Returning from an injury is a delicate balance of emotions. Trust me…this isn’t my first time having to do so. That being said, the torn hip labrum that I have been dealing with since January…has been the hardest to recover from, both physically and mentally. The foot issues, I’ve worked through, but this injury has affected me on a deeper level.
Perhaps part of it is that after getting a Cortisone shot before the Boston Marathon and attempting to run 26.2 miles on a very newly diagnosed injury, and then having one of the worst and most painful runs of my life…running doesn’t come as easily for me. In fact, I’d wager to say that I’m suffering from a little Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to what I dealt with on the Boston Marathon course…not just the weather and the wind and the cold…but the paint too.
And now, even the thought of lacing up can leave me feeling paralyzed with terror. Every anxiety I have ever felt toward this sport that I love flashes into my mind. Sometimes I can’t breathe. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I just let all the whispered doubts run across my mind and leave me feeling uncertain.
And all of this leaves me feeling exactly how I, personally, feel: scared, washed-up, incapable, weak, and miserable.
Running used to be my escape. It would quiet my anxieties, help me focus, make me happy, keep me healthy, and help me maintain some semblance of sanity. The torn hip labrum I was finally diagnosed with just days before Boston, has all but broken me since then. This injury has left me fighting my inner emotions, trying to resist the need to scream and cry and just collapse. It’s a daily struggle. Ever day…every twinge of pain…it sets me back. And it SUCKS!
I don’t like being afraid of one of the things I love the most in life. It’s like every emotion in me is on a tripwire…and I never know from one moment to another which one is going to bubble over. I hate living life like this…but as of now, I have to take everything day-to-day…and go by how I feel.
Not an easy thing, when you feel so messed up…so lost…so uncomfortable with…everything. And those emotions…those voices inside my head…well…they aren’t much better…nor do they make it any easier…
You know, first and foremost…I do keep in mind that it could be worse. I could have needed surgery on this injury (and, I admit it, at times I wonder if I’d recover better if I had actually had to have surgery). I could have been out from running longer than the 7 months (save Boston) that I did no such running in that time period. I reflect…I bask in the fact that…while I might be running at a pace I don’t like running…at least I AM running, which is way better than where I was prior to getting the okay. So there’s that, right? I’m not where I want to be, and nowhere near where I was…but I’m at least able to push through the discomfort and put in some miles. That’s better than nothing…right?
My mom used to always tell me, “Baby, you don’t run, you fly.” And, sadly, now I’m lucky if I crawl. In fact…I went for a 14 mile run on Saturday at a very comfortable pace…quite deliberate…and still came out of it hurting for most of the rest of the day. It is so disheartening…knowing where I was and seeing where I currently am. And…wow…is it every frustrating. I can’t even put into actual words the depth of sadness I feel when it takes me 10 minutes longer to run 5 miles than it used to. Hell, sometimes it takes me 20 minutes longer. Every time I finish a run and end up having even the slightest twinges of pain in my hip or leg is just another emotional setback. It makes me rethink everything. It makes me dread the next time…or the next mile. I hate using the word slow…but when I used to kick out a 7:00/mile like it was nothing…and now can hardly hit 8:30/mile when pushing it, it just…well…it SUCKS! And I love my friends…I love their accomplishments and their continued improvement…but it’s hard to not compare myself to where they are. They’ve improved…I’ve fallen behind. Again. Sadness…depression…self-loathing…self-doubt. Oh yeah…it’s there. It’s real. It’s a struggle. I am always happy to see other excel and achieve great things…but a part of me breaks inside at their progress and my downward spiral.
There is nothing, my dearest friends, nothing harder than watching all your hard work get scrapped and having to start over at square one. My Facebook feed, Twitter, and Instagram are filled with marathon training plans, new PRs, pushing past the limit and doing amazing things, and here I sit…literally…doing my best not to come apart at the seams by pushing too hard too fast. Running at a 9:00/mile does not come easy for me. Even worse, looking at my training run times now, knowing where I was last year, the year before…and comparing them…in my head…makes all of this even harder. Will I ever run faster than 8:30/mile? Will I win age division awards ever again? Will I ever BQ at a marathon again? Will I ever be described as fast? There are moments when I’m running where I hate my pace, I hate my body, I hate everything about the run. I don’t like the fact that can’t run faster, and that despite feeling effortless, I pay for every run for at least a few hours afterwards, especially if I don’t keep moving. I don’t know how I’ll come out of my next marathon, my next half marathon, or my next race for that matter. I don’t like having panic attacks before heading out for more than 5 miles. I don’t like being afraid of running…but I am. And I hate myself for it.
Of all the emotions…I think anger is the one that shows up the most, in various ways, mind you. First of all, I’m angry that this even happened. After running the Charleston Marathon back in January, I took ample time off for recovery. Woke up one morning and BAM…back hurt. Took more time off…and then…hip hurt. So, this injury happened when I wasn’t running. In fact, I wasn’t doing much of anything!! It’s aggravating and frustrating! I hate how long it took to diagnose the problem as it was. The poking and prodding and guessing and physical therapy that did nothing to improve my situation prior to the Boston Marathon was beyond frustrating. The medical bills are unending it seems, and each more expensive than the last. I’m angry at myself…or my performance at Boston. I hate my finishing time. I hate that I had hypothermia. I hate that I cried and walked most of the course because I hurt do damn much. I hate that I had to make that run all by myself…even though I knew plenty of people who were running it. Because I’ve given up races to see friends through theirs…and yet, no one would do the same for me. I hate all the races I missed because of this injury and all the race fees I’ll never get back. Waking up every morning and having that initial pain and stiffness in my leg is so disheartening. Being able to walk but not run SUCKS. Running and then hardly being able to walk afterwards SUCKS EVEN MORE! The fact that this injury will NOT EVER heal itself makes me wonder if being in pain is just my new normal. There is so much I am angry about when it comes to this injury. And I keep it pent up for the most part. I lose it every now and again, have one of my meltdowns, but I try…for the most part…to reserve that for my mid-week run, early in the morning, when I can cry and no one can see me do it. And, yes, I’m angry that I am brought to tears by all of this. Yes, I am thankful for the progress that I have made, but it just isn’t always fast enough for me. And then, I get mad at myself because now I’m not fast enough for me. It’s a never-ending, horrible cycle…and one that I can’t seem to get myself out of, no matter what I try to do to make myself think more positively. Yes, I’m angry…but I feel I have a right to be.
What’s even worse than being angry at the situation and myself…is being afraid. And, there are moments that I currently suffer from paralyzing and unrelenting anxiety and fear just before a run. Usually a longer run, but always before a run. Even short ones. Every scenario plays in my brain. All the questions that run through my mind…and the uncertainties. It is hard to even haul myself out of bed sometimes to even attempt to be active. Part of it may be depression, but most of it…is that I’m afraid. Push yourself…just not too hard. Keep going…unless it hurts. How bad does it hurt? Is that a twinge or something worse? What if I get hurt again? What if I make it worse? What if my next race is just as bad as the Boston Marathon was for me. I can’t handle another Boston Marathon. Why can’t I just get better? Why can’t I just have one day where I don’t hurt at some point? Should I push through or should I stop? Should I just give up? Hang up the running shoes and miss it for the rest of my life? Why am I so afraid of putting one foot in front of the other? Why does not moving hurt? Why does moving hurt? Will this ever stop? Why can’t I run faster? When will I run faster? Will I ever run faster? Why am I afraid of running faster?
THIS….this is what goes on in my head! Is it any wonder that when my alarm clock goes off, my initial response is to hit snooze and curl back up. I used to hop out of bed, gear up, and get out there at 3 a.m. to fit in my run. And now…I’m lucky if I manage to fit a walk in, let alone a run. Getting up on days I’m supposed to run is even more trying than on gym or rest days. And to make things worse, all these questions and doubts and worries continue to cycle through my mind even when I am out and running. And when, at the end of the run, I’m a little sore…or, like on Saturday, a lot sore, I freak out. I panic. I wonder how the hell I’m supposed to tack on more miles when sometimes 5 has me sore and uncomfortable for the rest of the day. I don’t want to be out for life. I want to be someone who has a lifetime of running. But where is the balance?! Where is that fine line? I am so tired of being afraid of every little thing involved with running. I just don’t know how to make it better…
So, you see…injuries aren’t just a physical thing…they take their toll mentally too. I feel so messed up at times. I don’t like the way I look, the way I move, the way I think…but I can do very little to change it. I hide it from my peers. I put on that smile and that brave face. I laugh. I pretend that it’s all just any other day for me. But the truth is…
Boston scarred me. It scarred me emotionally, physically, and mentally. And somehow, somewhere along the line, I need to find my mojo again. I need to be able to not be afraid to run a little harder…go a little faster…
I need to stop comparing myself to people who have not been in my shoes or understand what I’m going through. I do it. Every fucking day, I do it…but it serves no purpose other than to frustrate me even more and bring on those dreaded tears. Will I ever be the runner I was? Right now, it seems unlikely. Right now…it seems like I’m just treading water. I feel stuck. I feel paralyzed. And, for the most part, I just feel washed up.
And I just want to feel like me again.
I just don’t know how or if that will ever happen again.
2 Replies to “Inside Out”
I know there are sports psychologists (many of them athletes themselves, current or former) who help athletes with performance. (I’ve read books by them, listened to podcasts….I’ve even considered contacting some to help with performance. ) Maybe there are some that specialize in athletes returning from injury, or maybe they all handle it? If cost is a concern, maybe there’s a local college/univ with a sports/psych dept that has a program or people who would work with you?
Suggestions to check out:
Liked his book, he’s also been on podcasts
I’d think of it like getting a coach – you kind of know where you want to get to, but you don’t know the how – these folks are experts and might be able to help.
I wish you the best.
YOU are the best. Thank you for all these resources. I am going to start paging through them and maybe I can feel a little better about life with a little help. Thank you again.