Sometimes when things feel completely out of hand, I have to remind myself why I started this blog. It's not a personal thing, and despite occasionally posting about situations or topics that are currently on my mind, I need to come back to the big picture. This is about trying to reach people who are struggling with an illness that kills more than all other mental illnesses combined. That's a pretty scary statistic, because it includes depression, bipolar disease and a number of other mental disorders defined by the DSM as well. But this blog is also one about my life as a runner. For me, the running and the illness were once too closely tied to truly separate.
I often mention Bobby McGee, a coach I had years ago, because he was an incredibly positive influence in my life. I think I was a better person when he was more in my life, and I tend to try to keep him in my mind as a make my way through this often challenging life. I learned an incredible amount from him in the years we worked together, and even though I never made the comeback of my dreams, he got me fit enough to win a small mountain race and compete at the elite level one last time before I could no longer do it. More importantly though, he helped me regain my health and taught me that I didn't have to run to be a decent human being. I remember how he gave me a big hug and cheered when I told him I started my period at age 35. I was slightly traumatized going through puberty at that age, but Bobby made my awkward transition much easier by offering his continual support and encouragement. When I was12, many people still considered periods a curse, but getting mine after all those years of being amenorrheic was a sign that my body was recovering. It was, indeed, something to celebrate. For me, Bobby not bailing on me during hard times and standing by me, even when I could no longer run was a key factor in learning to be OK with myself.
I went to PT today, and celebrated my progress with a scoop of chocolate ice cream after the appointment. My foot is coming along. Running is still on the horizon, but I can see it getting closer. I stood on one foot today with no boot, no shoe and no brace. I can't yet step normally, but the PT will move me along. I have never been this long away from running, and I have never had this severe an injury. Considering the many injuries I had throughout my career, this one has been by far the most debilitating with the longest recovery. It's kind of a cool surgery, even though the thought of part of one of my bones being cut off creeps me out a little. Otherwise, having super strong nylon-titanium stitches anchored in my bones to keep my three joints stable is pretty cool. I love the PT. I never responded well to that hardcore aggressive stuff, so this gentle version is exactly what I need. In fact, I was so content with my progress that when some asshole on his cell phone pulled a left turn in front of me in the parking lot, cutting me off and almost hitting me, I didn't yell, didn't honk the horn, but, instead slammed on the breaks and let him go on his oblivious way. That's progress too.
People often ask me if I miss competing. I do. I don't miss all the anxiety, long hard hours put into it and the stress, but I miss having that fire inside, knowing the race is about how far you can push your body. For a long time while I was at my worst, I couldn't be around runners or anything running related. It stirred up too much crap from the past. The only races I would ever watch were the ones my friend Suzy Hamilton was running, and those were on TV, not in person. I couldn't bring myself to even look at running magazines. Suzy and I had remained friends after we competed at the Kinney Nationals my junior year in high school. She was a year younger and a bit faster too, especially in the shorter stuff! So, I would break my rule of getting away from it all when she stepped on the start line of her big races. Otherwise, it was years before I had any interest in the sport.
Last year, I ran two races before my injury took me out of the game. I cried after the first one, but a few people reminded me of how brave I was to step back into it after so much time away. Still it was hard to go from holding the record on the Vail Hill Climb all those years ago, to coming in smack in the middle of the pack, and hurting at that! The 2nd race I ran was more fun- a small cross country race complete with hay bales to hurdle. Actually, I don't know if what I did qualified as hurdling, but I did manage to get over them one way or another. At the end of the race, I met a lady who had recovered from breast cancer. She was ahead of me at the finish, and we talked about how hard coming back is after a brush with death. For me, as bad as the anorexia got (and it got extremely bad), it wasn't until I had meningitis 3 years ago this month that I really thought I would die, so coming out of that and stepping back into life and running was challenging. But this lady was a big inspiration, because, despite all she had gone through, she was racing tough. I was racing timidly, still afraid of all that had happened. It taught me that I'm not alone in my suffering. I am not alone when it comes to hard times. We all go through them. Sure, there are people who haven't had quite the strife and discontent that I have, but there are also people who can relate and also those who have been through worse.
We'll see if I will ever race again. Right now I have to be happy that I stood on one foot today. That felt like a fucking miracle!