There’s no denying it’s been a hard month. Between the stress fracture and other health challenges, I’ve been left with a stream of nonstop thoughts constantly swirling in my mind. Over the past few months I’ve been on the endless search for answers and only recently realized I may not get those answers. And in order to truly heal, I need to accept this uncertainty.
On Monday I went back to my orthopedic and was freed from my walking boot. It was a glorious feeling being told my stress fracture is healed and I can get back to running again. But I was also gripped by fear. What if it hurt on my first run back? What if the ache creeps back deep into my bone and ruins the rest of my season? And my biggest worry: what if I can’t tell the difference between real pain and phantom pain caused by my anxiety and laser-focus on my tibia?
When I stepped on the treadmill earlier this week in my Hoka Bondis (MAX cushioning shoe right there) I felt like a toddler learning to walk for the first time. My heart raced and my legs trembled as I started the belt and felt the smooth rubber slide beneath my feet. My walk quickened as I upped the pace and before I knew it I was running, one foot beneath the other in an easy cadence. My arms fell relaxed to my sides and I let my body do what it knows best – run. I felt free and happy. I felt like myself.
I didn’t feel any pain during my run and for that I am grateful. Yet sometimes when I am walking around I feel what I can only hope is phantom pain brought on by the use of my leg again. And I can’t stop thinking about it.
My body has had plenty of time to heal, yet I still feel so broken. When my hair started falling out this time last year I assumed it was because of my stressful job. When I quit my job a few months later for many reasons other than my health, I also assumed it would start growing back, but it kept falling out faster. Everyone told me when the stress of my wedding was over in November everything would get better. But wedding planning didn’t really stress me out and after the honeymoon my hair loss only got worse and an onset of all new symptoms came to life. I can’t tell you how many doctors I’ve seen in the past year and every time I think I’m close to an answer the carpet gets ripped from beneath me and I’m left with nothing.
So even though my orthopedic gave me clearance to run, I am afraid. I believe my fear stems deep in my belief if so many doctors can’t figure out what’s going on with my overall health, how can one be so sure my leg is healed and not affected by everything else going on? It’s an irrational fear yet I let it haunt me, limit me and control my decisions.
My legs are strong. Countless miles on the bike, elliptical and rowing machine have only done me a world of good. During a ride Monday I made my way up toward Mt. Vernon Estate and was overwhelmed by what I can only describe as a Runner’s High on the bike. It was a beautiful day and I was surrounded by the green trees arching over the path and a sense of solitude miles from home. Even the Potomac seemed to glitter in the sunlight and for a moment I believed everything would be okay. If only these moments could last forever.
As I write this I am on a plane headed to Colorado to see my sisters. I see it as an escape, a brief chance for me to restart after a challenging month. I want to immerse myself in the things I find most important: family, friends and nature. The mountains have always held some sort of spell on me and the calmness and clarity I feel when I’m in their presence is exactly what I need right now.
I may not have the answers but I am ready to heal. I’ve always been ashamed to talk about my health trials and tribulations and I’ve kept them secret for a very long time. For so long I’ve been on this quest to hear a diagnosis finally explaining why I’ve felt so sick for over a year. I wanted it to validate what I feel is real. But I know it’s real, and now I’m ready to look at things from a more holistic point of view to try to clear these issues up on my own…and I’m starting by taking better care of myself.
Don’t get me wrong – I still have outstanding doctor appointments I’m not going to blow off, but for so long I’ve delayed starting my healing (in a mental sense) because I was so fixated on having a diagnosis first. I still want to know. But I also want to forgive myself, set myself free from this constant weight pushing me down, and take those steps to finally move forward.
© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved