Monday, February 10, 2014

Mental Toughness


"Don't let an injury leave you wallowing.  Get through it and let it prove just how tough you are." 

These are the words I have held on to for the last four months.

This past Saturday I realized it had been exactly 16 weeks since my surgery. In talking to a friend she asked if 4 months ago did I think I'd be where I am.  To answer her question: no not at first.

When I was sitting in the doctors office after I received the news that my back was in two pieces, I had a slipped disc, a cyst sitting on a nerve, that I would have to have a lumbar fusion with hardware in my back,  (yes that means I will make medal detectors go off in the airport!) and it would take up to 6 months for a full  recovery I just zoned out and stopped listening. I thought this is it. I'm not strong enough for this and all I could do was cry. I have two kids, lead a very active lifestyle and I just thought:  What is happening to me? Why is this happening to me? Would I ever run again? 

The questions, worries, fears and doubts immediately set in and that wasn't me.

I thrive on challenges and this apparently was my next one.

I went into what ended up being a 6 hour surgery scared to death but trying to keep my sanity with laughter. It really is the best medicine! Hence the silly pre-op selfie I sent to Stacey just minutes before I was taken back!

The surgery went great and I came home 2 days later. Thankfully, I had an army of friends and family around to take care of me physically. I was getting around better than the doctor expected. He said walk to my mailbox I went around the block. 

 I've always wanted to do a 5k in my Uggs! Finally I was able to, at a turtles pace nonetheless!

Mentally, on the other hand, I was slowly sinking. For the first 10 weeks most of my days were spent at home and off of my feet. I could only be on my feet for 15 minutes at a time. Let me tell you, this can start really messing with your mind. The walls were closing in. It was hard, really hard, to hear my kids playing in the other room and all I could do was lay in my bed.

Here's my "are you serious? All I can do is lay here face" not a duck face!
Thankfully, I was able to recognize that I wasn't feeling like myself and I used the time alone to really think about who I am.  It wasn't someone who just sits back and takes whatever life throws at you. I'm a fighter and like I said. I thrive on challenges and it was time I take this one on.  I am truly convinced that mentally surviving an injury is just as critical as physical recovery. It was all about my outlook and perspective.

Thank GOODNESS for social media and the Internet. It helped pass a lot of time! I was able to read lots of articles and blogs about recovery and was able to keep up with all of you.

One of my favorites was from an article in Competitor. These are the main points I took from it:
1. Vent Frustration- dont deny your emotions. And believe me I didn't. I would whine and complain to whoever would listen!  I knew it was ok for me to be mad and upset but it was up to me to decide how long. If I let it would have consumed me, but I realized it would  take me longer to come back stronger if I did.
2. Get Active in Other Areas- I really couldn't get "active" but I took the time to read, watch movies (which I never do) scrap book and do several craft projects around the house. My husband or a friend would set the materials out for me and I would just work away. Recently, I have been able to walk on the treadmill and that alone has helped tremendously.  Get involved in a hobby you've always wanted but don't have the time for, or focus your energy on an alternative exercise to keep up your cardiovascular endurance. ”Down time from running while injured is an opportunity to address other weaknesses that, once improved, will ultimately make you a better runner.”
3. Short Term Goals- I had to realize I had to take it one day at a time instead of thinking 6 months. My PRs became something totally different! I celebrated shaving my own legs, putting on my own shoes and even making it through Target without getting out of breath! Some days were and are harder than others but thinking about day to day instead of the big picture is HUGE in mental recovery.
4. Looking Long Term- I have and still have to think long term instead of right now. Coming back slowly is key into not getting re-injured. Take this time to come up with a plan to come back smarter and stronger to doing what you love. I keep thinking I will be able to pick right back up to where I was. However taking the time to slowly see what my body is capable of is my immediate goal.
5. Come Back Stronger-When you get injured you can decide if you are going to come back stronger or let the injury defeat you. Injury is part of the running game it's just up to you to decide how you will handle it.

For me I can't say I handled it at first as well as I thought I would, my official diagnosis has been life changing for me and now I have to make changes in order to get back to that runner I was. Truth is, I am not sure I will ever be an endurance runner again. My doctor says I probably won't, but I'm a  defying all odds kinda person so I'm ready to take on that challenge too.

"Take the miles away from a runner and the mental anguish is just as painful as the injury that forced him to the sideline." This is an absolute true story! And this is my story and I decide how it ends right?

This Friday I go back for my final post operation check up where my doctor and I will discuss whether or not I can start running again just yet,  I think I will wear my running shoes to the appointment just in case!


  1. Let's hope you get the green light to get moving again!!

    Taking the Long Way Home@

    1. Thanks so much! Really appreciate it!

  2. Sending you good thoughts and hope you can get running again!!!

  3. Awe thanks so much Sue! Can't wait!