I keep a post-it note stuck to my mirror. Another one at my desk. There are three words on it: Progress, not perfection. A wise friend said that to me a few months ago, when I was in the early stages of recovery and struggling to accept the new limits thrown at me after only just discovering I was limitless. It was only two or three weeks after my MRI, I’d just found out I could no longer run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon (my first ever), and I was basically being relegated to couch potato status. After losing 50 pounds and just surpassing the halfway point in my training, I was feeling the crushing weight that comes with life’s major upsets.
To be fair, I’ve had them before. I moved halfway across the country and struggled to find a job. I was diagnosed with PCOS. I’m broke as fuck, living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, living paycheck to paycheck. I’ll never be tall enough to play professional basketball (not that I’d ever want to, but hey!). Life isn’t always easy, but 2015 was the year I found that inner peace and happiness so many of us strive for.
Lately that peace has been chipped away at. I’m a naturally optimistic person, so I chose to come at this injury/roadblock/newfound limitation with a positive attitude. At least I still had my legs. It wasn’t like I’d never run again, it was just going to take some time. I am nothing if not patient. I could wait.
So I did everything my doctors told me, to a T. Stretched 2-3 times a day, did my exercises, limited myself to modified spinning, never pushed myself. Half the time I basically just sat on a bike to be in the room and just revel in everyone else’s energy because it sounds corny, but it really helped.
After three and a half months, I was done with physical therapy, but continued to follow the plan my therapist and I had created. The game plan involved a renewed attempt at running, which I tried and failed at. I guess I needed more time. Again, I’m a patient person, and I’ve become an expert at listening to my body, so that was fine. I could give it another month before making an attempt.
Then the pain started to get worse. Whereas I’d been at a pretty consistent 0 or 1 for a few weeks, and was assured by my PT that another few weeks and I should be back to normal, I was waffling between a 3 and a 5, with no real explanation. Sure, I’d tried running, but it was day one of C25K — I’d barely run half a mile. And I’d taken the necessary recovery days after, and had been extra careful since. But I was concerned that something was wrong. My body felt off. At this point, I know the difference between normal and broken, and something was definitely still broken.
So I went back to see my physical therapist.
This morning I looked at the post-it on my mirror and made myself repeat it out loud. I said it until I believed it. I did my stretches, I popped a few ibuprofen, and I walked out the door with the understanding that today is a new day. I’m not running today. I’m not even walking a long distance (the five blocks to the subway doesn’t count). I’m still not allowed to work out sans spinning or swimming, and it’s frustrating, but again I need to take a step back and remind myself that it will be an option in the future. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.