Saturday, May 11, 2013

The stages of injury grief

This week has been a rough week for me.  It's been up and down, but truthfully more down then up.

Monday I was happy.  I was able to confirm that the receptionist that told me I had to wear my aircast for everything but showers was out to lunch.  I do have to wear it a lot, but I'm allowed to take it off to drive, swim, water run, sleep, etc.

And then after that, reality kind of set in.  Because I still can't run.  And I find that devastating.  I know that perspective is in order, but it's hard.  Running is my drug, and I'm like an addict in withdrawal.

In fact, I was having so much trouble dealing that I even went to the trouble of googling things like "injured runner depression", "mentally dealing with running injury", etc.

I came across a number of articles and blogs that talked about the stages of grief and how they apply to running injuries.  I've already been through a few of them...

1. Denial

Um, would running a half marathon on a stress fracture count as denial?  Yes.  Yes, it would.  Fact is, I knew something was wrong.  I convinced myself that it wasn't that bad.  In fact, I successfully shut out the pain of running on a broken foot for the last 19 or so kilometers of that half marathon.

2. Anger

I'd say I hit this stage the moment I saw the dark spot on the bone scan.  At that point I knew I couldn't keep denying it.  A stress fracture is non negotiable when it comes to running.  You just can't do it.  There might be varying medical opinions on how long to stop running for, or what other activities you can do, but there is no negotiation on the running part.  "It's not fair", "I've worked so hard", "I don't deserve this".  All things I remember saying to my husband.

3. Bargaining

I think my entire doctor's appointment on Monday was bargaining.  I knew I couldn't run.  "What about water running?"  I asked.  "No," my doctor told me.  "Deep water running," I told her, "My feet don't even touch the bottom of the pool."  She agreed.

Swimming, my doctor was concerned about the kick and the push off:  No push off with the bad foot and I can even swim with a pull buoy at first.  Biking was a hard sell.  Agreed to only on the trainer, as I need to be able to pull the plug at any hint of pain.

4. Depression

A lot of teary moments this week.  Despite the concessions gained on Monday, the reality hit that I still can't run.  I'm a biased triathlete, because I will admit that the run is usually my favourite.  I am a lucky runner to whom the runner's high comes easily and often.  I've even experienced it on the track.  Even when I don't get the high, I still love my runs, and it's a rare day that I don't feel better after finishing.  Nothing else gives me the rush that running does.

The weather has been incredibly beautiful here.  Going out to Horse Creek road (my favourite road to ride on) would have been perfect.  A run along the river would have made me feel so good.  Nope.  Not happening.

This happened at a horrible time of year.  It puts all my upcoming races into doubt, and even if I am able to get things together for my last couple races, it's unlikely I'll be able to put out the performance I had hoped for.  It may even push my Ironman plans back a year.  Since doing the 70.3 last year, I concluded that I need more experience in that distance before going longer.  Now, I don't know if I'll even get it.

I've moped around, and eaten more crap then I'm willing to admit.  And I am so tired of every single person I see asking me why I am wearing the aircast.  I'm just tired of going over it again and again and again.  Normally when I get like this, I need to run. Preferably fast.  Long works too.

5. Acceptance

I can't say that I'm quite there yet, but I'm trying to go through the motions.

Today  I did my second water run, and truthfully, it wasn't so bad.  If it will keep my muscles from atrophying, making my eventual return to running easier, I'll do it.  I was told by a couple people that water running is a horrible experience, but I don't have the luxury of letting myself believe that.  I knocked off 45 minutes, without music.  Once I indulge myself in a waterproof ipod, I am confident I can go even longer.

Being in the water is actually the one place that I feel really comfortable right now.  I feel clumsy, uncoordinated, and like I'm clomping around everywhere lately.  While I've gotten pretty good at walking with the aircast, too much time on my feet and I'm very aware of an aching hip and knee on the other side, probably from how my body compensates.  When I'm in the water, it seems like my body just moves the way it's meant to.

Fact is, in the grand scheme of things, this is a blip in the radar.  I mean, the setback is only a matter of months.  Five years from now, I'm sure I'll be able to look back on this as good learning experience.

All I have to do is follow the rules, and let the bone heal.  Once it's healed, I can proceed with building back into it.  While I'm out, I can try to set myself up for success.  That includes following a much altered plan, which admittedly lacks my favourite sport, but will eventually allow me to come back to it.  Meanwhile, I'm going to work a bit on upper body and core strength as well as the cardio activities that are allowed.  I also am going to see about physio to hopefully address any muscle imbalances that might have contributed to this.  That might have to wait until after though.

Like I said, I don't think I'm quite at the stage of acceptance yet.  Not all of me, anyways.  I think I might have brought my logical side around to it, but my emotional side is usually a bit slower to change course.  I'm working on it.


  1. Good for you getting to the pool and water running. You are right that just is just a blip even though it is depressing. Hang in there! (and keep water jogging)

  2. I'm glad you at least have some options to stay active. As I sit here typing this with one hand....I totally get what you are going through. Side line injuries just plain suck, no other way to say it....but at least we can continue some activities!

  3. Well, apparently my husband was using my PC...the above comment was from me lol.