Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rationalizing My Irrational Fear of Injury

I'm terrified of being injured and not being able to run. Terrified. The kind of anxiety that I know isn't rational. Totally irrational. It's the same fear which grips me when my kids get sick. I'll get to that later. It's not the same fear I have of heights or of animals that have no appendages. It's the kind of fear that goes straight to the worst. And it leaves me helpless and emotionally ravaged.

I just finished my first run since the Chicago Polar Dash. Before the run I was in pain due to my glute. After the race my glute felt great. In fact the day after I felt great all over. On Monday a pain developed in lower left abdomen. I immediately thought, "Oh no, I have a hernia." I poked and prodded and felt around. In retrospect I'm pretty sure I bruised myself in the prodding. Today when I ran I realized that the tendons/muscles around my hip were stressed/stretched. I changed my gait and slowed down my pace to compensate. I see more strength training in the near future. I'm icing it right now. When the pain arrived though my mind went straight to the worst. Surgery. Bed rest. Never running again.

Unfortunately I have a pattern of this. Last year when I ran the Milwaukee Marathon I tore some tissue in my left calf (which may have precipitated the current hip/ab weakness). I kept digging around feeling the knot in my calf. Deep Vein Thrombosis. Never running again.

The cramp in my side six weeks after my appendectomy and one week after the Danskin Triathlon I asked my doctor about was just a regular runner's side stitch, not a suture. Thankfully the intern I talked with before my surgeon was a runner. He even asked me my mileage. I didn't know what a side stitch was, but I thought it was scar tissue or worse, something crippling. Never running again.

I do know people who have had hernias, (and run again) DVT (not running but can cross country ski) and have scar tissue (and can run). When I read about Dimity at another mother runner, I have great empathy, and my mind doesn't go to the worst. My rational mind kicks in. I know she's going to heal and what she's going through is a season. A horrible, scary season. But she's in the process of healing. Why doesn't my brain kick in for myself? Where does my Marsha Brady "We're not going to make it!!" come from? Good question.

I think honestly it comes from my mom, Tia. She died at the same age I am now -39- of ovarian cancer. My last memory of her before she died was her being carried out of the house in a lawn chair. She was so weak and frail. She had been sick for a long time before she was diagnosed. She also fought for almost two years after her diagnosis. That last image of mom stirs up all the feelings of helplessness. Her sickness causes all sorts of feelings of helplessness in me. When my kids get really sick, I'm practically useless. When Iona lost conciousness over a year ago in my arms, I panicked, and it tapped into a deep well of emotions. Thankfully, I believe in a God who will calm my fears, who will help me move foward, and who will heal my wounds.

When situations arise and my emotions come up, I pray, wrangle with my issues and do my best to move forward. I can say that it has gotten easier. I don't want to be paralyzed by fear. Perspective helps. My dad's first marathon when he was 68 is still faster than my best time. His health has declined in the past few years, but he's out there putting in his three miles almost daily, however long it takes. "All in good time," Dad says. All in good time.

So in terms of physical injury, I'll do what I need to do to heal.

In terms of my deep wounds, I'm still healing.

All in good time.


  1. Your fear makes sense, based on what happened to your mom! I mean, you can rationalize with your dad's health, but it's just not the same. Death ultimately makes us grow, but that doesn't mean it makes us fearless. :(

  2. I agree that it doesn't make us fearless, but it doesn't have to make me helpless either. Sometimes I need to calm down and take stock. It gives me a better more healthy perspective. I guess that's what I really want.