I cannot write, because I cannot think, because I am in extraordinary pain, because I did not listen to my body over the past few weeks when it sent out warnings of intermittent pain -a spasm here, a tightening there, an occasional shot of “oh fuck what was that” -all of which I ignored.

I can’t stand up, I can barely sit down. I am learning a lesson I have learned over and over and over, one which I can’t quite make stick: listen to my body! Why am I so stubborn? Why must I insist in ignoring pain? Why must I minimize pain? Why do I only feel whole when I am active?

There is nothing like an injury to bring up the hard questions.

I don’t really have any answers right now. The pain, as I may have mentioned, is crowding out most space for thought. But I do know that my selfish desire to hurt myself, to work through pain, to refuse to ask for help has to stop.

I have always found power in suffering, and have prided myself in having a high tolerance for pain. This has led me down many dark holes, the most pernicious of which, I am coming to realize, is my inability to respect my body’s signals. I have had four stress fractures in the past ten years (more, if you count each of the bones in my foot that crumbled under the stress of too many miles too quickly) and ran through parts of the recovery process of all of them, behind the backs of doctors, coaches, friends and family.

I am loathe to use the word addiction in any context, but I certainly mimicked the actions of an addict. I hid my running and delayed my recovery, all the while convincing myself I was making the right decisions, the only possible decisions. I was certain that the only way to health (mental and physical) was through running and so I made running (not health) my top priority.

And I became injured. Again and again. It doesn’t help that I have completed great feats while injured: I ran my second fastest marathon time with what was probably a torn meniscus (I didn’t have health insurance at the time and so never had any scans or tests for a formal diagnosis). That I could have run my fastest marathon by several minutes had I not been injured is beside the point in the story I have told myself. If I did it then, why not again? The voices ask.

The voices are myopic and cruel. They prefer short-term goals over long-term, and no matter what my personal beliefs reflect, I listen to them. Every time.

I say my health is a priority. I say I value strength over fitness. But my actions do not reflect my values.

In an attempt to align myself, I want to take the creative energy I reserve for running and transfer it to self-care and self-reflection. I want to go where I have refused to go before: into the deep dark place inside of me that considers suffering a blessing and rest a form of moral weakness. I want to unpin my irrational beliefs. This work is going to be hard. I do not honestly know if I can succeed. But I am here. I am ready. I am open for change and for healing.

I can do hard work, this I know. I can grit my teeth and push for one more mile, one more repeat, one more hill. I can push my physical body to its limit, and then continue on with a smile.

My workout now is spiritual. I am called to push one bit closer, closer than is comfortable, to my truth. If I succeed in this, I will be that much closer to defeating the voices and respecting my body.


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