My ankle isn’t better.
I went to the doctor on Thursday of last week, and while I was finally absolved of my tentative diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, two of my nerves are damaged, I have tendonosis in two tendons, and I may have torn those two tendons again.*
In May it will be 4 years since I went for that fateful run. And then went for the next run and the next run and the next until I couldn’t walk.
In some ways, I consider my constant pain a huge blessing, because it was what forced me to recover from my exercise addiction. Even when I fought it, at the end of the day, my ankle beat ED every time.
Over the past 4 years, I’ve struggled with this blessing and this curse: I have sat with the hate, the impatience, and the pain, and I have reveled in the gratitude I feel for this injury having saved my life and forced me to recover.
One of the scariest truths that I’ve ever had to face was the prospect of always having this pain. That, despite every treatment, medication, or modality, the pain will always be a part of me.
At the seminar I went to a few weeks ago with Kyle Cease, he mentioned the following quote:
“A negative situation happens as many times as it needs to until it’s no longer useful.”
I’ve been inundated with potential triggers a lot lately. Since my company moved into its new office, everyone has been on a “health and fitness” kick, and my cubicle is no longer isolated from others’—which means that I get to be privy to constant talk about going on diets, losing weight, and exercising more—by women who think they are fat, but are thinner than I am.
And in another life, at another time, I would have used the team’s every-hour-on-the-hour 1 minute plank breaks and 8 floor stair climbs as an excuse to hurt myself. Even a few years ago, I would have used these triggers as an excuse to start dieting again, or to up my hours of exercise as much as possible. Especially the exercise.**
And this is why I am grateful for the pain: because even when the whispers of the voice that once was my closest confidant start amplifying, I have an out. An excuse and a reminder not to listen.
An addiction can last forever, even after you have recovered. It’s true. The neural pathways, the behaviors, the associations you have with the addiction remain, long after you’ve removed the substance or the situation. But. You don’t have to give in. That’s the beautiful thing about this whole process: you can be an addict and NEVER participate in the behaviors ever again.
I share this to be completely transparent about the recovery process—the voice of my ED will always be there with me, and the voices of others will serve to try to amplify it. But I have the reminder that I don’t ever have to listen again. My “negative situation” is still useful.
It won’t always be useful though. I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring the triggers on my own. At putting myself and self-care first. At developing my coping skills, my sense of self-worth and self-determination, my priorities.
And someday, this pain will not be useful at all. I don’t know when. And I’m okay with that.
I don’t wish pain or injury upon anyone. But I’m glad that I had a reason to recover and a reminder to stay recovered. To ignore the triggers and avoid the urges. To accept my body, pain and all, as the vessel that allows me to enjoy this life, not as the stumbling block that hinders it.
Which prompts me to ask: is there a negative situation or thought pattern in your life that keeps on happening? What use does this negativity have to you, in your context right now? How can you turn it into a tool to help you on your journey to loving your body and your life? How can you use it to keep you from stumbling, let alone falling down?
In today’s podcast, I spoke with the incredible Louise Androlia about chronic pain, body image, and acceptance—and if you’re still stuck in your negative situation, whatever it is, I really think you should:
*There is a good chance that the tears that were picked up by the MRI are not actually tears, but shadows of the areas that were repaired during my previous surgeries. I’m going for yet another opinion in mid-April, and I’ll keep you all apprised of the situation.
** I still do pole dancing and pilates, but I know when to stop pushing myself, leave a class early, or not go at all. I’m getting better a listening to the cues my body gives me, even when my brain doesn’t want to listen to them…