The Art of Injury Part 2
Last Wednesday, whilst warming up my GoodGym group, I turned my ankle and it made a nice popping sound. I rolled around on the grass muttering 'f**k' and wondering if I'd broken it. I then nearly fainted and had to be held up by my runners who rallied round and took excellent care of me. They are absolutely amazing.
The seven hour wait in Urgent Care was the easy part. The tough part came on Saturday when, after two days of barely moving, I had a touch of the ol' cabin fever. I wallowed, I moped, I felt sorry for myself. If you were looking for the world's tiniest violin on Saturday I had it and it was in full use.
This is where the mindfulness comes in. Saturday was an exercise in 'sitting with the difficult'. I remember the first time my mum suggested I try this a few years ago (she's a mindfulness practitioner). I was overwhelmed by panic, anxiety, sadness and all those painful emotions we hate to have. I was hysterical, could barely speak through the sobbing and shallow breathing. She said to me:
"I know this sounds crazy but sit somewhere quiet, close your eyes, focus on your breathing and let the emotions in. What's the worst that can happen? Let them flow. It will feel horrible to start with but they'll pass."
It sounded totally bonkers. HAVE THE FEELINGS? WHAT??? SHOULDN'T I BE PICTURING MYSELF IN A FORESTY WATERFALL SURROUNDED BY BIRDS CHIRPING AND SOMEHOW ALSO WHALE NOISES AND THAT NICE SOUND OF RAINFALL ON WINDOW PANES?! I tried it because my mum is always right about everything. And yes, it felt very uncomfortable, it was painful but it lightened the load. It was the beginning of actually processing those difficult feelings and it revealed the sneaky truth - the feelings in themselves actually aren't that scary, if you can sit with them and let them go by. They get real scary when you squash them and they come out in all sorts of horrible ways years down the line.
The physical pain I was experiencing on Saturday was next to nothing. The emotional pain felt monumental. So I had to sit with it. It was difficult, my brain was still whirring away at worst case scenarios: all the things I could be doing, what I might have lost training wise, who was I if I wasn't active? I can't say it resolved the issue completely but it certainly brought some perspective. I gave those feelings some space and acknowledgement and it was a big step in my recovery.
What also helped was reading this article by Amanda Loudin about mindfulness and recovery from injury. Her comments on a feeling of loss identity particularly struck me. My emotional struggle is by no means unusual, in fact it is extremely common.
...Squashing these feelings would be like training through the injury - the fragile ligament will tear again and I won't be able to return to full health for much longer.
Any sportsperson, physio, trainer, dog, cat, friendly person in the street would tell you that. It's common sense. So why would our emotions be any different?
Keep running happy,
P.S Try a guided 'sitting with the difficult' mindfulness exercise with Michael Chaskalson here.