Friday, February 11, 2011

My Left Foot

Wheww. It took longer than I expected to get over the surgery. I had this idea that I would be writing, reading, watching movies and chatting to people on the phone while sitting in bed with my foot on a pillow. It was more like me in bed taking pain meds every few hours, and dozing off between reading a very few pages of an easy read novel. No, it wasn't a romance novel!!. There was a minor complication that caused some severe pain with my foot, but I got through it. I haven't yet felt like I want to face the world very much lately though. I'm still on crutches, and feel a bit out of sorts. It has been a week without exercise too, so that makes me feel a bit weird.

I've listened to the podcast that I did with Diane, Dave and the host, Julie, a few times now. I could tell I was a bit more nervous than usual. I did want to elaborate on a few things that we brushed on in the podcast.

Recently I celebrated my birthday. I was all excited, because I got free cake! I went to Whole Foods, and couldn't find what I wanted. I was wandering around, and went back to the cake section to double check or pick some random cake, despite not finding what I wanted the first time. I bent down, and WAY in the back on the bottom shelf was a piece of decadent chocolate cake. BINGO!! So I took it up to the cashier, and it came out that it was my birthday. I was ultra psyched when she gave it to me for free! So, I started thinking, as I was enjoying some seriously yummy cake, how different this scene was from the one in the movie Thin, where this girl is forced to eat a cupcake on her birthday. The scene is filled with trauma, tears and fear as she sort of shoves the cupcake down in a hateful way. It's sad, because while the hospital staff force her to eat it, I kept thinking about how much better it would be if they could get her to a point where she wanted to enjoy a cupcake. Sadly, most hospitals don't work that way. Generally hospitals tend to set up an "us vs them" atmosphere right from the start. They get control to force "healing" on the patient, and the patient sits and waits until she can get out and go back to her old behavior.
Diane shared some really great pointers on what areas to address when in recovery. There are 4 main categories:

1. Reclaim the self/Identify the self.
2. Heal the family/Move away from the family (if healing can't occur)/Heal or address past trauma
3. Community support/community involvement
4. Give back/Charity/Service to others

When these areas are addressed, there's no need to force anyone to eat cake. In the book, The Secret Language of Eating Disorders, the author had tremendous success treating eating disorders by giving the girls in treatment unconditional love and support. Her approach might shock some, but the success rate of those who recovered was very high. Eating sessions were helped along by easing the fears around food. This included soothing touches, kind and comforting words and gentle encouragement from the staff. I just can't see how forcing someone to eat cake who is terrified to eat will be beneficial in any way.

It seems that the world has become so chaotic, that our brains aren't really equipped to deal with the constant input we receive. As things continue to spin out of control, we tend to search for ways to self regulate. If there has been trauma in the past, we also search for ways to self soothe. One way that we do this is through disassociation. As athletes, it's even more common to learn this trick, so that we don't have to fully embrace pain in life. In the athletic world, some disassociation is almost essential to get through tough workouts. However, there's a way to be fully present, and still train hard. It's a matter of being in touch with what the body needs. Our needs can become unclear when we are bombarded with advice, information, messages from the media and our own thoughts. It's essential, during times when things seem confusing and we feel out of balance, to return to the self for answers.

In short, returning to the self comes back to self identity, and the ability to reclaim who you are or define who you are. During the podcast, Julie posed a question that Diane and I answered regarding how hard the transition was going from an athlete to no longer racing. Diane and I both had a difficult time with that transition. For so long, we had identified with being athletes. Being an athlete was who I was. Letting go of that was one of the most difficult transitions I have ever had to face. All transitions can be difficult for people. Whether you are changing jobs, starting a family, grieving the loss of someone close to you or quitting smoking, stepping into a new role and leaving another behind can be a challenge. Going from being active to being injured is certainly a hard one for me at the moment. The less I fight it, the easier it becomes though. The more we can adapt, the better. Lorraine Moller, in her book about her life, On the Wings of Mercury, mentioned how hard it was for her to go from being an Olympic athlete to becoming a mother. It took quite a bit of self reflection, emotional work and letting go to make that transition. In the end though, different paths call us, and if we insist on refusing a new path, we miss out on so much of life. 


  1. I'm very anxious to read your book. This post is excellent, and I again thank you for being willing to share your story with others.

    May your healing be blessed by warp speed!

  2. Thank you, Marilyn. The down time has been a challenge, but I'm hoping my foot will be back in working order soon. :)

  3. Hi Lize, happy to have stumbled across to your blog. Congratulations on your journey; loved the last two paragraphs here, particularly the "transition" from how you identify yourself one way to embracing a new way; I struggled a bit with this last year...and still feel it simmering somewhat below the surface. I like how you say "different paths call us" and refusing a path can mean missing opportunities and more of life...very perceptive. Good luck with the foot healing, and keeping patient as you wait for full mobility to return too!

  4. Thank you for your comment, cherelli. I hope that whatever path you have chosen, you feel good about it. The foot is definitely coming along. :)