Lifecycle of an Injury

by Mandy Deen

Sometimes, when I’m out on a weekday run, I will notice a slight niggling issue crop up. I generally try and dismiss it from my mind, because lots of times after hard workouts, or higher mileage weeks, or tripping on the stairs at work in front of people, parts of your legs/body might feel twingy or different. It happens to everyone, and it’s just a part of the process. I generally try to refocus back on the Taylor Swift lyrics I’ve been re-writing/improving in my head for the past 2 miles and ignore it. Unless of course it’s one of the days where this issue keeps niggling and my level of sleep-deprivation anxiety is topped only by the humidity and temperature outside, and then I might have to conduct a series of calculations:

a) Where am I in my training program? Am I in the middle of a mileage ramp? Or is it a down week?

b) where am I in my neighborhood? How humiliating of a last x number of miles back is the walk? Do I still have water in my handheld? And if I short this run is it something I can make up or do I have to tell my coach/teammates about it?

c) what if something is REALLY wrong with me?!!?!? are there people around who will notice if I fall over? WHAT IF ITS A PULMINARY EMBOLISIM?????

By calmly taking stock of the situation I can usually be relied on to do the right thing and…just obsessively worry about it for the rest of my run.

Later I will consult one or two teammates about the issue, and they will either be very calming, and rational and suggest common courses of treatment, or they will confirm that it’s probably a goiter and then tell me to youtube goiters. And then tell me to NEVER YOUTUBE GOITERS. I still haven’t to this day, so you do what you want with this information. Send complaints care of Anna McGarity.

If the problem has not abated when I get up in the morning, I will then probably immediately jump to the worst possible conclusion and fire off a dramatic email to my coach containing everything little detail of this problem that I have thought about thus far and many phrases like: “I have broken myself!!!” and “this is all over, isn’t!?!” and the always applicable “BLERGPOCALYPSE!!!!!” Generally Coach Amy will respond very calmly, asking for further details and then giving a well-informed opinion that I just need to go easy/roll it out/take some ibuprofen.

However, occasionally the niggling issue is discovered to be something of consequence. This has only occurred once or twice in my running history, and each time it was like I had never been sick or injured before. The most significant time involved a diagnosis of a possible labrum tear in my hip and a month or two of physical therapy. There are certain things you realize, and then forget, and then re-realize every time you’re sidelined with injury.

There is NOTHING worse than having to argue with yourself about getting out the door and into a medium long run in 100 degree heat after an 8 hour work day, other than suddenly NOT being allowed to get out the door into a medium length long run in 100 degree heat after an 8 hour work day. Every single runner, cyclist, roller blader, or dog walker out on the sidewalks around 6pm is pretty much openly mocking you, especially because you’ll probably NEVER be able to run again.

Medicine is not an exact science.   I don’t mean this in a “Dr.” Leo Spaceman “we have no way of knowing where the heart is. See, every human is different” way. I mean that after several consultations and realizing how terrible I am at describing pain and symptoms, it is very likely that the medical professionals will simply begin running tests to rule out possible ailments. This also means that for a little while I won’t have a clear idea of exactly what is wrong with me, which as a big-picture type-A person, I will seek to establish a sense of control over the situation my researching the possibilities myself.

As a professional librarian, my access to academic and medical journals is far greater than the little voice in my head that says “you’re only going to scare yourself.” Think WebMD on steroids. Soon I will probably have located a general overview of one of the few conditions I have narrowed my symptoms down to, and I will be reviewing the diagrams of the surgery I probably need, and frantically searching for full-recovery percentages. This predictably will lead to another series of coach emails, and a general sinking feeling that I didn’t realize my last run was really the LAST run of my life while it was happening.

Physical therapy and injury recovery is very likely not a straight line and more like a nebulous cloud of confusing and ambiguous sensations that could seem to be progress but might still be signs of brokeness, depending on how much I’ve over-thought them. Also at a certain point I will have forgotten what normal feels like, which further complicates my understanding of my recovery.

Aquajogging always feels really dumb, and NEVER feels like the workout the internet says it actually is (I’m probably doing it wrong). Also, the little old ladies who run the pool in the early morning always want to share a lane with the aquajogger, and the fancy Ironman triathlete guys never do. And despite my best efforts, my calf muscles will deteriorate at an alarming and depressing rate.

When you’re not running 6 days a week, it is actually hard to remember to shower. This is proven, Mom, not just my inattention to details.

Physical therapy is complicated and my amateur attempts to both understand (I have a Masters of Science in Information Studies! That probably means I can understand REAL science things!) and therefore control my treatment leads to even more emails with my PT who through great personal willpower, restrains her likely exasperation with my clumsy meddling and simple analogies, and responds with enough information to make me quit obsessing, but not enough information that I get even more confused about what’s going on. At least until I start thinking about it again.

Eventually, I know I’ll end up harness jogging on a treadmill. My inherent level of embarrassment in PT (or in anything) always starts out pretty high, like right up there with being made to do step aerobics in middle school athletics during off-season. (THERE’S NOWHERE TO HIDE, EVERYONE CAN SEE.) When it comes time for the harness jogging it is indeed as uncomfortable, bulky and idiotic as it sounds, BUT this is generally the last step before I’m released back onto my own recognizance, which is enough to make it a sought-after experience.

Generally, despite my darkest fears and visions of a run-less future, my body does manages to heal itself, or at least reconstitute itself into a form that allows further training and running. After a few weeks, I will have completely forgotten about how I almost didn’t ever get to run again and resume taking running for granted.

But until then, I have some histrionic emails to send. Thank you.


1 thought on “Lifecycle of an Injury

  1. Pingback: Ancillary? What happened to #JFR? | The Rundown

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