Happy New Year, everyone!
Are you all as excited as me for this new year?! I have a lot planned for this year, which I will touch on later this week. In the meantime, I wanted to say a proper goodbye to 2013. I’ve broken this into two posts as it is a bit long. I hope you bear with me. 🙂
My reflection on last year started a couple of weeks ago when I was out to dinner with a friend. We started talking about the past year and we both came to the same conclusion that overall, 2013 was not a great year. My friend was convinced it had in part to do with the fact that the year ended in unlucky number 13. We both quickly agreed, however, that it wasn’t a horrible year. We both had plenty to be grateful for. Nothing awful happened to us or anyone we know. But overall, not a great year.
I’ve been reflecting on this conversation because I have never dismissed an entire year. I don’t feel it’s fair to do that because, like I said, nothing horrible happened. I not only have a job, but a great job. I have a great place to live, a loving family, and great friends. So why dismiss the year? It was the year that I sustained multiple physical injuries, one after the other after the other, which ended up causing some mental injuries, if you will. None of the many doctors I saw could figure out what was causing my pain and it felt like no one was interested in helping me figure it out, except for my chiropractor. I didn’t have any luck with physical therapy the first time around after investing a lot of time and money. Everything was so bad at one point that I started having anxiety attacks. I was prohibited from doing any kind of physical activity at this time, so not only was I unable to deal with my anxiety in a healthy way, I didn’t know what to do with myself during that time after work when I would normally be working out, which led me to ruminate over why I couldn’t work out in the first place. I pride myself as being someone who can always keep it together even under the worst circumstances, someone who is very practical and rational. Feeling out of control of my mind and body really threw me for a loop.
I’m thankful to end the year on a much better note. Even though I’m still dealing with my plantar fasciitis as well as a recently recurred tennis elbow, I am able to do a lot physically and am in a much better place mentally. I’m looking forward to the new year with lots of hope and plans for full recoveries.
Seeing how I’ve only been blogging since this past November, I thought I’d give a month-by-month recap of the highs and lows of 2013. I promise not to be too much of a Debbie Downer!
The year started off well. I was increasing my running mileage and feeling great the whole time. Then, about halfway through the month, I started getting some pain in my left glute while running. It was during my a chilly run around a nearby lake with my husband (where we saw a very rare sight: a bald eagle!) that I knew this little pain wasn’t going away and I would need to stop running for a bit.
I turned 30! Even though I was facing the number with some trepidation, I was ready for the next chapter in my life. I didn’t identify with most people in their twenties anymore, so it was a natural transition.
My husband had planned a surprise party for me a week after my birthday, which, like many of my birthdays through the years, was cancelled due to a massive snowstorm. There was even a driving ban for the majority of the day. Even though it was a bit of a let down, I was impressed that my husband had reached out to so many people and organized a party.
I was still not running at this point and tried to keep myself occupied with other forms of physical activity. I finally started thinking about what I should do next and decided to call my doctor for a referral to physical therapy.
I start physical therapy and was quickly introduced to the incredibly painful Graston technique. I swear the physical therapy assistant got some kind of sick pleasure out of doing it.
Though the physical therapist didn’t say exactly what was wrong with me, he pointed out that I have tight hip flexors and an incredibly “grainy” IT band. Treatment focused on stretches to open the hip flexors, some hip flexor strengthening, balance, tons of Graston, and a little bit of cold laser therapy.
My husband completed his first half marathon on an incredibly chilly St. Patrick’s Day. I was so proud of him and happy for his accomplishment. It was killer for me to be there, though, amongst all of those runners and being unable to run.
PT continues. They continued doing Graston on my IT band and hip, and then moved to my hamstring and quad. I just looked at these pictures for the first time in months and I grimaced as I looked through them. So. Much. Pain. The bruises were much more vivid in person.
On April 15th, only thirty-five miles away, in a city that I worked in for over three years, the unthinkable happened. My heart broke for the people killed and injured, for my fellow Massachusetts residents and runners, and for innocence lost. It all built up inside of me until I heard President Obama say,
“As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you. Your commonwealth is with you. Your country is with you. We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that, I have no doubt you will run again. You will run again. Because that’s what the people of Boston are made of.”
I was sitting in my car at work, about to drive home, when the tears came. I cried for the victims, for the city, for the insanity of it all. I cried for my own frustration at the situation and the frustration with my body, knowing it wasn’t anything compared to the emotion that the victims of the bombing were going through with their bodies.
As silly as it sounds, I felt the president was talking to me, offering me words of comfort, and I will never forget that. Hearing, “You will run again” three times in a row brought me hope and I knew I would never take running for granted again. That I would run for me and for everyone affected by this tragedy. That I would run with purpose. That I would run because I was lucky to live in this country and to be born into my life.
With the permission of my PT, I tried to ease back into running, but I had near-instant pain on my first outing when I transitioned from walking to jogging. I had now also developed pain in my right glute as well. I stopped going to PT because I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere and I didn’t feel that they were adequately addressing my concerns.
In addition to all of that, I woke up one morning with some unexplained elbow pain. Over the course of the next 24 hours, my elbow became more and more inflamed to the point that I had a golf ball-sized lump. I saw my primary care doc the next day and thinking he saw a mark on the top of the bump that looked like it was a bite or ingrown hair, concluded that it was an infection and gave me ten days of antibiotics (my co-workers lovingly call it an “elbow zit”). The swelling went down almost immediately.
At the end of the month, I got to see my idol, Jillian Michaels, during her Maximize Your Life Tour!
I absolutely love Jillian Michaels. I’m actually surprised that I have yet to blab about her to you. She is a huge source of information and inspiration for me. I love her approach to living a healthy and meaningful life and have used a lot of her tips in my own life.
Whole Health Husband gets his master’s degree. I couldn’t have been prouder!
After two weeks of staying off of my elbow for a presumed infection, I tried to start using it again and have immediate pain. I went back to see my nurse practitioner this time, and she suggested that it could have been tennis elbow the entire time. I was able to see an orthopedist quickly and after an x-ray showed I had a large calcium deposit on my elbow, he agreed that I have tennis elbow, AKA lateral epicondylitis. He gave me a cortisone injection, told me to rest, and to return in six weeks.
In the official kick-off to graduation and wedding season, WH Husband and I attended two graduations and a wedding, all in one weekend and all more than 100 miles away from each other! It was right after this weekend that I had my breakdown. At this point, I still wasn’t able to run or do much activity with impact because between my elbow and glutes, I was in a lot of pain.
The fact that our trip to Europe was fast approaching only increased my anxiety. I knew we’d be doing a lot of walking, which was something that I couldn’t do much of at that time. Walking hurt. Climbing stairs hurt. Even just sitting hurt.
I don’t want to go into it too much, but for those who have never experienced an anxiety attack, it is one of the worst physical and mental tortures I can imagine. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I was convinced I was having a heart attack multiple times. I was short of breath, shaky, wired, have stomach issues (no details needed), lost my appetite and ability to sleep. I was unable to sleep for two weeks straight despite trying many approaches (melatonin, chamomile tea, ZzzQuil, etc.). And to make matter worse, my anxiety only added to my perceived pain. All I wanted to do was pull the blankets over my head and make it all go away. I felt like I was going to crawl out of my own skin.
After telling my chiropractor how frustrated I was about my glute pain, he ordered an x-ray of my left hip to see if there was anything going on that he could see. Thankfully, there wasn’t a problem with my hip, but there was an incidental finding of sacralization of the fifth lumbar vertebra. My understanding is that my fifth (last) lumbar is fused to the top of my sacrum, when these two parts of the spine should be separate. This creates hypermobility in the joint above the fusion, and decreased mobility at the fusion (thanks to the facet joints being locked in).
While this is an incidental finding (most people have this malformation and it doesn’t affect them), my chiropractor believes that my body sent out pain signals to the surrounding area (my glutes) because it didn’t like what I was physically doing to disrupt that area. Though I didn’t have back pain, my body was essentially trying to get me to stop doing whatever I was doing because of my lack of mobility. It’s a built-in protection mechanism.
My chiropractor also discovered out how incredibly weak and imbalanced my glutes were, especially on my left. He found this by having me lay on my stomach and lift my legs individually. The left glute, particularly the gluteus medius, fired much more slowly than my right one. He said it acted as though I had some trauma to that area, but I couldn’t recall ever doing anything. He examined me more and took more time with me than either of the additional two orthopedists I saw that month.
These new findings encouraged me to try PT again, this time at another facility. I loved the new place. The therapist and her staff listened to all of my concerns, and knowing that I was going on an incredible trip in only six weeks for which I needed to be able to walk, they got to work using massage, ultrasound, and stretching. Having a short-term goal of being able to walk during our vacation and not worrying about the vast future brought down my anxiety, as did finally having a plan for fixing my body.
That’s all for now. Stayed tuned for part 2 tomorrow! As always, I welcome comments, suggestions, and questions!