Saturday, February 9, 2019

Broken leg girl...

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I spread my arms out as wide as I could reach and took a deep breath, one of sheer appreciation, like a bird soaring on her wings.  I'd just reached the top of a big climb and was now on the fun part tucking in and out of pretty trees just before we run down hill towards the finish line, 2 miles to go.  A feeling that lingers often was consuming me, one reminding me that my life is truly a gift, and I agreed.  I'd been running 50 miles at a single time, 100 mile weeks that left me feeling strong not worn down, up and over volcanoes, in and out of valleys, so many miles that taught me to be strong, taught me never to surrender to difficult days, ones that always left me thankful for my legs, lungs, and health.  I ran a lot, it was something that became a gift because of the places around the island it was taking me, the challenges I was overcoming because of it, and the friends I was sharing the journey with.

Tears began to fill my eyes, like a happiness you can't really tell anyone about, they have to feel it for themselves.  I was now on the very down hill I sat on my butt and scooted down the year before. The one I clung to the rope for what felt like survival the year before.  But this year I was running down, the boys helped me learn to find confidence and shake my fear. Just before reaching the bottom, almost in disbelief that I'd actually run down it, I said out loud, "Love the Giver more than the gift." Because I did and it was my praise and worship that Sunday morning.  Running had become a gift. I spend most my life appreciating everything so dearly that I have to believe there is a purpose for it all, the hard and the easy, it helps me never to take any of my gifts (family, friends, wife life, motherhood, my home, my job) for granted and to try and avoid never neglecting other parts of life that I am fortunate to have.

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Then I heard a snap.  It was loud and it was me.  I laid there in the mud unable to get up, had it just been the bone I'd of been able to make it, but when it's the ligaments too, you have nothing to support your ankle to hold you up.  I tried though, I didn't know any of that and just thought it was the bone.  I tried to push my bone in as it was trying to peek out of my skin, I thought if I did it would go back in place and all would be fine. I begged for somebody to help me.  My friend Susie's brother n' law was waiting near the bottom for his wife and came to help, he couldn't carry me down alone and I was too afraid to sit there by myself.  I begged him to stay with me, to call Mikey, to fix it, to tell me what to do.  Everything after that happened so fast and before I knew it I was sitting in the ER with the very words I said just before falling staring me in the face...

Do you still love the Giver more than the gift? Do you still appreciate your entire life, not just the running?  Can you be happy if your new normal does not include running for a few months?  And what about HURT100, the race you poured your heart and soul into over the last year?  It's only 7 weeks away, can you be happy without it?  I can and I will.

Of course I asked the doctor if I could be running in 7 weeks, he said, "Miracles can happen." I liked that doctor so much.  HURT100 was not in my cards, I wasn't even off crutches or strong enough to be there to cheer on my friends.  Once I was told I damaged ligaments I knew my only option was to surrender.


If it was just a bone I could still put up some goals and plans and play around with healing, this was my 6th broken bone after all.  But ligament damage was new territory for me, I'm a stranger with no experience.  If I wanted to find the purpose for my pain and see the beauty in my struggle I had to take every day a day at a time...or I'd go crazy.  I'm a planner, a girl who writes notes on the mirror as often as some people do laundry, I like to plan adventures for the weekend and find new places to get lost so I can find whatever it is my life needs.  I'm not that good at relying on others and independence has been a secret hiding place for my anxiety, it doesn't find me there if I just do everything myself.

So I let go of HURT100, of having control, of hiding out on long trail runs where I was safe, and I leaned in and on everyone that offered to help me. It was new and it was scary, I cried a lot in my humbled state.  I peed in bed pans after surgery, I ate food I didn't like without complaint because someone took the time to cook for me, I let our tidy home become a bachelor pad that Mikey and Kainoa had created.  I let a substitute take control of my students and class for 3 weeks while I had bed rest, and I kept on surrendering every single day...

And I was happy. Today is 11 weeks since I fell down that trail, 10 weeks since surgery, and 2 weeks since getting off my crutches.  While embracing my new normal I reached out to my friend on Oahu, Malory, who had done similar damage to her ankle about a year before me.  She's one of Hawaii's best trail runners who took a hard fall but rose up stronger. I wanted to be like her so I'd often write her as I went through the new stages of healing and she'd help me, just having someone understand was good for the soul (because bless their hearts people mean well but they are so very damaging with their words as you try to gain control over your healing). In fact, today was her 1 year anniversary of being broken, wearing the same scar with a plate and 10 screws like me, and she raced 60ish miles in NZ coming in 8th female overall...hope floats.  She's been my go-to in much needed moments of courage and learning to shut out voices that I just don't dare to believe.  That's why I'm writing this.  I feel like it's my turn to leave behind my healing to the next in line, because it helped me so much having her that it only feels fair to share.

Breaking yourself has 3 parts...How it happened, healing, and your return (to whatever it is you were doing before you broke yourself).  I'll share some of my healing stories now before I forget them.  I'm on the "return" part of my story and LOVING it!  They say the healing is the hard part and the return is the fun part, I can agree with that...for sake of this getting super long Dear Broken Friend I'm going to tell you more about my return another day, I only recently ditched my crutches, after all.

So if by chance you stumbled across this while sitting in what feels like the side lines of your life, you aren't side lined, this is just your new normal and it gets better.  I searched every website, blog, journal article, and post I could find on "returning to running after a broken leg", on "healing ligaments" on "who knows what" in my search for hope, for a return to running, that I'd be strong again.  It's scary because some of what I found (as every break is different) told stories about never regaining full range of motion, of damage so bad you lose feeling, or the hardware in your body being rejected, the list was long.  SO I decided to only read Malory's responses and write my own story with my doctors guiding me along.

Week 1:  Laying around in a thong because my husband picked out my clothes and changed me all that week.  He bathed me and cooked for me.  It was a real perk for our marriage, all that closeness with nothing to do but laugh at the situation.  I was beyond fortunate he was able to take my first 3 weeks off work to help me.  We binge watched Narcos, Dexter, and chick flicks.

Week 2:  Post surgery.  The swelling went down enough for surgery, in came the medicines. I got a plate and 10 screws.  The surgery is super easy, you just sleep the best sleep of your life and wake up looking fabulous! Not really, but now the healing begins.  Until I actually had surgery it felt like a waist of time, in fact I told my doctor that, because you can't even begin healing till they get in there and make it all right again.  I was super motivated this week now that Humpty Dumpty was put back together except I felt horrible.  The medicine made me a complete mess.  I was on the hard stuff which made me constipated so they gave me something for that, which made me dizzy so they gave me something for that, which made get the point.  The pain was out of control but taking 4-5 different pills everyday, multiple times a day was too much for me so I quit them on day 2 cold turkey.  I was supposed to wean myself because the body needs to rest to heal and you can't relax in pain...well...I can't relax when my head is going crazy!  I threw a tissue box at my husband and a temper tantrum.  He got me all sorts of fruits and veggies to juice, it was a total detox of drugs that had me back to me-in pain.  I always say you have to feel to heal and those drugs were just masking my pain and causing my body to react in ways I'd never experienced life.  That was a wild week in the Brown house to say the least.

Week 3-5 Purpose!  I told myself these weeks on bed rest then crutching around have a purpose and it's my job to find it.  I truly believe that.  There is always a purpose in what happens to us.  I am still allowing more to surface as I'm not fully healed but I think my purpose was time with my husband.  He went through a pretty painful season of depression just before my accident and I escaped a lot into the trails to avoid us failing to understand each other through it. That is a really long story in and of itself but it took two people who loved the hell out of each other caused them to feel alone.  I tried to talk. To listen. Neither worked.  It was a darkness for him that I could not fix but being broken and on bed rest for a couple weeks gave him purpose.  He spent his days caring about me and I was there.  I had no choice, I couldn't get up without his help so we'd lay there side by side all day and night.  All along that was all he needed, not me talking or begging to listen. We grew closer than we've ever been and all of sudden something so beautiful such as marriage made sense to us.  I'd rather miss HURT100 with a broken leg all to find a love like this.  Like I said, its a really long story but tucked deep inside a struggle there is meaning and reason and something beautiful will come of it.

Week 6 Freedom begins.  A little anyways.  I broke my right leg so driving only now became a reality once again, with my left leg that is.  Yes, I became a great driver with the left leg!  Life starts to feel stable, you are so comfortable with yourself by now it's almost like you could carry on this way as if this is all you've ever done.  Some people get to start weight bearing a little at this point, not me.

Week 7. Shhhh...It's in these weeks many will try to tell you "you'll be stronger after this", "maybe you needed to learn to appreciate", "it's life trying to slow you down".  It's up to you to believe this stuff or not. Lots will come your way and you may or may not snap.  I'm just warning you now that everyone has an opinion and you will hear it.  Mikey had to remind me that it's just people trying to care-I agree.  But do you...ignore, delete, block, I did all of the above to keep myself focused on what I believe.  But can I share my favorite one, "So you're done running now, right?"

Week 8 post surgery (9 since the break) I was able to attempt to walk!  Though most broken bones are healed by now I was left non weight bearing to give the full 8-9 weeks for my ligaments.  I couldn't even swim by now (and still haven't!!) because the boot kept rubbing my cuts open and if you get an infection they have to take the hardware out and redo the entire thing! My doctor was awesome, he told me I can put as much weight down as I can handle.  I asked him a dozen times if he was sure, is the bone healed all the way, can I really (because I know I can tolerate a lot of pain).  We took that boot right off and I walked out of his office like a baby deer taking her first in a wobbled around uncoordinated.  But I was crutch free!

Week 9 begins some awesome PT!  Well, I'd been in PT for a couple weeks now but this gets serious!  You have to learn to push through the atrophy, the scar tissue, the discomfort.  We have this window after being "stuck" that gets harder to regain range of motion if you don't get after it right away and stay on it.  I did every PT exercise like it was my job.  And I have an awesome PT, he never once gave me 3 sets of 8-10, he told me to go till fatigue, so I would do 100 in honor of HURT100.  Again, you will get super sweet people meaning very well, "slow down", "take it easy", "don't rush", but you do you.  Listen to your PT and doctor, because they know what your xrays, scans, charts, and leg look like best.  And for crying out loud, listen to your leg. It will let you know if it needs tuff love or a rest.  I'm going to share all my workouts on a side link here real soon as they are great if you are recovering from a break or just took 3 months of your life off exercise and need to start from scratch like me...

Week 10...I'm here right now and today I rode my bike outside for 3 miles with Kainoa!  I can walk without a wobble this week and the swelling is very little these days, but it's still here and it may be here for up to a year they say!  Yikes!  It's also perfectly normal so don't be worried.  At this point you feel like you could walk a mile or 5 (I haven't attempted either of those yet) and all of a sudden goals, hopes, plans, dreams, start to flood your surrendered state of mind once again.  I really like this week.  Its a beautiful balance of peace, patience, surrender, yet HOPE and a finish line are in sight.  I mean, maybe there is no finish line to this, you aren't ever the same after you change you life for months at a time and you will still have to learn to find new normals as you go until you are back running 100 mile weeks and feeling great (at least for me). If I'm as fortunate as Malory I will be running at 3 months... that is just around the corner... But again this is my story and I've surrendered to whatever it will be.

Ps...some articles, posts, stories, recovery blogs say a year and maybe never before you are running again, don't read those ones. Hope floats.