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…
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.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.
But you - more than just about anyone - could understand, right?
Or am I being totally stupid?
This morning, this is the response that I got:
Marit,I read the email once, twice, and then a third time. For a moment – I was speechless.
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.
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?
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.