Injury: A Lesson in Awareness

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As someone experienced in injuries – something to be related at length in different post – I shouldn’t have been surprised that the unusual heavy practice was bound to result in something midway. Luckily, it wasn’t as major as some earlier injuries, but something fairly simple: extensor tendinitis in the right foot. “Not too bad,” I said to myself while leaving the clinic Saturday, truly glad it’s not a fracture. With all the pain that wouldn’t ease with ice and medication, I started to worry.
Few days off the road aren’t too much, but I’m truly missing a good run! I didn’t think I would ever say that, but running has become my refuge. Over and above, there’s a boiling concern that every day out of the road costs at least a couple of days of additional needed activities. I couldn’t afford it! Yet there’s no escape: some rest is essential so I don’t hurt it further.
The forced break was a true lesson! As always, once I put a certain goal in front of my eyes, it becomes hard to notice the rest of my life. It’s as if my sight narrows down to the objective, failing to see small simmering factors that could have been avoided had I caught attention earlier. Friday and Saturday I had to do major house clean-up for pest control … including moving little doggy out with me to another place. The whole activity had been underway for weeks, but Saturday was the actual spray date, so Friday was the hectic day of all the arrangements.
My body that wasn’t so used to hectic action suddenly found itself engaged in manual labor all day: I didn’t pause to breathe until midnight Friday. My sore legs didn’t stop me, neither did the pain on top of my foot. I was on it and no budging or distraction. Yet Saturday the harshest part of the lesson was on: I couldn’t step on my foot! A sharp burn cut through between my toes up to the ankle. Ice didn’t help. Voltaren, ibuprofen, Vicks … nothing took the pain away for more than 15-30 min. I started to worry!
Gladly, the doctor trip reassured that nothing major was damaged and nothing that few days rest can’t resolve. But while I’m at it, I asked the doctor to check my back pain and my ITB. He was astonished! “You were running with all this?” My positive response didn’t sound as proud as it had been meant to!
As a child, we were taught to bear pain ‘like men’ (sorry for the sexist notion, but that’s how they said it really even to us girls). Little or big pains weren’t cause to stop activity or wonder. Only when pain reaches a level of complete control is one allowed to complain and consider checking what’s going on. I carried this to adulthood: learning to silence such pains with as much power and determination, not allowing them to stop me from what I’m at.
Yet there’s a price to pay!
The prices I paid for ignoring pain all my life had been tremendous! Only at the age of 31 I learnt finally to listen – a bit better at least! – and understand what pain is trying to tell me. If something isn’t feeling well, I need to understand the reason and ease my body so it doesn’t get worse. “Ignoring pain was better than not feeling it,” was my new model. After years of practicing this to the other extreme – i.e. screaming for every tiny blister and new shoe – I’m still finding my middle ground. Apparently, the pendulum has slowly swung across without me noticing and this injury was my wake-up call: feel the pain, recognize it, and decide what to do with it. Shutting down my pain was the worst experience of my adulthood and, at 40, it’s no joke! The body calls for help and listening is a skill to foster… even if I decide to do nothing or just ease it slowly.
But the lesson was stronger as I limped my way to finish few urgent errands Sunday! As I tried to cross the busy streets at slow motion I was nearly run over twice. Up and down sidewalks was such hassle that I opted for walking next to the cars – very usual in Cairo unfortunately. These slow, shaky steps resembled my mother’s as those of many of the elderly residents of this city. I felt their pain and challenges like never before! They live like this, and worse even, they don’t have much hope for ever getting better, but mostly fear that it will get worse eventually.
The experience certainly left me more compassionate and determined to be more mindful if any of the challenged inhabitants of this rough city ever need help.
I felt indefinite gratitude that my injury is nothing major and nothing for life … enough of those already! I was grateful to look forward to better days … really grateful!
Right now, after three days of rest, I feel much better already, and almost want to rush to the street tomorrow morning. But my divided heart is telling me to slow down for one more day: it’s not the end of the world and there’s still pain that is getting worse in my back – bad posture for days and heavy carrying!
I think I’m going to take it easy for one more day and see what happens after tomorrow. If tomorrow turned out a great day, I could even do an evening run … why not?

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