not OK with is being unable to do almost every other form of exercise imaginable.

The fact of the matter is, there aren’t a whole lot of activities that can be done without engaging the pelvis. It is one of the most important and relied upon bones in the human body. Its primary functions are to bear the weight of the upper body, transfer that weight from the axial skeleton to the lower appendicular skeleton, and provide attachments for and withstand the forces of the muscles of locomotion and posture. What all that boils down to is this: you need the pelvis to move your body. Period.

Before this injury, the only time I was every really aware of my pelvis was while attempting to get these hips of mine into a pair of skinny jeans. Sure, every once in a while I’d have a tight hip flexor or groin muscle, and would have to stretch out the area, but the vast majority of the time, my pelvis was just there, doing its thing.

I am now painfully aware of my pelvis and of just how crucial a strong, healthy one is not only to running, but to living a normal, happy life.

Aside from running, all other high impact and load bearing exercises are out – biking, ellipticalling, stair climbing, any lower body weight lifting. On top of that, any exercises that heavily utilize the muscles in contact with the injured region of my pelvis (my inferior pubis ramus), are also no good. This kicks out most types of core work, swimming (with my legs), and, as I have recently discovered, aqua-jogging at a pace that keeps me from drowning. Finally, excessive amount of walking and standing and even sitting, can all put undo stress and strain on my pelvic region, and therefore should be avoided.

This leaves me with essentially two options: upper body weight training, and swimming with a pull buoy (only using my arms). I know it’s better than nothing, but for someone who lives for the freedom to run the open roads, being confined to a gym or worse, a 25 yard pool, is torture.

For so many years, exercise has been my method of coping with all that life has thrown at me. It has been a way for me to release pent up energy and emotion in a healthy, constructive way. When I am feeling sad or frustrated or overwhelmed, I exercise, and I feel better. When I have a lot on my mind or a difficult problem to work through, I exercise, and it helps me find the answer. When I feel off or lost or not like myself, I exercise, and everything falls into place.

To have this coping mechanism taken away from me for so long has been by far the most difficult part of my recovery process.

But being injured has taken away so much more than just my ability to exercise and blow off steam. The effects have rippled out into almost every other part of my life, making it frighteningly clear just how integral a part of my life running is and just how addicted to and dependent on it I have become.

… (To Be Continued)