Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Confession

I have a confession.

No, don’t worry. It’s not anything too serious. I haven’t robbed a bank, don’t have any skeletons in my closet, and don’t have any plans for world dominance.

(Remember, I’m working on my assertiveness? And the “world dominance thing” just doesn’t fit in with that plan. I’m too much of a klutz to rob a bank, and thus far I’ve lead a pretty boring life – meaning no skeletons in the closet).

Oh yeah, and I’m a good person, although I have a bit of a giggling problem (meaning that once I start laughing, I have a hard time stopping). So my confession really isn’t all that earth shattering.

But it’s real. It’s me. And it’s been on my mind for a while.

And I think that it’s something that a lot of people – athletes or not – recovering from an injury can relate to. Heck, even non-injured athletes and non-athletes can relate.

Here we go:

I have a hankering. A yearning. A strong desire – and in spite of what I do, how hard I try to suppress it, it’s not going away.

Simply stated, I want to swim.

I want to get in the pool. I want to feel the water, work on my rehab (swimming, aqua running) – in essence, to start my recovery. The pool means familiarity, it represents the lifestyle that I lead before my accident. It implies that I’m returning to “normal” – or at least to the activities that I did pre-crash.

And no matter how you write it, (yearning, itch, desire, craving, longing, passion, hunger – need I go on?), it’s not going away.

You see, it’s becoming quite the problem in my life.

I have been given explicit instructions by my coach to, “Wait until the doctor has okayed the pool – (then you’ll bust your ass every day in the water!)”

And still I want it now.

I have been given explicit instruction by my doctor to, “Wait another week until our follow up appointment – and we’ll make a determination then.”

And still I want it now.

I have been given explicit instruction by Nathaniel and my parents to, “Not rush things, to wait until you get cleared – and then we’ll see how you feel.”

And still I want it now.

Besides, I tell myself, how can these people be objective? They’re biased because they don’t want me to break… but they don’t know me deep down. They don’t know how I feel, how much I want it…

Suffice to say, the internal polemic that I’ve struggled with this past week has torn me more up more than any bike crash ever could.

Recently, a good friend suggested that my stitches were closing beautifully, they looked safe, and that I could probably get into the water this week… perhaps Tuesday.

I was uncertain. In my heart of hearts, I wanted it more than anything. But rationally, I knew there were risks. This Tuesday, the 8th of April, was exactly 3 weeks to the day of my surgery.

Mr. Scary-Neurosurgeon-Who-Made-Me-Cry-50%-Of-The-Time-I-Saw-Him said I should wait at least 4 weeks to get in the water. My primary care doctor, who I saw last Monday, said exactly the same. And, as a result, my Coach firmly agreed with the pair of them, and refused to write my workouts until a doctor or physical therapist had cleared me.

And still, until a few hours ago today, I was unconvinced.

It took a little tough love – but I’ll get to that in just a bit…

First:

Let’s face it, the power walks are a good start, but I really want to get moving, to jump-start my recovery in earnest. And therein lies the problem, my dilemma.

And hence, my confession (please don't be mad at me...).

I am healthy enough to walk around quite well. I can move - I walk like I did before the surgery, before the crash. Yes, I’m still on pain medication (hence, the poor judgment with this matter), but every day I feel progressively better. Looking at me, one would be hardly able to tell I ever had back surgery – save the long scar on my lower back. I can move, I can bend, I can almost lift the Fat Gray Cat off the ground – and while I’m still a bit slower mobility-wise than I was before the crash – I am feeling better and better every day.

It would be one thing if I was still on complete bed rest, but I’m not. I’m still me, still walking around like I used to, beginning to do the activities that I used to do before the crash – and it’s only natural for me to believe that I can swim, could easily get back into the water.

Additionally, my scar is healing beautifully. There are no scabs, nothing draining, and the glue that was used the seal the wound has now peeled off.

Yet, I haven’t been cleared to enter the pool by a doctor.

And I haven’t been given permission to swim by my coach.

But I want to, more than just about anything else.

Because, in my mind, the sooner I swim, the sooner I can start my real rehab. Forget the power walking. I didn’t power walk before the crash, so in my mind (until a few hours ago), it equaled no rehab. Swimming means recovery, and it means I’m that much closer to biking and running. It means I can start to rebuild endurance that I’ve lost, regain my strength. It means I can use my entire body, the muscles that are screaming to be challenged. It means I smell like chlorine, and it means I can poke my toes in the water and shiver as the coolness sends chills up my spine. It means I have daily goals to look forward to, a daily workout (or two) to accomplish.

The pool gives me hope – and I want that feeling.

So when my friend proposed that I get in the water this Tuesday, I hastily agreed.

What did Jen, what did my parents, what did Nathaniel, what did my many doctors know? Of course they were going to tell me to, “slow down!” Of course they were going to tell me to, “WAIT!”

And while they all knew it would be difficult, they have no clue about how well I’m recovering. They have no clue about my sadness, about my intense desire to swim, bike, run. And while I don’t define my life by triathlon, don’t base my self-worth on my ability to participate in the sport I love – I still feel a heckuva lot better doing this sport.

(Additionally, I got a really great email from Danielle last weekend. It contained another well placed message about not rushing my recovery and an entry written by Lucy Smith... and it also made me sit back and think about how triathlon and sport fit into my life... thanks Danielle...I really needed that as well...)

The feeling of the water over my back, the sound the cassette makes on the bike, the stillness of the pre-dawn light while my feet lightly pound the pavement... all senses that I miss.

This sport brings me joy, it brings me happiness – and inherently it has become a part of me, of my soul.

So it’s only natural that I miss it so. Only natural that I want to heal as fast as possible, get better quickly. And return to this aspect of my being.

And while the crash was difficult, I am determined to make this a positive experience. But I have my hard times as well. And while I’m happy to be power walking, I’m literally chomping at the bit to do something more, something familiar.

Something like, the pool.

And besides, 2 years ago, my friend had endured a broken elbow, but defied doctor’s orders and got back in the pool 10 days after her stitches… and was perfectly okay. Could it really be that bad?

Shouldn’t I be the one to judge things for myself?

Famous last words (cue the stupid music!)

A few days ago, I wrote these exact feelings in an email to Ness – a great friend. This is what I wrote:

I'm great! I am ITCHING to get back in the pool. Nearly all the sticky stuff has come off my scar, and a friend –who had stitches on her elbow 2 years ago - thinks I can hop in Monday or Tuesday. JEN, however, refuses to let me go until my doc approves. I'm seeing him either next week (if he can schedule me), or the following Monday.... so we'll see. I may just hop in the water anyway.... the wound is totally closed and looks beautiful. I just don't want to make Jen, Nate, my parents, or doctors angry.

But you - more than just about anyone - could understand, right?

Or am I being totally stupid?
I figured that she would understand. She had no reason to say “no”. She “gets” me, and I trust her. She’s been a great friend, and has listened with an open heart to what I’ve had to say.

This morning, this is the response that I got:

Marit,
I know you are absolutely dying to get back in the water. And I can only imagine how difficult it must be to stay out of the pool. But I have to agree with Jen on this one, Kiddo. Your had stitches in their
ELBOW. We are talking about your BACK and your SPINE. Your friend is not qualified to make the call about you getting back in the water and in this case you really aren't either. We're talking about another week and I know that feels like an ETERNITY, but smart choices now will pay off in the long run, I promise. You will come back from this. Your sacrum supports every bone, muscle, and tendon in your entire body. It is also the base of support for your brain (which might explain why you're not functioning with full sanity on this issue!!). You cannot cut corners on this one without paying for it later. You will walk away from this a lot stronger mentally if you can be patient.

I say this with love Marit because I have a friend who spent a YEAR trying to get back to things too soon and never recovering and they are STILL not at full health.

Seriously Marit. This is not about upsetting other people (jen, doctor, nathaniel, parents). This is about TAKING CARE OF MARIT in ways that are REALLY HARD. When your accident happened and everyone rallied around you I said to myself: I'm really worried about her one
month from now when the support has faded a little and she's just DYING to move too quickly. You can call me, you can email me, you can curse me. But please please do not get in that water until your doctor has okayed it.
Please?

We'll talk.

love Ness.
I read the email once, twice, and then a third time. For a moment – I was speechless.

I refilled my coffee, sat at the computer, and read through it a fourth time – and then digested what Ness had said.

And it hit me: she was completely right.

My doctors, Jen, Nathaniel, family, friends – they are all the sane ones, the normal ones dealing with this issue.

I am the one having difficulty remaining objective. I am so eager to recover, so eager to return to “normal” health, beyond eager to initiate my swimming and water running rehab – that I’m the one who can’t think straight.

I had almost refused to listen to the people in charge of my health; people who love me, who support me, who want me to be better as quickly, but as safely as possible.

Instead, I had thrown caution into the wind, was being headstrong, and was willing to gamble my own recovery for one week earlier in the pool.

And was it really worth it? What good would come out of it? Were the risks really all that great? At this point – would that “extra” week even be worth it – especially if it set me back even further?

Let’s face it; I’m not racing IM Arizona, I’m not racing St. Anthony’s (although I’ll be down there, representing the Zoot Ultra Tri team, and cheering in full force!), I’m not racing ITU AG Worlds…. My season has been drastically altered.

Though not all hope is lost… and as long as I’m smart about my recovery, I know with full confidence that I can return stronger than ever.

So – are an extra 7 days in the pool – really worth it? Especially if I would be going against the wishes of everyone who loves me and who is working so hard to help me get better?

Absolutely NOT.

And it took an email from Ness to make me realize how stupid I was being.

I read it to Nathaniel, and he was impressed. He’s had to witness my crazy antics over these past few days, has had to put up with my strong pull towards the pool. And in spite of his warnings, in spite of his well-timed comments – I had refused to heed his warnings.

I just wanted it too badly.

And that, my friends, is my current battle. My confession.

I sincerely hope that Jen, my parents, my doctors, Nathaniel – aren’t mad at me. The emotions that I’m experiencing, these feelings that I’m having are only natural. They are a part of recovery, a bit of my journey.

And I’m sure that it’s normal.

And sometimes it just takes a well-placed and well-timed letter from a good friend to keep me grounded.

Thanks Ness – I’m grateful.

So when I finally return to the pool, rest assured it’ll be because I’ve gotten the blessings of my doctor, my coach, of my family. And of Ness. And not a moment before then. This is my promise, my word.

To quote Horton the Elephant:
“I mean what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s word is 100%”

And that’s okay – besides, now I won’t have to go incognito (which is pretty hard to do at a pool, if you ask me).

I’ll just appear as my normal self, with an extra special scar to remind me of where I’ve come from, where I’ve been. And in my heart, I’ll know that the timing is right and that I’m doing the best thing for my body.

Until then, you’ll find me at the track – power walking to my heart’s desire.

Thanks Ness – love to you.

20 comments:

Colleen S said...

Marit- You don't know me.... one of ELF's athletes but rest assured you are doing the right thing. Now more than ever you must be strong and let your body heal. I'm a PT by formal training and what your hearing is correct, if you don't get it right the first time, its soooo much harder in the long run. I know its extremely hard but just so you know there are LOTS of people/friends/fellow triathletes who are thinking about you and sending you continued good vibes.

Just so you know, I don't think I would have made it through a couple of my swims last week without thinking about you and the fact that you were helping me swim.... I was just sort of doing it for you :)... most likely not as well or as fast but.... I had it in my head, you should keep swimming Marit can't swim and would give "almost" anything to be here right now!

So.... be strong, be smart, and keep healing, you will return stronger than ever both physically AND mentally. cheers!

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Colleen,

Thank you! I was very nervous about writing this blog... because deep down I know I was being, well, for lack of a better word - stupid. But, its how I felt... an emotion that I'm going through right now, and it seems pretty important. Part of "my journey" as I so like to say. :)

And I DO know that I'm not alone - I'm just sort of in the "no man's land" between bedrest and beginning the actual pt. "Modified" bed rest is an evil term... but it's where I'm at.

Thanks for the support - I really and truly appreciate it! Keep up the swimming and keep up the good work!

Rest assured, the MOMENT I get cleared, EVERYONE will know. :)

Jen in Budapest said...

Oh Marit....I do pray for an even quicker recovery for you so you can do the things you love but I also would agree. Sometimes it's the hardest thing to wait. In the end, you won't regret it.

I took a fall three weeks ago, not nearly as serious as yours but my arm has been out of commission and so I've been out of the pool too. It sucks, but I know it's the best thing to wait. I have one more week before I give it a shot. I've also been taking a thing called MSM. There's a book all about it's medicinal qualities called "The Miracle of MSM" I'm recommending it to everyone I know just cuz it's such great stuff. People don't like the taste though because it's sulfur based. I put the crystals in juice and it helps. really it does.

You are strong, you are smart, Marit. And it's good of you to wait just a little longer. Much love to you in the waiting. :D
Jen

Pedergraham said...

Marit:
I am sending you HUGS HUGS HUGS!

Ness, you must be absolutely wonderful and brave.

Marit, I think you are going to continue to get these itches...you'll just have to find another way to do naughty things in order to scratch them. (I am sure that Mel could think up a bunch of naughty things for you to do!!!) Can I suggest absolutely splurging on a very very romantic surprise weekend for you and Nate? Do all the things now that you won't be able to do when you are training again and have to drag a bike and gear along everywhere you go!
I hope this helps. I think you just need to be a little naughty...so be naughty in a doctor/coach/surgeon-approved way. And, then of course, report all the details back to us!
-Danielle

kerri said...

Marit,

I have watched my friend Ashley go through similar feelings and angst TWICE. Last year he broke his hip in a bike race and had a plate and fifteen screws put in his leg. This past January he broke his neck and a plethora of other bones in his body and was unable to train for 21/2 months. And now he's thinking about doing Duathlon Nationals in two weeks and Im AZ in November. In both cases, he WAITED...waited until he got the OK. Last year after he broke his hip in June he entered one of the toughest stage races in the country (Fitchburg Longsjo Classic) in September!!!
You will come back...rest assured and better, stronger, more determined then ever. Everyday, I talk to Ashley, he ALWAYS says "it's a beautiful day even when it's raining, storming, and 32degrees. His inner stength and outlook on life is one that never leaves his glass half empty. Yes, we adore and live for this sport. We thrive on it... but we also learn many valuable lessons along the way. Glad you chose the patience avenue. YOU WILL be back with a vengence.

Beth said...

Ahhh...the awful internal struggle of the injured athlete!!

Honestly Marit I think I would be MORE worried if you didn't feel that itch/burn/hunger/desire so strongly to get back to business. You are right - it is natural but it's a matter of holding on just long enough to be smart about it.

My high school coach always used to tell me that true dedication to a sport and to being your best includes knowing when to back off and WAIT. (and I always used to hate it when he told me that...) Hang in there Marit!!

Terri said...

Wow, Beth - what a great statement. It does make great sense that as athletes we also learn when NOT to train - whether it's due to an injury or just part of a normal recovery process. Most triathletes are likely "A-types" and never seem to know when to stop and truly enjoy the positive benefits the sport brings to their bodies.

I like that and will keep it in mind as I work through an injury that prohibits my running for now and feel extremely grateful that I'm able to swim and bike.

Hey, Marit - are you able to do yoga and any strength training? If so, now would be a good time to focus on those type of beneficial activities.

Glad you made the correct choice. It also helps to put it out there and share your feelings - hard to admit you might've been wrong, but good for the soul.

Take care,
Terri

Anonymous said...

All this time I was wondering how you WEREN'T feeling these things - ok, you're human too! I've had a bunch of wacko injuries and one thing I was told that got through all my stubborness was that the minute the injury's surface looks good, the inside is just beginning to fully graft. and in your case you want that graft as tight as possible before you starting kicking everyone's ass again! Truly, waiting was the key...even though you feel good and want to return to YOUR self again.

We've never met (I've only "raced" against a few of this blogroll, never successfully!) but I can so relate, and one reason it's so difficult is becuase NO ONE IS in your shoes (right now). Weeks fly by so fast - yours will too! : )
Erin W in STILL COLD wisconsin.

Trigirlpink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trigirlpink said...

Good job! Let us know if there are any more swim bike run ledges you need to be talked down from.
You'll be back in that pool before you know it. Look how much time has gone by since your accident already!

Now go organize the spice cabinet.

Sarah said...

Marit,

I know I never really introduced myself and just started commenting on your blog...my apologies. You're a true inspiration and a fantastic writer!!

You've had so many awesome comments on here I don't think I could add anything else.

You've demonstrated your strength and abilities racing. Now you have to be strong in a different way, but just as (if not more) important.

Do things now that you won't be able to have time for when training resumes. Focus all of that excited energy somewhere OTHER than thinking about how badly you want to be in the pool.

You'll be back in no time. Stay strong!!

Ashley said...

Marit - it's hard for people like you, us, to listen when someone says SLOW down. It's not in our nature. But, I'm with the experts on this one. I fully understand your struggle... but, there is NO reason to risk this. NONE. I say, get some chlorine and add it to your bath water ;) Store these memories and frustrations for years to come... they'll come in handy when you want to check out of a tough training session in the future.

Mel said...

You knew this day was coming right?? This was your down day and tomorrow will be your up....SOON this will just be a memory...stay strong and keep healing!!!!!

HUGS!!!

Eileen Swanson said...

Marit,
You are so brave! You know we all want to do things when we know we shouldn't, but listening to your friends and family is the best thing that you can do right now. You will very, very soon be in the pool and rehabing your little bootie off ;-) Trust us all, it will come soon enough. Stay strong and positive! And I agree with Danielle, do the things now that you will not be able to do when you are so busy with training, etc. Smile, we are all thinking about you ;-)

XO,
E

Bob Mitera said...

Easy killer! (That's what we used to say in HS.)

OK...as the wiz-bang consultant I am for companies; here is what I say today -

"Sometimes you have to go painfuly slow now in order to go very fast in the future."

In time young Skywalker. Patience. Heal. You wouldn't want some stupid calf injury to keep returning for 18 months would you? FL 70.3 may be a killer fast swim and bike followed by a 13.1 mile walk. That would suck. Don't follow the path of the dark side of the force.

Ok...I saw too much Family Guy "Blue Harvest" this weekend.

tri-dogmom said...

I've had injury after injury year after year and with each one it gets more difficult to do the right thing and rest.

I completely admire your determination and your positive attitude throughout all of this....

I can't wait to read about the recovery!!!

Kellye Mills said...

Hey Marit!!

I am sorry to hear of your feelings of struggle, but I'm really glad to hear that you're dealing with them appropriately!! Reading this I couldn't help but think of it from the perspective of having my babies! The moment that I delivered both Cooper and Gracie I was ready to start working out again!! Wanted to get my body RIGHT back into pre-baby shape ASAP!! I felt good, nothing major going on, and wanted to run, run, run... But I couldn't... was told not to. My body needed time to heal and recover. I thought that was just the standard MO Dr's would tell people. To protect them and that I was stronger than most mom's, but they were totally right. I think our bodies have to deal with SOOOO much more than we even really realize at times.

So I understand your feelings of eagerness and desire and think that's GREAT!! But just think, the moment you start moving again, if you do it the right way, you'll be moving from here on out. So take it easy, and enjoy these last few days you have where Jen is actually telling you to rest before she starts kicking your butt again!! :) I can't wait to see you in St. Anthony's!!

Kellye Mills said...

Oh... and BTW:

LOVE the Thank you blog before this!! It makes the perfect little story!!

Jennifer Harrison said...

I am glad we chatted about this in detail this afternoon, Marit. I think you are in a better place after this blog and hopefully after we charted out 08 and 09 for you a bit more! Fingers crossed that the DR clears you to get wet on Wednesday. I will be waiting to hear! Jen H.

Brooke Myers said...

It's challenging as heck to keep from what you love and enjoy doing from day to day, but sometimes others know a little more than we do and know when the timing to get back to those things is right.
After my accident I went through many ups and downs and now look back at how fast the recovery went.. Time fly's and soon enough you will be back in the pool and on the saddle, running the roads.
Take this time to truly heal yourself so that everything is in place and will not come back to bug you later on.
You can do it trust me... stay positive and listen to your body...