After a couple weeks, the initial shock of surgery wore off and I was finally able to conceptualize what happened. And then the pain set in. Both physical and emotional pain flooded over me, taking me by surprise. The first couple weeks were all about adjusting. I was finding a new state of normal, both in my body and how I structured my day. No more was I carving out the time to fit in one, sometimes two workouts a day. Instead, I was trying to fill that time with something else. The first week or so back home was easier than I thought. Mundane tasks, such as taking a shower or walking into the kitchen, took effort. So each day was comprised of literally just taking care of myself. It exhausted me to really do anything. For a few days I didn’t leave the house and used all my energy to just exist. It sounds more dramatic that it was, but I didn’t have much motivation to go above and beyond activities of daily living.
After graduating from crutches, I was more excited to get out and about. And then the first wave of pain hit me. It was an emotional wave. Suddenly I wanted to be active again. For years, my day has revolved around some sort of activity, and I was empty. I longed to join my friends and husband as they went out for epic ski and running adventures over the holiday break. As I sat and twiddled my thumbs waiting for said friends to return from said adventures, I felt an inner frustration rising. Sadness, misery, and envy began to show their ugly faces. I could hardly even bear spending time with my friends because I didn’t want to hear about things that were suddenly not part of my life anymore. It was depressing. And I just wallowed in it. I found myself waking up and just trying to waste the day so I could go to sleep and have it be tomorrow. I felt pretty down and wasn’t sure how to move past it.
|Page from my journal. Trying to process the pain.|
While I was working to process the emotional pain, I was hit by a second wave of pain. This time physical pain. Again, it hit me out of the blue and took me for surprise. Post-surgery I had little to no pain, just a swollen foot and no mobility. But, as the swelling went down and I started to test the waters, I felt a sharp, deep pain with movement. It sent me spiraling backwards in my mental recovery, as I was expecting relentless forward progress on the physical side. Each step I took was excruciating as I slowly limped around. I got looks of pity from passerbyers and had people open doors and help me carry things. It was a nice gesture, but reminded me just how utterly inept I was. I spoke with my surgeon in Sweden and he assured me that this pain was normal and to be expected. I was on track and just needed to be patient. Right.
|I feel the same way bud.....|
So to add insult to injury, not only did I have to stay sedentary, but I was also physical hurting and beating myself up for it. Not good. Not good at all. These feeling culminated one day when I found myself so distraught I could hardly stand it. Zach came home from skiing to find me in tears on the couch clutching our dog. I was distraught. I couldn’t see past the present moment. We spent the next three hours chiseling away the layers to get to the core of the problem. Two cores actually. One was my need to feel alive through physical movement. I had been able to do some rowing and lifting, but it didn’t really satisfy my need. I wanted to be outside and breathe fresh air. Since Oregon is on track for record snowfall this year, it wasn’t going to happen at home. So we decided maybe a trip to somewhere warm for few days might be in order. Problem number one = check.
Problem number two was a
little more complicated. I have this internal desire to be perfect at
everything I do and to prove myself time and time again. And when I don’t live
up to my standards, I beat myself up. What I realized after talking to Zach is
that I am enough. I need to be kind to myself and not hold myself to such
unattainable standards. A week or so ago I had set a goal to get out
of the house everyday and do some sort of activity. I had been alternating
between the ski ergometer and rowing machine at the gym for about 20-30
minutes. During my teary-eyed heart to heart with Zach I confessed how I felt
my time at the gym was so pointless and infuriating. It took so much mental effort
to complete 20 minutes. 20 minutes!
That is nothing when you are used to running for hours each day. Zach just looked
at me and said “If I were you I’d just
lay on the couch and watch movies. That sounds terrible. You are my fucking
hero for going to the gym everyday.” And then I smiled for the first time
|Bend right now. Cold, dark, & snowy.|
|Hawaii right now. Warm, sunny, & beautiful.|
Fast forward a week and I’m just returning from my warm weather get away. I gained perspective and a healthier outlook on my recovery. Today I only feel remnants of both the emotional and physical pain. I allowed myself to heal and am coming back stronger than I was a week ago. My foot only has a scar remaining and I’m walking without a limp. My mind is clear and I am smiling much more every day.
|New beach styles. Running shoes + swimsuit.|
|Progress: Week 3 (bottom) vs Week 4 (top)|
The next phase of my recovery will be adding in some actual cross training! At 5 weeks post-surgery I can begin light cycling, which means 15 minutes, 3 days per week. I look forward to this benchmark as it means I can do real, actual activity! But I’m also bracing myself for another wave of emotional turmoil as I readjust once again. But that’s a whole week away. For now I’m going to enjoy my new found contentment and appreciation for just being me. I am enough.