Back when I broke my hip - doesn't that seem like forever ago now, a whole injury ago! - I wrote this post about the things I'd learned from the injury. It was a little bit sarcastic, a little bit serious, and kind of healing. It was a good way to summarize some life lessons wrought by an inconceivable setback, and felt like the digital version of beginning to turn the page on some really bad luck.
So here we are again, fresh off an injury, fresh on a return to the disabled list. (Who has a harder time staying healthy - me, or Rob Gronkowski? I know, Patriots fans. That stings a little, even with the Super Bowl title.) I'm not quite as far down the road as I was the last time I wrote a "lessons learned" post, but I've already started to figure some stuff out this trip to the orthopedist's chair. Maybe that's the advantage of being a running-induced fracture veteran... there has to be at least one, right?
So - with tongue firmly in cheek, here are four things I've learned in since sustaining my tibial stress fracture. (Fancy name for it, right?)
1. I may not remember algebra, but I definitely remember Lil Wayne
By my calculation, I've sat in a million doctors' offices over the last two weeks. This is only a slight exaggeration, but it's definitely been five. That's a lot of hours in waiting rooms. That's a lot of time with the same magazines about "family planning" and pamphlets about "joint health." It's also a lot of time with waiting room music, which means after appointment number one, I popped in my headphones. You know what I still know all the words to? Every song on Tha Carter III. That CD pretty much never left my car in high school (CDs, what a throwback) and it's comforting to know that Weezy remains solidly in my brain. And sorry, little old lady I scared in the therapy office in Rockville, I wasn't aware that I was singing along out loud.
2. Not running? That's cool. Your body will retain the same levels of hunger from when you were.
This is the woooooorst. It's probably no surprise to hear that lots of running translates to some elevated hunger levels, or as my friend Shaeda, who once saw me inhale a burger from Duke's Grocery after a 19-miler might call it, "terrifyingly fast eating."
I'd gotten better this time around about learning to fuel my body properly, so I wasn't eating giant outsized portions, but you still crave food a little differently when you're turning in large mileage. My body always wants more carbs, and definitely wants more red meat (hello, iron), in ways that I don't usually notice when I'm not following a training schedule. So to abruptly change, again, my activity level means my body has no idea what's going on. So it's just hungry. At all times. Always. Despite me not burning as many calories. It'll all balance out eventually, but in the meantime I'm trying my hardest to not eat my entire kitchen, with middling success.
3. The mental hit can be more severe than the injury
Here come some of the more serious lessons. (Thankfully) My fracture isn't as severe this time around. I have tons of mobility, I can still go to the gym, I'm not really experiencing much pain, I'm not on pain meds that make me think the sky is orange, I can take the boot off at night and act like a normal person in my own house... the list goes on and on.
But the mental hit is way, way harder. I'm really struggling. Every morning, when I see that boot leaning against my closet door, I remember it wasn't a bad dream. Every time I call or text my mom, I have to try my hardest to ignore the voice that tells me I've disappointed her yet again. Every time I read the words "Boston Marathon" - actually, let's be serious, I can't really stand to read stuff about running yet - I tear up. It feels like I backslid. It feels like I'm right back where I was a year ago. And in a world where I'm still kind of dealing with the reverberations of everything I lost last year, to lose one more thing is really kicking my ass. There's just no other way to put it.
So I'm doing a good job of gently closing the door on people who, though meaning well, make pretty pointless comments. It's not funny to joke about how many times I've been injured. It's not helpful to accuse me of pushing myself too hard, or suggest I stop running. And I'm going to tell you that now. Because even if I look like I'm doing way better this time around, I'd say the mental battle is actually worse.
4. Advocating for myself is the best thing I can do
Everything happens for a reason. There is a lesson to be learned from this, probably more than one. And while I don't think I'll know the full implications until much further down the road, it's already been a really strong reminder of what I learned form injury #1: I have to advocate for myself, because it's not happening otherwise.
This time around, I had to push (and push) to get an MRI that diagnosed the fracture. I had to push to get answers. And today, when I tried to set up the tests and scans that are going to determine if there's a more sinister bone issue causing this series of unfortunate events, I was told that I couldn't be seen for the tests until this summer, because my age means it's not enough to push the tests into "emergency territory."
Nope. Not today. Not now. Not gonna fly. So it's another battle, sure - but the value in fighting these battles, I've learned, is immeasurable. I owe it to myself to speak up when something is wrong, listen to my body when something feels off, and push back when my concerns are invalidated.
It's not the prettiest lesson to learn, but I'm glad I did. And hey - here's to never having to write a post about lessons I learned from fracturing a leg bone ever again.
Also - hey, world! I've put on my big girl pants and turned on comments on the blog. Feel free to let me know anything on your mind below. Or just let me know that you're my mom, and you're the only one reading this. Hi, mom.