One broken finger.
One dislocated finger.
Two toes that randomly pop out of socket.
One thrashed ankle, originally broken at the age of 12, which suffers from constant tendon/ligament pain and stiffness that is always compounded by skating and running.
One separated shoulder.
One popped elbow bursa.
This is my injury collection since 2015. And to date, it has led to:
20 weeks (or so) of no exercise.
30 pounds (or so) of added weight.
Alongside all of this — and two major doctor’s visits where we tried to pinpoint why I was lethargic, throwing up, unable to sleep, and gaining all of that weight — I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and for the first time in my life, put on medicine to help me combat it.
Since my dad died about 10 years ago, I’ve found that exercise is my ultimate therapy. So imagine what shifting from roller derby and running miles and miles each week to a life of, “Just rest, your body needs it!” has done to me over the course of those 20 weeks off. It’s been bad. Really, really bad.
Aside from staring longingly at my clothes that no longer fit, I just don’t feel like me. I’m tired, I get winded tackling a steep set of stairs, I’m out of shape, my body aches — constantly.
In fact, about a week ago, and for the first time since my concussion 6 weeks ago, I went for a run. Not long ago, a 6 mile run in 45 minutes was a normal day for me. This time, I was lightheaded and had to pause numerous times. I ran 9 minute miles. And I kept beating myself up for it all. For the way my thighs are rubbing together. For the slow pace. For barely eeking out 5 miles. For the way I felt I had let my body get so out of control.
But 2 1/2 miles into my run, just before I turned around, I made it to a set of railroad tracks. It just so happens that trains always remind me of my dad. He was a railroad engineer, plus trains were a passion of his since he was little. So I always see them as good luck. When he died of a heart attack 10 years ago, I vowed I would always stay healthy and take care of my heart, mind, and spirit. My reminder? “Self, you are out here trying to get back on track, and instead, you’re beating yourself up even though a docket of injuries has jacked up your body and your brain. Simmer down!”
Because of my anxiety and depression, I’ve been working closely with a therapist on a simple idea that really isn’t simple at all: self compassion. It’s the idea that sometimes you have to be as kind to yourself as you are to those around you. For me, it has entailed finding willingness to make mistakes (some of you may be surprised to know that derby has helped with that), being able to admit that I have moments of weakness, and asking for support when I need it. In the past, those have been things I haven’t been able to do. Fortunately, the moment I saw those tracks, that self compassion came to mind.
I had to start over with my fitness level. Somewhere. It’s hard for an athlete to go from hours of practices, cross-training, strength, and power to, “Do nothing.” But I’m an athlete. I will be strong again.
This has nothing to do with my weight and it has everything to do with how I need to feel for myself. I want a healthy heart. My past injuries — those broken bones and angry joints — require strong bones and healthy tendons and ligaments or else I’ll be in constant pain. The thing is, I’ll get there.
All it’s taking is that self compassion and a whole lot of rest.