I started writing “A Year in My Body”* about a year ago while sitting on my couch, my leg locked into a machine that moved it back and forth. My body and I have been through a lot together, from throwing up meals on abandoned street corners to running for seven hours in the African foothills. However, it seemed like that one year, from my 32nd birthday to my 33rd, held some of its greatest ups and downs, so I wrote down those moments, being as brutally honest as I could in hopes someone else could relate.
Following the final posting, I had hoped to write a long, nuanced blog about what has happened in the last year, but, to be honest, I don’t really have the time for that. Between school, my graduate assistantship, and the part-time job I picked up, time dedicated to writing has diminished. Even so, I wanted to give you a quick wrap up as to what has happened in the last year during my recovery and finding a new normal in my body.
So, from my 33rd to my 34th birthday, here is “A Year in My Body: The Condensed Version”:
- I was on crutches and in a body brace for a month. In that time, I worked mostly from home, and spent most of the time on the couch. Ethan was unemployed at this time, and although we had just got engaged, it was a really low moment for both of us.
- In December, I went wedding dress shopping. I could have lost 20 pounds, and still not had the body I wanted for this activity. Going into that weekend, I knew that the hate I had for my body would likely try to dampen the experience, which I didn’t want to happen mostly for my mother. Buying her daughter a wedding dress is something my mom has waited decades for, so I tried to put behind any feelings of grotesque I held toward my body as not to ruin this for her. In the end, it was a great weekend and we found a dress that complimented my body type well.
- At the beginning of the new year, I bought a fancy gym membership and went four to five days a week. The goal was to shape my arms and whittle my thighs through strength exercising. I was biking and using the elliptical, with the blessings of both my surgeon and physical therapist. I even got the green light for a few minutes of running and yoga.
- My hip pain disappeared for a week, but then came back with fire. It could have been the running, or a yoga class, or even an intense water aerobics class. Whatever it was, it set my recovery back two months. I had to start from the beginning.
- The person I saw the most, outside of my husband and co-workers, was my physical therapist. I know about her dating life, she knows the details of my wedding. She is a wonderful therapist, and I like our chats, but I desperately wanted to stop seeing her. A few friends have small injuries that need PT attention; and I was jealous that their stints with the therapist are so short.
- I did not run on my wedding day. It’s May, It always seemed natural to me that before I slipped into my white dress, I would put on my running shoes and take one last jaunt as a single woman. But, because the hip pain was persistent, that could not happen. I cried for days. In losing running, I’ve lost a friend.
- My friends took me to a psychic for my bachelorette party. Before she gave me the reading, she asked me to think of things I must know. I had three questions: 1) Am I marrying the right man? 2) Should I quit my job and go to graduate school? 3) Will I ever run again? Yes, yes, and no. She told me I am done with running and I should focus on water sports.
- To tame the pain, my PT used dry needling. In front of the other clients doing exercises and waiting their turn on the table, she stabbed me with small needles, repeatedly. She said this releases the muscle and tissue tension. It hurt, and I made faces of pain, but it worked. My hip pain lessened with each session.
- Swimming is not running. I know that I was a swimmer before I was a runner, but it is the not the same. The basement pool at my fancy gym is nice, but lonely. I do not have the same feelings of strength and belonging in the pool that I do while running. I did a few swims, but I can’t commit to it. Then, one day at the gym, I learn that there is a rooftop pool that is open for lap swim. Maybe I will try that.
- I woke up wanting to swim. I sometimes can’t sleep because I am so excited to get back into the pool. In the early mornings, I took a bus from my house to the gym so I can swim in the rooftop pool. Something about being outdoors in that tiny pool reminded me of summers at the Pierre City Pool when I first fell in love with swimming. I love the way the light hits the water, the site of my stroke as I turn to breathe, how my body still knowns how to do a flip turn after all these years. I feel strong in the water. I feel like I belong.
- Two weeks before my wedding, I cut out carbs, sweets, alcohol—basically everything but vegetables. I lost eight pounds, reaching a weight I haven’t seen high school. It is a crash diet, and I regained all of those eight pounds after the wedding, but I did not care. I just needed to look a bit thinner for my wedding day. Not too thin that I get sad each time I look at my wedding photos, but just thin enough. My wedding day came, and it was OK that I didn’t run. I spent the morning drinking coffee and chatting with my friends. And, when I put on my dress, I felt stunning.
- I moved my swims to Lake Michigan. On Saturday mornings, when I would have been doing long rungs, I did long swims. I entered the lake at the beach near my house, in Rogers Park, and then swim until I see Loyola University. It’s a mile and half, maybe two. Maybe it’s dangerous to be out there alone, but I love it. Me and the water, spending time together under the sun.
- In August, just as I was running out of appointments that my insurance will cover, I have my last with my PT. She gave me the clear to start running again.
- It’s been a year since my surgery, and I wanted to acknowledge this day, I am running again and feeling good, so I decided to run eight miles to celebrate how far I’ve come. The last time I did that was in February 2017, and it was after that run that I understood someone was really wrong with my hip and made the appointment to see my doctor. So, on a Saturday morning, I set out on eight miles. At one point, I consider 10, but decide against it. I no longer do things just to see if I can. I have to listen to my body if I want to make sure running stays around. By mile six, I was happy with the eight, because while my hip feels great, my fitness is lacking. I can run the miles, but not fast. I finished tired, but there was no hip pain.
- On the morning of my 34th birthday, I was a bit sad with feelings of insecurity around my relationships. To shake it off, I went for a run. Four lovely fall miles. My mood brightened; running can still lift my soul from the depths of anxiety. Thinking back to last year, spending most of my birthday in pain, it’s already a better birthday. I have a new husband, a good family, close friends, a new career path. And, I have running again.