Human beings are a species of thinkers. That is what differentiates us from the rest of the food chain. While it is said that we access a small percent of our brain’s potential, it is powerful enough to induce logic, emotion, and meta-cognition – processes that shape personage. In our mind’s eye, we visualize short and long-term consequences. Simultaneously, we make choices to engage or ignore with action that reaches beyond the primal.
I am what you would call an over-thinker: a connoisseur of concern. Obsessive thoughts and worries are my states of flow. In my experience, calm is nothing more than a fleeting moment. For protection, I weave a safety net with threads of routine and control. Until, twelve weeks ago, when I began free-falling. A tear in my plantar ripped my foot and slashed my defensive netting. It was an acute, unforeseen, and uncommon injury that occurred during a race. Of all the worrisome scenarios I had cataloged, this was not one of them.
As an adult, I found that pushing my limits and competition act as scrubs for my anxiety-riddled mind. This physical and mental rupture left me dropping at a stomach-turning pace. On my way to the bottom, I frantically sought respite, purpose, and meaning.
Plunging from sky-high goals and dreams, I looked to clouds to break my fall. As a child, I often imagined what it would be like to lay on a cloud. I day-dreamed about passing time and traveling adrift on the wind, a softness cradling my body. Adulthood comes at an unfortunate cost to fantasy. Clouds, I realized, were not solid after all, but mere mirages in my panicked decent.
Enacting my resiliency, I located the treetops. Support was there if I could only grip; reaching for every branch, I finally landed on a sturdy limb. There, covered in cobwebs, I found a stronghold in my voice. Like the cowardly lion and his courage, it was with me all along.
Putting words to page washed my worry just as competing had scoured my sorrows. Starved for an outlet, I found my appetite ferocious. The lush canopy and its fruit offered a fresh perspective and, with it, an abundant source of motivating subject matter ripe for recording. To establish a schedule, I assigned myself deadlines, which brought a much-needed sense of order to my mental chaos.
Writing did not replace my desire for competition, nor did it wipe out my anxiety and depression. Nonetheless, it was the foundation on which I began to build a new structure. Much sturdier than a safety net, I constructed a tree house. With persistence and will, I framed my sustainable haven in the foliage. In this space, through writing, I replenished my mental strength; all the while, through rehab, I developed my physical strength.
June marks an awaited, yet terrifying, transition back to terra firma. Cooperating with the recovery plan tested my patience, but I endured. Two months on crutches and five days a week of running in the pool, I protected and maintained as much as possible. For all that, running is high impact. So, in May, I pieced together a ladder to shore up a safe return to training.
Adding the Alter-G treadmill to my routine, I was able to start running while removing some of gravity’s force on my healing foot. Gradually, I built in body weight and confidence in my body’s healing capacity. Over 12 runs, I went from 50%to 100% of my weight. Each successful session was a physical and psychological rung in the ladder leading me back to the pavement. Somehow, despite the scaffolding, it still feels like a bit of a trust fall. Yet, tomorrow the calendar page turns; so, trust I must.
Pushing myself is wrapped in tremendous reward and inherent risk. Before my injury, I would have told you that I could not tolerate an incident such as this. I perceived my ability to compete as a sole truss to my mental health. Today, I am a living testament to the opposite.
When the inevitable strikes, we sometimes seek solace in the stories of those who have overcome similar obstacles. The proof is what we crave. Proof that we can come back. Better yet, proof that we can not only survive but thrive. Hence, this record as reflective evidence – a blueprint to my treehouse and entry for my growing body of proof, come what may …in June.
“When shifts and transitions in life shake you to the core, see that as a sign of greatness that’s about to occur.” ~Unknown