“You are today what you choose to think today. If today I think that I suck, then I will suck. If today I am an athlete doing everything possible to cope with my injury, then I will cope calmly.” — Terri Schneider
It was the first time in months, I was able to go out and walk on a trail. The early morning frost shimmered off snow covered moss. Birds chirped alongside trickling creek beds as the sun peeked through barren trees. My leg ached in my boot as I hobbled through the cold, crutch by my side. I paused for a moment, closed my eyes and let out a sigh of content. I could feel all my worries, all of my anxiety and all of my pain slowly dissipate.
Sometimes, I try to think of every excuse as to why this all happened and the alternative scenarios that could’ve played out. All I know is that I was dealt a really unlucky card that night and it’s a scene I replay over and over again every night before bed. I’m transported back to Mt. Pisgah, where I recall that exact moment when my foot slipped forward off that wet, leafy rock. I remember watching my leg crumble underneath me, deforming under the force of torque and impact. I remember feeling that searing pain and pressure as my leg snapped like one of the branches above, sending shock all throughout my body.
Disbelief and adrenaline had me gasping for air, but also screaming like hell. I cursed at the spirit in the sky as I punched the Earth below. So loud and hysterical, I have never felt so out of control. I kept screaming, asking why had this happened? I had just returned back into my running after taking an entire year off to recover from a pelvic stress fracture and now this. I could hear my two buddies trying to console me, trying to hold me close, but my sanity was gone. All reasoning had vanished. Hours later I was in a stokes basket being carried down by Search and Rescue towards an ambulance. Wet droplets fluttered down onto my eyelids and rolled down my cheeks. They mixed with salty tears and sunk into a broken being. Helplessly, I laid there and stared up at the leaves illuminated by the moonlight. It all looked so peaceful up above amidst the chaos within me below.
I had surgery the next day to place a rod in my tibia and screws in my ankle. I was told that recovery would take about 12 weeks total with all of it being non-weight bearing. I left for home feeling defeated and broken, but trying to stay optimistic in front of others. I remember that night one of the rescue squad members suggested to me that maybe I shouldn’t take up trail running anymore because it was dangerous. I even had people closest to me in my life suggest that I stop because I kept injuring myself. What if I just gave it all up?
Running is very much a mental game we play with ourselves that reveals our true strengths and weaknesses. One of the reasons why I love it so much, is because I enjoy working through those challenges. In a way, this injury is no different. I can sit on the couch and curse at my leg and feel sorry for myself all I want, but how will that help to foster a healthy recovery? If anything, this accident brought about a broader perspective as to what it’s like being very dependent on others for help and learning to cope with such physical limitations. Even today, relearning how to walk has been a humbling experience in itself. The bruises and scars will always remain, but to me they serve as a reminder that even during our weakest moments we can find strength within ourselves.
Time heals all, even broken legs and a broken heart, you just have to give yourself a chance to be gentle with yourself. I was once told that it’s hardships like these that allow for us to grow and to appreciate joy when it comes our way. We must choose the path to remain optimistic and know that small progress is progress. However, it’s okay to still feel those uglier emotions just as long as we don’t dwell on them. It’s hard to keep that overall goal into perspective, but I know that this hardship will pass in time. For now, I am beyond grateful for my friends, my family and especially my running community for their support and love. You would be surprised to know how much people truly care for you.
You are what you choose to think today and today I choose to be happy, to be grateful, and to be strong. What do you choose?