Pain is not a spectator sport

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Pumpkin spice and everything nice for this cliché fall scenery photo. Gillian Massie

Others may be hurt worse than you, but that doesn’t make your experience any less

The road to recovery is painful and never ending; this is how I began September.

Putting on shoes, walking downstairs, standing for too long, all of it ending in prolonged aches in my left ankle. Throughout the day, it’s always in the back of my mind. Be careful of how you step off the curb. Make sure you hold onto the handrail. Don’t sit for too long, otherwise your ankle will be stiff. Don’t push yourself too hard. Go slow.

Pain is a double entendre in this scenario, physically representing the pain in my ankle and mentally demonstrating my own impatient frustrations with healing.

I live for the summer months every year. I could do without the bugs and ungodly heat, but it is the perfect time to be outside on my bicycle. In the evenings, I tend to lace up my runners and head out to the local track where I ride around until I have finished a podcast episode or a new album. I conclude my ride by ripping down the biggest hill in town, always finishing with a little adrenaline kick before parking my bike in the garage until the next evening.

Every summer always starts out the same. I begin with short distances, and slowly creep up to achieving greater distances at higher speeds. It is quite exciting to track my progress each year, and result in yearly comparisons of different times and distances.

In late July, all of my progress came to a halt. My first mistake was setting out shortly after it had finished raining. After a horrific heatwave summer, I was not accustomed to cycling on a wet track. On my first round of the track – going way too fast – I approached the first and sharpest turn and caught some mud. Losing control of my bike, I slid sideways off the track, putting my foot out to try and catch myself on my way down while jamming it into the concrete below me.

I laid on the ground in a muddy puddle, prayed that nobody saw what just happened, then called my dad who took me to the ER.

Injury is embarrassing. This is the first major instance that I have had to enter emergency care and I felt I had an inferior excuse to some of the rest of the individuals who need it. The shooting pain up my ankle suggested it was necessary, but I felt like a wimp explaining to the nurse that I fell off my bike. Laying in a muddy, soggy heap on the table while she flushed gravel out of my knee, I explained how my pile-up occurred.

Only, I did feel less embarrassed was when she went to remove my shoe to find that I burned off three shoelaces and a chunk of plastic from my shoe while sliding across the track. I felt it justified my injury more. It showed that my collision gave me some scars. You could see it, so it was real.

You should not have to see injury for it to be justified as a valid injury.

I crawled up the porch and into my house upon returning home from the hospital. With my ankle swollen to the size of a grapefruit, there was no way I could attend work the next morning – another embarrassment as I felt terrible leaving an already short-staffed workplace even moreso.

Returning to work the following Monday proved to be difficult. I had a very noticeable limp as I walked around, which many people asked about. In the back of my mind, I always knew that I should have taken more time off, but I felt guilt about leaving anyone short-staffed. I also did not want to look weak for not showing up to work because I was hindered by my injury. Griping and groaning would not help in this scenario and would evidently get me sent home, where I would be even more miserable. I wanted to continue with work to potentially exercise my ankle so it would continue to heal.

In a confrontation with a co-worker, I was publicly outed on how my injury was making me look unprofessional. This encounter was in front of other co-workers and where other patrons could hear, and had the end result of humiliation. If this encounter was done with my best interest (healing) in mind rather than done as a threat to make me stay working, I would have taken time off. I was never professionally pulled aside or consulted by anybody before this, and it put me on edge. I threw out any notion of requesting time off work because now I felt obligated to prove a point that I was more than my injury, and I could still perform tasks no matter my condition.

Very soon after this I re-injured myself, making it mandatory that I take time off of work. I prolonged my healing process and gained absolutely nothing by trying to prove a point. I was kicked while I was down, but I dug myself into a deeper hole by letting my ego get in the way.

Upon returning to classes in late August I finally felt ready to begin trying something to get active. I had not been in the gym since before my accident, and all I had really accomplished was a few slow bikes. I thought I completely totalled the good old beach cruiser on impact, bending the handlebar and foundation at an unnatural angle and scrapping the brakes on the ground, making it an unstoppable menace on the road. After a visit to my dad’s repair shop (A.K.A the garage) it is as good as new, with a few new detailing scrapes all around.

Back on campus for the semester, I began going for daily walks on the path around Wascana. These walks slowly progressed to jogs, and then runs. I have never been a runner, so I started off incredibly slow, but within the beauty of it I have noticed better mobility with my ankle slowly starting to form. Pain has slowly begun to subside as I begin to drop a couple of second each round I make.

Pain is not a spectator sport. The validity of your own pain should not be determined by spectators around you. You yourself know what it is that you are feeling. It should not be supressed by others around spectating or trying to define how you feel.  

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