If you’ve been following my blogs here on Wise Women Canada, you know that I’ve had a lifelong battle against anxiety and depression. You also know that I refuse to sit back and let them have their way with me. I’m proud of being proactive, of working hard to lead a happy and fulfilling life by taking my meds, going for therapy, practicing yoga and mindfulness, and hitting the gym regularly (and intensely). I’m living proof that the endorphins from a great workout help diffuse my anxiety and help me feel positive and energized, strong and fit!
So what happens when life throws a wrench into the routine that helps me feel grounded and mentally healthy?
Last winter, I first noticed a nagging pain down the back and side of my right leg and deep inside my hip. I started having a hard time running (my most favorite endorphin booster), and climbing stairs. I chalked it up to overuse and decided to take my workouts down a notch. I focused on yoga and lower impact activities, but no matter what I did, or didn’t do, the pain was persistent and getting worse. I saw several doctors and was diagnosed with a bunch of different things. I did tons of physio, tried osteopathy, downed obscene amounts of Advil and got incredibly discouraged that nothing helped.
I finally begged my doctor for a MRI which revealed that I had a labral tear. In a nutshell, I’d torn the ring of cartilage that lines the hip joint. The labrum helps keep your thigh bone inside your hip socket. It maintains your joint’s stability and helps it move. Mine had ripped clear off the bone. I was relieved to have a real diagnosis, but also scared out of my mind.
The only cure for a labral tear is surgery.
I wasn’t sure I was ready to go that route. But I also knew I couldn’t live with the pain anymore.
Over the next few months, things got progressively worse. I had to cut out running and yoga entirely and focused exclusively on upper body workouts with my trainer that were nowhere near the intensity of my regular exercise regimen. The long-awaited trip to Spain my husband and I took in July consisted of a lot of sitting and really slow walking. And sangria to dull the pain.
I also started preparing for surgery, which was booked for August 15th, feeling a mixture of excitement (finally I’d be fixed!) and terror (it’s never a good idea to Google the kind of operation you’re about to have).
I’m now two weeks post-op and despite being convinced I’d wake up from the anesthetic with a whole bunch of Googled complications, it went perfectly well. The surgeon sewed up the tear, reattached it to the bone with three anchors (I’m kind of excited to find out if I’ll ring when I go through airport security), and shaved down the top of my femur that was impinging on the hip joint. I was back home after one night in the hospital.
But the surgery was actually the easy part. The recovery is another story. I’m not allowed to bear any weight on my right leg for at least a month. That means I have to use crutches or a wheelchair to get around. The most activity I’m allowed is a few minutes on a stationary bike with no resistance. I’m entirely dependent on family and friends for everything.
And I’m truly blessed with an incredibly supportive group who have filled my house with flowers and my fridge with food, who chauffeur me to appointments and just keep me company when I feel like I’m losing my mind.
This is just month one. Once I’m allowed back on my two feet, it’ll be a very slow and very careful return to activities. It’ll likely be a year before I’m completely pain free and allowed to run again.
So what’s a girl to do without her endorphins? Without the energy and positivity that comes from a good long run or an intense boot camp class?
She shifts her focus, that’s what.
I’ve learned a few things over the last few months:
- Exercise is an important tool that I use to keep me feeling mentally healthy, but I’d been pushing my body too far, ignoring the signs that I’d injured myself until I was too far gone. I actually exercised the cartilage off of my bone. Going forward, I know I need to practice moderation. I don’t have to run the fastest, hold the longest plank, or push the heaviest weights to feel good.
- I have other hobbies that bring me joy. With all the time freed up from exercise, I’ve been devoting tons of time to art journaling, a huge passion of mine. While it doesn’t release the same endorphins, it definitely takes me out of my head and makes me feel relaxed and refreshed.
- Asking for help can be liberating. This has always been a hard one for me, but letting people know I need them, and getting what I need, has made me feel an abundance of love and support. There’s something incredibly freeing about relinquishing control and letting others take care of me.
- It could be worse. Much worse. Maintaining a sense of perspective has been essential in getting me through the pre-op pain and the post-op recovery. My situation is temporary. I’ll be independent and back at the gym before I know it. I know I’m lucky.
- I’m kind of a bad ass. Labral tears are common among young athletes like gymnasts, soccer players and hockey goalies. Lady Gaga actually had this exact surgery a few years back. So I’m in pretty good (and young!) company.
- I’m stronger than I think I am. There’s a resilience to me that I didn’t appreciate before.
Going forward, when things feel rough, I’ll remind myself that I’m one tough chick with the strength to get through whatever life throws at me – and that there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little help from my friends.