It’s been 3 long months and about 6 gazillion bottles of wine since the Franken-knee earned a new set of scars and I’m happy to report that I haven’t gone completely insane from not running.
I haven’t taken up quilting and making tuna casseroles. I haven’t started wearing jean as if they are actually comfortable (#spandexisalifestyle). I haven’t run away to Bhutan to live with the monks and take a vow of silence, though I did take a week off of instagram, which also requires a great deal discipline.
…I may have bought lots of protein and attempted to become "swoll" by doing copious amounts of pushups and pullups, but that only lasted a couple weeks. Mostly I just watched the Winter Olympics (which made me feel worse about my situation), read war books (which made me feel better about my situation) and ate donuts (which made me feel both worse AND better about my situation).
Yes, I’ve been doing my absolute best to actually enjoy my time off, but I've not lost sight of the fact that my situation is temporary. I’ve been hard at work turning Franken-knee into a Franken-machine. Hours of squats, deadlifts, clamshells, hip bridges, calf raises, creepily embellish monster walks and enough fast-paced treadmill walking on the max incline to punish myself for ever judging people I see fast-paced treadmill walking on the max incline. It’s not glamorous work and it’s not fun, but it can’t be denied… Physical Therapy is some kind of voodoo magic.
After my last follow-up appointment, the doctor said that at my current rate of recovery, I would be cleared to run at my next appointment. After originally being told that I would not be able to run for 9 months, the words “pleasantly surprised” don’t do the sentiment justice.
And now, here we are, and tomorrow is the big day! I meet with the man in the white coat and hope for the green light to take this new Anterior “Cruciate” Ligament of mine for a test drive. -- Side note: Did you know that the ACL is named after an unforgiveable curse performed by Lord Voldemort? (And yes, add watching Harry Potter movies to my list of recent accomplishments.)
Anyways, you can imagine my excitement, but all jokes aside, I’m also paralyzed with fear. This Sisyphean nightmare of coming back from injury, just to re-face the same challenge every few years has definitely been a defining and character-building experience, but no amount of redirection or therapy will ever shut the door completely on the torturous "why me" and “what if” questions that still find a way to bubble to the surface every now and again.
The damage I’ve done to my knee is irreversible and I’m in unchartered territory after every new setback. Will the pain ever subside 100%? Will the clicking be permanent? Will stairs always hurt? What if I have to go the rest of my life walking uphill on the treadmill for cardio? I hate tuna casserole.
I know I’m not the first person ever to have negative thoughts and fears when facing the road back after injury, so in closing I’d like to share a little trick I picked up along the way to help me regain control of my self-talk.
Think about the things that you are telling yourself that aren’t doing you any favors. Write them down and recognize them for what they are; eg. destructive, unfair, irrational. As soon as you catch yourself thinking any of those thoughts, visualize a spiral staircase descending into darkness and imagine yourself walking further down the stairs with every one of those destructive thoughts. Then, mentally insert a floor that blocks you from continuing on your path into the darkness. Put a hard stop to the destruction and take back control of your mind. Flex the muscle, stick to the facts, argue the other side and change the direction of your thoughts. Regaining control becomes easier over time.
I use this trick often and in all sorts of different situations. Having more control over my thoughts has made me a stronger athlete, a better partner and overall happier person.
But now that I’ve gone the full gambit from happy to sappy, I’m going to go ahead, take my own advice and slap a floor on this biatch before things get too cute. I’ve got a big day tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted! Till next time!