pain

Revenge of the Shoulder Blade…

“The pride you gain is worth the pain.”  

-Dennis Ogilvie

Or  “my life on the injury roller coaster” 😉

I am not a super athlete; I’m not even athletic.  Rather, I am an orthopedic disaster.  I am used to being limited by my joints and spending time getting MRIs and Xrays.  I am accustomed to pushing through and blocking out pain.

However, 2 weeks ago when I tweaked my shoulder on that pull-up, I honestly wasn’t having pain.  I had a little soreness, but nothing to write home about.  Since then, I have been taking it pretty easy.  I haven’t done boot camp at all and only did Insanity once.  I’ve also avoided any lifting that might aggravate it..  The only thing I did do, which in retrospect was probably not a great idea, was go climbing a couple times- but I was pretty darn careful.

So yesterday when I woke up and my shoulder was bugging me a little I was kind of surprised.  I hadn’t worked out in 2 days, and hadn’t done anything to really trigger it.  I figured I must have just slept on it wrong.  I ended up sleeping a good part of the day because I was feeling under the weather (with allergy season hitting me like a ton of bricks) and had a hard time getting comfortable.

Then this morning I woke up with pain that literally took my breath away.  I couldn’t even turn my neck!  I managed to make it to work, but found myself cradling my left arm most of the day because it was so painful just to let it hang- even on the max ibuprofen dose.  I left work early to see an ortho doc and it turns out I have some muscle spasm going on.  Apparently it doesn’t take much to aggravate your shoulder muscles (specifically the infraspinatus muscles) and it takes FOREVER for them to heal.  In other words: no climbing, Insanity, boot camp, or lifting for at least the next week.  😦  I wonder if the 4 days I haven’t done anything already this week counts… jk

It looks like the stationary bike and stair climber are going to be my BFFs for a while.  Hopefully I will at least be able to run soon.  I am also hoping to be healed enough in 3 wks to still do the Tough Mudder (even if I have to skip obstacles), but I’m thinking that may be pushing it…

In case anyone is wondering how I am coping… I went for some retail therapy and bought the loudest running shorts I could find (figuring it’s going to be one of the few forms of exercise I’ll be allowed for some time...) 

As much as I am I frustrated about this whole setback, I am really trying to roll with it.  In reality, I am extremely grateful that it is just a muscle spasm and not a tear or neck injury (especially with all the numbness down my arm and in my fingers!).  In the grand scheme of things, a couple weeks of taking it easy is not going to set me way back.  Sure it sucks, but it could be a lot worse.

Normally, I’m a pretty tough cookie when it comes to physical discomfort.  I have spent my whole life with knee caps that pop in and out of place and have put myself through some serious physical torture. BUT THIS PAIN WAS NO JOKE.  If I could have found a spot to curl up and cry at work today I would have.  I don’t ever want to have a muscle spasm EVER AGAIN.  I would rather run a whole marathon TWICE…IN A ROW.

So it’s back to “resting” for me.  Unfortunately, shit happens. No point in getting upset or feeling sorry for myself about it.  Really, there’s not much I can do about it now other than regroup (and brace myself for the onslaught of lectures from the non-exercise inclined community about overtraining and how I push myself too hard… Btw just as you’re entitled to your opinion, I’m entitled to respectfully ignore it.  Your concern is appreciated, but completely unnecessary.  I’m a big girl and I can take care of myself.  I am strong and intelligent enough to make my own decisions about what’s healthy for me.  Exercise is my anti-stress, antidepressant, and instant center.  Risking injury every once in a while to stay sane and love myself is a trade off I am more than willing to make.  Besides, if I don’t ever push to my limits, how will I ever know them?).  Luckily, Pike’s Peak and the Spartan Ultra Beast are still months away with plenty of time to train.

In the meantime, I am going to do my best to reduce my stress and take care of myself.  As much as people like to point the finger at over training anytime I get run down or sick, the truth is my job has really been wearing on me.  My work environment can be toxic at times and being an emotional sponge– it really takes a toll on me.  Add on top of that everything going on with my mom and her dog and my grandmother getting sick, and you can see how a person can get worn thin.  With all the chaos I haven’t been eating that great (or enough) or getting much sleep- (which is generally the key component for me getting sick).

For me, exercise is the one thing that helps me combat all that stress, gives me an appetite (and makes me crave healthy food), and helps me sleep at night.  I feel more sore and miserable when I don’t work out than when I do.  There is no way I am going to let anyone try to convince me it isn’t good for me.

Last night I slept funny and I woke up with a terrible muscle spasm.  It could have happened to anyone.  It’s not a reason to give up or stop pushing.  Before I started really working out again, my knee caps popped out of place, I had crippling anxiety, felt weak and unsafe, and barely knew myself.  I am not about to give up all the ground I’ve made over some silly muscle spasm.  It’s not in me to quit… guess that’s just the beast in me. 😉

Marathon Recap

“If you feel bad at 10 miles, you’re in trouble.

If you feel bad at 20 miles, you’re normal.

If you don’t feel bad at 26 miles, you’re abnormal.”

Rob de Castella, winner 1983 World Marathon Championships

Gosh, where to start?

Well, first- yes I did just post Yoda for inspiration. Trekkie-Star-Wars-geek? Guilty.  But seriously, who doesn’t love Yoda?

Everyone says running a marathon will change your life…  Something about getting a new found sense of being able to conquer anything.  To be completely truthful- I don’t feel any different 26.2 miles later.  At first, it was a bit of a let down.  I thought it would be this amazing epiphany; but, I didn’t feel anything when I finished (other than enough pain in my legs to literally make me sob in fact, I was so debilitated by that point, that the thought of needing to hobble to the bag check AND car seemed like a more difficult task than the marathon itself.)

Now I am not saying the marathon was not an AMAZING experience (in a hating every painful moment of it kind of way).  However, I think the true benefit was not in the event itself, but rather in the training.  Marathon training changed my life.  It changed me so dramatically that I absolutely believed I could conquer anything before I ran the whole grueling distance.  If I didn’t believe it to the core, I never would have made through the race on a good day, let alone a bad one.  Marathon training gave me confidence.  It was an outlet for many of my PSTD symptoms.  It gave me something that was mine.  It was an excuse to be selfish and generous at the same time.  It gave me an opportunity to give something back.  Marathon training helped me redefine my identity.  I survived marathon training before surviving the marathon, and I will never be the same. 🙂

Finishing the marathon itself was just the icing on the cake.  The weather was beautiful!  The spectators and volunteers were awesome.  The course had a few nice views, but, for the most part, was not my favorite.  Adam and I held a solid 10 min pace for the first half, and then things started to get a little hairy.  Somewhere between mile 14 and 15 I had my first breakdown.  I had stopped at a water station and my left knee immediately seized up.  I tried to start running again, but it wouldn’t cooperate.  I was just over halfway and couldn’t fathom how I would make it the rest of the way when I couldn’t even walk.  I sniffled and limped next to Adam for a short while before I finally forced my body to start jogging again.  The swelling and pain in my knees was throwing off my gate, and it wasn’t to long before my hips started acting up too.  We took short walking breaks every few miles for a while, but every time we stopped I would start unraveling emotionally due to pain and utter frustration.  Adam would put his arm around me and assure me I was doing fine, but I was embarrassed to be struggling (and now crying) in front of him.  He had not done any training and made it look effortless while I worked my butt off and struggled every second.  I wanted to run harder (maybe I was a little delirious) and felt angry that my body wouldn’t cooperate.  Every step from start to finish was painful.  It was one of my worst runs in a long time; and I was beyond disappointed that, of all days, my epic-bad run day had to be this day.  By mile 19 I decided I was through with walking breaks.  It hurt more to walk than to jog, and it was way too much effort to get going again just to take a few moments rest.  I jogged the rest of the way to the finish without stopping.  The closer I got, the more determined I became.  I was happy to find Adam again around mile 24 after having lost him for a stretch.   We pushed to the finish line as fast as our beaten down bodies would carry us, and then I fell apart all over again.  I was just overwhelmed- not only by the pain, but also the whole situation.  It was a culmination of everything I had been through the past several months.  It was finally over!

At the same time, I think I was still feeling a little disappointed in myself (despite running practically the entire course, managing 9 miles more than I ever had before, and raising money and awareness for a great cause.)  It’s only now after the fact that the magnitude of this accomplishment is just starting to sink in.  Perhaps once I recover from the shock of it all I might be able to enjoy the victory a little more. 😉  Once again, it’s just surreal. I know I was there, but I have a hard time believing I did it.

The amount of support I have received throughout this process has been phenomenal and well exceeded anything I could have imagined!  I am so grateful to everyone who offered well wishes, congratulations, and donations.  It has been such an amazing journey!

As always, comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated.  You can also email me directly at runningthriver@gmail.com.   Please feel free to share any info on this blog, just please give credit back to the site.  Have a great night everyone!

Waiting at the start

Waving to Adam

Sporting our new bling at the finish 🙂

When trails become streams…

I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.” 

~Author Unknown

I’m BACK!!!! It’s official!  Just shy of 13 miles today and only minimal IT band pain.  Wohoo!  lol  I’m so happy to FINALLY have gotten some mileage in.  Initially, Adam and I headed to Hopbrook (my favorite place to run), but it is completely under water.  We decided to do the Bridle Trail instead, which was slightly less damp.  The trail had turned into a fresh water stream in many places, which was actually pretty fun to run in.  Meanwhile, the small brook that typically runs along the gravel path had turned into class 5 rapids (See picture below).  We actually thought we heard traffic coming when we were crossing, but it turned out to be the water.  It was pretty impressive.

when brooks become rapids...

 

 

The first 6-7 miles were pretty easy, but my legs got pretty tired on the way back.  I was getting tangled in a lot of the debris from the storm, and Adam was light-years ahead of me.  He kept stopping or walking to give me time to catch up, and I felt kind of bad that I was running so slow.  I know there is a faster runner inside and I am determined to release her at some point!  I kept reminding myself that no matter how slow I was running, I was moving forward and still smiling- the 2 most important things.  Overall, the run went pretty well.  I was glad to have Adam there to show me a few new side trails and keep me from over-doing it.  Plus, he makes good company; and the view running behind him is not too bad either. lol  He even took pictures for me to adorn my blog.  He is so supportive!

Initially, when I was reading about many of the other bloggers who had run their first marathon, I noticed that a lot of them had a fair number of people cheering them on.  Many of them had photos holding flowers while posing with their finisher medals.  It made me want flowers when I finish!  Then I realized that I have something even better- a boyfriend who is willing to suffer through the 26.2 mile stretch with me to help motivate me and keep me going.  How lucky am I ?!   I am sure there are other things he would have rather been doing today than running through 13 miles of mud and debris, but he knew I would appreciate it.

In related news, I am looking into joining the boot camp program at my gym.  It looks like a lot of cross fit type training, and I’m hoping it will help me take my conditioning to the next level.  I also got an email today that my foam roller and cliff bloks shipped.  I am pretty excited! 🙂

running through the stream

 

 

 

made it!!!

What is a Thriver?

“Sisterhood is many things. It’s a warm smile on a cold and rainy day, a friendly hug, a cheerful hello… It’s all that a good and lasting friendship is, only better. It’s treasured. It’s sacred. It’s knowing that there will always be someone there for you. It’s dreams shared, and goals achieved. It’s counting on others and being counted on. It is real.”

This post dedicated to all my Archangel Sisters.  I love each and every one of you!

This morning I was charged with the task of defining what “thriver” means to me.  I compiled a list of the first words that came to mind: self knowing, embracing life, living to the fullest, empowered, open, secure, unbroken, girl power, liberated, and vibrant.  It was a good start.   However, truly grasping the essence of thriving is not something that can be broken down and explained on paper.  It’s something that needs to be felt

The most wonderful thing happens when you attend the My Avenging Angel Workshops and follow-up sessions.  You become part of a sisterhood: a loving, accepting, flaw embracing community of women committed to improving not only their own lives, but also the lives of others.  That is where the thriver energy emanates.  It comes from each and every woman. 

The Angels are a diverse group- coming in every shape, size, age, color, and religion- a reminder that domestic violence does not discriminate.  Yet, we do not dwell on our past.  Instead, we celebrate the beauty of our differences and bond over a common experience.  Surprisingly, it’s not the trauma or past suffering that brings us together.  It is the desire to bring about change- in ourselves and in the world that binds us.  Together, we see a future filled with limitless possibilities.  In each of us there is hope, faith, and the courage to embark on a journey to a more fruitful and fulfilling life.  We give each other strength.  Our ties cross town and state lines across this country.  We are feminism at its best- an abuser’s worst nightmare!  Are motto: “Living well is the best revenge”. 

Being a thriver is more than becoming a self-aware, self-loving individual.  It is about belonging and becoming part of a community.  The community is necessary to impact other lives.  It’s the sense of sisterhood that helps to empower us.  I could not imagine what a difficult journey it would be, or it even being possible to thrive without a strong support network.  No one individual is self-sufficient enough not to need a shoulder to cry or lean on during hard times.  A house is only as good as the foundation it is built upon, and the individual is no different.  You are only as solid as your base.  In this respect I have been very lucky (not only to have the Angels, but also the unconditional love of my amazing family, friends, and boyfriend who always back me 100% – equally in success and failure).

I am so grateful to belong to such an awe-inspiring group of women.  Each is a blessing in a my life, a window to the possibilities of how the future could be.  I am fortunate to not only have such a tremendous family (both by blood and bond), but to be part of one.  Knowing that I play a role helping and healing others is more healing and empowering than anything I could achieve on my own.

If you reside in or near Connecticut and are interested in moving beyond survivor to thriver please visit Susan Omilian’s website for more information on the FREE My Avenging Angels Workshops.  You can also email me at runningthriver@gmail.com.

If you do not live near Connecticut and are still interested in joining the Thriver community, check out the Thriver Workbook.  In it you will find many of the exercises Susan uses in her workshops.  You can also check out The Thriverzone.

As always, thank you for reading!  Please feel free to share any of the information here if you know someone who can benefit from it (just give credit back to the site please 🙂 ) Comments and feedback are always welcome and appreciated.  Good luck in your Thriver Journey!!!

Victories and Setbacks

“I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain,
torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage. “
Friedrich Nietzsche

Life is composed of victories and setbacks.  Great victories are always eventually followed by setbacks, and setbacks by victories.  It’s all a cycle. That’s just the way of things. Keeping this in mind helps me maintain perspective.  When I’m doing well, I do my best to enjoy it knowing it won’t last; and when things get rough, I remind myself that it will pass.

In terms of my life and ongoing struggle with daily existence after trauma, I’d say I’m on the victory side of things.  However, running has fallen into the setback zone.  My entire life I have been plagued by knee problems.  As long as I’ve been walking, my knees have popped out of place. The pain and other joint issues associated with this have always limited my running.  When I started using the Vibram Five Fingers (don’t ask me why it’s “fingers” and not toes), I noticed a dramatic improvement in my joint pain.  Basically, I didn’t have any.  I was hurting all right, but it was all muscular.  Everything was going fine and dandy until last week when, deluded with my new sense of limitless, I decided to up my mileage by a full hour instead of 30 minutes.

That is how I became rudely reacquainted with the nagging pain of IT band syndrome.  It’s a running overuse injury that I am all too familiar with.  Initially, I was not aware of its reemergance due to the new location of the pain. However, when it got to the point that even gently brushing anything against my tibial tubercle (the bony knob just under your knee) caused me to jump in agony, I decided to do a google search on “lateral knee pain” and then “pain, tibial tubercle”.  What I found was my familiar nemesis IT band syndrome.  Apparently, if you continue to run when your IT band is irritated, you develop terrible point tenderness –you guessed it– at your tibial tubercle.  So after patting myself on the back for pushing IT band syndrome to new personal heights, I looked up the treatment: six weeks of rest and stretching.  This was not an acceptable option.  Six weeks of “rest” would have me in the loony bin.  I needed to exercise for my sanity sake!  More reading.. there was also a mention of strengthening weak muscle groups- this seemed more palatable.

At the moment, I am trying very hard to limit my running.  I have been spending quality time with the stair climber and doing general conditioning/strength training.  There was a moment or two that doubted I would be able to run the marathon in Oct., or ever.  Of course, then I came back to my senses and realized I would never allow myself to quit.  Plus, if I tried, my best friend Randi would assuredly put me back in line.

Everyone needs a good friend to hold a mirror up when you need it, tell you what you need to hear (even when you don’t want to hear it), and hold you accountable.  Randi has been my best friend since high school; and while I have many incredible, amazing friends who I cherish, Randi is the one I can count on to do all these things.  I, through coercion, begging, and even a little arm twisting, have convinced her to do the Diva Half Marathon with me.  I have been “encouraging” her to do the Hartford Marathon with me as well.  Every time she comes up with an excuse or says she’d never be able to run that far- I assure her that I’m convinced she can.  When her motivation starts to wane or she gets discouraged by running injuries, I do my best to encourage her (like buying her cool running gear and books for her birthday).

I have to finish that marathon, IT band syndrome or not!  I need to prove to myself I can do it.  Plus, I want to show Randi that she can do it.  After all, she is the athletic one!  I would not only be letting myself down if I quit, but also my best friend.  There’s just no way that’s going to happen.

In the meantime, I’ll be training for the NorCal Tough Mudder next month.  On this afternoon’s agenda, time at the gym with my very own personal trainer (my boyfriend Adam- the seasoned marathon runner and Tough Mudder alum)

Another night, another nightmare

“Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb but how well you bounce.” 

~Vivian Komori

Last night I dreamt I was in my ex-husband’s house.  Even though we were no longer together, I was visiting for some reason.  He had a bunch of company in the living room. including some of his brothers.  I was tired from having worked late and excused myself to go to bed.  When I left, the rest of his guests decided it was getting late and left to go home.  Enraged by the notion that I caused all his friends and family to leave early, my ex came after me upstairs and attacked me.  He wrapped his hands around my neck and squeezed for all he was worth.  I could feel myself being suffocated, gasping for air with no relief.  Then out of no where, Adam (my boyfriend) came in and stopped him.   I can’t remember much of what happened after that because I woke up.

That is just one example of the many nightmares that have kept me up at night over the past two weeks.  They typically come in cycles, but this one has been particularly long.  They don’t always feature my ex, and they are nowhere near as bad as the night terrors I had while I was with him.  However, they are bad enough to wake me up all night and leave me exhausted during the day.  On the bright side, this was the first nightmare I ever had someone come rescue me in, so maybe I’m making some progress.

Sometimes I wish I had a system reset button I could hit when this stuff happens, but instead I’ve come up with other methods (through trial and error) of dealing with it.  The hardest one if trying not to focus on or stress about the sleep deprivation because the more I fixate on it, then worse it seems to get.  Another trick I use is completely wearing myself out.  If I go through a particularly tough workout, many times that’s enough to work out the excess anxious energy.  Plus, it’s usually a great self-esteem boost!  I also try not to eat, watch TV, or use the computer right before bed (typical sleep hygiene stuff).  However, recently none of this has been particularly effective.

One thing that has changed dramatically over the past year is how much better I can deal with this situation now.  I can acknowledge that it sucks, but it doesn’t send me spiraling backward with frustration and despair like it used to.  I can reassure myself that it will be temporary, and I only need to work “X”  more days until I have another one off to attempt to catch up on sleep.  I am also more aware of my negative thinking, and the fact that it is just that.  It doesn’t make me a negative person, it’s just a sign that I’m fatigued or processing more than usual.  I am finally getting the point where I can cut myself some slack, and that is a MONUMENTAL step for me.

So, although I am currently being plagued by nightmares and had an absolutely terrible day of being run into the ground at work, I give this day an A+.  My reasoning: it sucked...A LOT, but I made it through and held it together. I didn’t get down on myself, cry, or allow myself to become completely overwhelmed.  Six months ago this day would have broke me, but today I made it through exhausted and smiling.

In other related news, I managed to drag Adam with me to the gym yesterday and conquered another 15 minutes on the stair master- and we did push ups (and by “we” I mean I and he critiqued)…  It was terrible and wonderful all at the same time. 🙂

Fatigue- My Enemy

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nothing makes me feel more stuck in a rut than coming up a against a week without restful sleep.  Even when I am really making progress at life, all it takes is a few nights of nightmares for my “inner critic” to go crazy.  Fatigue makes me vulnerable, and it is always a reality check as to just how much work I have left to do and my road to a “normal” existence. The truth is that every day I am waging war with myself.  Like the cartoon characters with a little angel and devil on each shoulder, I carry an ongoing argument in my head with my negative inner critic.  On good days, I can tune out these thoughts (generally along the lines of feeling like an isolated, negative, unlikable, damaged, worthless person).  However, a few nights of sleep deprivation sends me into a tailspin of self-deprecation.

In my life before abuse, I didn’t stress over much because I had absolute faith that things would always be okay and I would always land on me feet.  It was a rosy view of things, but every problem I ever faced had always worked itself out without too much fallout.  I figured that if I was a good person and treated other people with kindness, generosity, and respect that I would – in the grand Karma scheme of things- receive the same in return.

Over five years of psychological, emotional, and ultimately physical abuse (not only on the part of my ex-husband, but also his family- whom I loved as my own) shattered my view of that reality. It was a gut-wrenching, devastating, and absolutely heart breaking  experience. There are not words to describe the sensation of betrayal.  A group of people who professed to love and care deeply about me had used me.  I had shown them nothing but love, kindness, compassion, and generosity; and in return I was greeting with back stabbing, lies, cruelty, and manipulation.  I didn’t deserve it, and I didn’t understand how any person could be capable of treating another that way.

As much as I want to regain my rosy-colored perspective of the world again, I have found it tremendously difficult.  The whole situation wreaked havoc on me both emotionally and physically.  The thought of ever being in that place again (of feeling completely unstable) still gives me anxiety and nightmares.  It literally keeps me up at night.  Not every night, but frequently when I’m over tired or run down.

I don’t ever get upset about any of the belongs I lost in my escape from my abuser; however, I am at times resentful that a man came into my life and took my view of the world as a safe place from me.  It is the ONLY thing that I miss from before.  It wasn’t his to take, and I want it back.  I want my sense of security back.  I want to stop keeping people at arm’s length to avoid getting burned again.  I want to believe that because I am a good person, good things will happen to me.

I am getting there, but it is a process, a LONG process.  That is why every time I get into a bad sleep cycle and the negative thinking creeps in I feel like it’s no progress.  One thing I have regained for certain,though, is my determination (running has been crucial in rebuilding both my determination and self-esteem), and I am determined to let go of worrying and focus on the positive change I want to be in the world. 🙂  I am also determined to get some sleep tonight!

Goal for tomorrow- short leisurely run with Penny, and maybe some gym time.