Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Recovery Part II: Here Comes the Pain


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.

Couch buddies
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.

Bend right now. Cold, dark, & snowy.
Hawaii right now. Warm, sunny, & beautiful. 
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 all day.

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.




30 comments:

  1. Day 10 past foot surgery, 3-5 more weeks in a boot, 3 months until running. Feeling your pain. Office work helps me a little to go through the day, but I can't do any lower body exercises yet. I can do pull ups and that basically it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Best of luck to you! I hope you have a speedy recovery. For now, enjoy the ability to do something active! Pull ups are hard!

      Delete
  2. Keep on pushing towards each benchmark. You're on track to a strong recovery! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Myles! I'm looking ahead to the next milestone :) I appreciate your support!

      Delete
  3. You are still my fucking hero for all the work you are putting towards recovery and staying fit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks babe! You have been so great during all of this! I appreciate your unconditional support, no matter how tough it gets.

      Delete
  4. So good to see you recently and I'm sorry you've gone through so much already but hopefully you're over the hump now. Just hang out at Recharge as you get stronger and each day will be more and more optimistic as you see yourself healing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Likewise! Thanks for the kind note. I've definitely been spending a lot of time at Recharge. It's encouraging to see all my running friends and I am feeling more optimistic each day! Hope to see you again soon!

      Delete
  5. Hey sister! I've got a little tattoo that hides under my watch that says: I am enough. It hides most of the time, but every now and then, I just need a reminder. My next thought is one that says: Be. Its hard to remember those simple little things sometimes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I LOVE this! I want to see your tattoo! I won't copy you, but I so so love the reminder! What a great idea!

      Delete
  6. Stephanie, be patient. as you have shown many of us, life is awesome! enjoy it! in all its diferent states.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! I am trying to appreciate all the steps as I recover. Each week presents a new challenge and it's been interesting to navigate through. I look forward to it, especially as I'm able to feel more like myself :)

      Delete
  7. Your foot is in recovery while your mind is doing mental training worthy of a thousand miles of toughness that will pay off later on "down the trail"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Tara! I sure hope so :) I am thinking of this as a strength building exercise, and I have learned A LOT! Thanks for the support!

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wow, you are showing an amazing strength, patience, and self compassion. Maybe practice with those is a bit of a silver lining to an otherwise difficult process? It is inspiring that you are sharing these thoughts and feelings!
    - Brian Wood

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dear Stephanie,
    I have following you blog for a while and each time i'm impressed and inspired by your courage to be so open and honest about your struggles when you race and especially with your injuries. You are a huge inspiration to me. Although i'm not a pro-runner, running is a vital part in my life just as in yours and i understand so much the frustration you were going through since i've been rolling between injuries for the past year... Thank you so much for being so open and courageous! I wish you a very fast recovery and no more injuries !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate hearing words like this- it makes my day! I'm glad you have enjoyed reading my blog. I aspire to be as honest as possible and show that I'm just a normal person who struggles too. I want to share my experience in the hopes of helping others realize they are not alone! Thanks for the kind note!

      Delete
  11. OMG! I feel like you just wrote my own story.... haven't been able to run since September because of some mysterious hip thing and while I can do EVERY exercise under the sun at the gym it's just not running outside and not satisfying no matter how long I go...Here's to hoping we both have a WONDERFUL spring and summer of running!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Meghan. Time off can heal.....sometimes a few weeks of completely NOTHING can do wonders for your body. It's difficult, but can pay off in a big way. I hope you feel better soon!

      Delete
  12. I hope your recovery continues well. I can't imagine how hard it is to not be active after being so active

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks friend! I was great to see you and catch up! It IS hard not to be active, but I'm doing ok now :) I've found some other activities that nourish my soul :)

      Delete
  13. We often think "Do I really need more character building in my life?" Unfortunately we don't get to choose. You are enough for you and you are way more than enough for me and all of those who love you. This experience will give you so many tools to handle anything that comes your way. I look forward to running with you when the time is right!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Meghan! Your comment made me smile :) I cannot wait to run with you again! I so look forward to the day we can float down the trail together and catch up on life. I miss that! Until then, I will enjoy the healing process and look forward to that day :) XO!

      Delete
  14. Steph,
    I can't imagine how hard it's been of you, but I'm sure that it will go by fast and that sooner than you think you'll be running and racing again. Congratulations for being so strong and thank you for sharing this post with us. I'll be thinking of you and sending you the best energies :) You'll come out of this much stronger, I'm sure! Wish you a very fast recovery :)
    Manu Vilaseca

    ReplyDelete
  15. We are proud of you here in Budapest! Keep being patient. Summer will be here before you know it and you'll be kicking some ass once again!

    ReplyDelete
  16. These are the times where we learn more about ourselves and feel a different type of low. Sometimes it can be difficult to process your thoughts and feelings when your daily routine and outlet are not options. I can promise you that you will come out of this stronger than you were before (gosh that is scary!). Be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself and just be you!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hey Stephanie! Thanks for sharing your journey and process - it's not easy but like you said u will get better & STRONGER! I had ACL and meniscus surgery a few years ago and while the first few months of recovery I was heartbroken at how long everything was taking to heal (bc I wanted to be able to run right away and wasn't sure how long it would take ...) i was so lucky to have an awesome surgeon, pt's and fam to help me through. I wanted to throw in the towel a few times but after 9 months of pt and bikes swimming ect I tried some laps on the soft track and little by little I could run pain free again! If u would like to check out my recovery blog let me know!!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Pain like that can really be more than the sum of its parts. Pain that effects your psychology and even your sense of self really needs to be addressed. Think of it like a wound, don't let it fester! Untreated pain can spread and effect more parts of yourself and also those around you. Congrats on your recovery though, I could see the change in your writing.

    Agnes Lawson @ Pain Relief Experts

    ReplyDelete