Sunday, December 20, 2015

A lesson in radical acceptance

I was about a year and a half into Crossfit when I tore my ACL playing soccer.  Although soccer had been my go-to sport all of my life, I haven't had much desire to get back to it since my injury.  Yes, it would be nice to "make friends" with soccer again, as I almost feel as if it let me down.  So, kicking a ball around is probably in my future--but not likely anything competitive.  Crossfit, on the other hand, just won't seem to go away.

Its not that Crossfit is something that I was really good at.  Its that it gives me strength, confidence, and a sense of community.  Crossfit somehow manages to spill out into everything you do in life.  For those of you who have never tried it, I'm sure you think that sounds crazy.  But for whatever reason, I have stuck with it, day in and day out, and I can't see myself NOT doing it.

In August (6 months post-second surgery) I had finally been cleared by my PT to run and jump--and my insurance visits had basically run out.  So I was rehabbing on my own at my Crossfit gym.  At the time, I was hiking a lot for a job, and my strength did seem to be improving, but I still struggled with full extension and stiffness.  So I was reluctant to run.  I started out with ladder work and then short jogs at the gym--when no one was around.  Then during one of the WODs, I did my first warm up jog with the rest of the class.  They were, of course, supportive and congratulatory. But it did hurt to run.  I figured, after all the pain I had been through, that this was just part of the deal.  I didn't HAVE to run, but I felt like, I SHOULD be able to, and I could slowly work up to more and more.  I was happy, I was positive, I had a goal, and I was finally making progress.  I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

Still struggling with overcompensation during squats (I'd feel sore only on my good side afterwards), I attempted to talk to my Crossfit coach about how to approach squats, running, and my future in Crossfit.  She had already told me she didn't think I should be running, even though I had been cleared.  And she had some experience with PT and knee rehab--so I was often torn about who to listen to.  But when I approached her about it, instead of discussing a plan for the future, she and another PT who knew nothing about me, told me I should go back to therapy.  They determined that I was very "far behind" and should not be running and should probably not even be squatting.

In my mind, the two of them had just taken months of progress away from me in one 10 minute conversation. I was devastated.  I walked away from the conversation, back into the empty gym, and went back to one arm barbell snatches with tears streaming down my face.  It wasn't the first time I had cried in that gym.  But it was the last.  Because a few weeks later, they "encouraged" me to leave the gym all together--and to "seek proper care" for my knee.

I had no health insurance visits left, I had no more gym to do my own PT, and my heart felt more broken than my knee did.  I had been at that gym for a year and a half, was injured during the majority of it, and all I wanted to do was be able to keep doing Crossfit.  I wanted to get the strength back in my weakened leg, and to get back to my normal life. I wanted to workout with my friends.  I wanted to not be terrified to do things because I might hurt myself again.  I wanted to stop feeling like every little thing I did could be the WRONG thing to do.

In only a few days after being "kicked out", I pulled myself back together.  I did seek a second opinion for my knee from an ACL specialist, and ironically, they determined that I was not strong enough be running or jumping.  Then I scheduled an assessment at another Crossfit box in town--and I honestly thought they would "reject" me because of my limitations.  Instead, they offered me specific programming, and just like that, I was back in the gym.

In those few days between leaving one gym and starting at a new one, I realized something very important.  Ever since I had injured my knee, I had been seeking help from others to "fix" me.  Afterall, I'm not an orthopedic surgeon, an athletic trainer, a physical therapist, a personal trainer, or a Crossfit coach.  Of course I needed help.  And these people made promises they could not keep--that they would, in fact, help me get back to sport.  But, if you have been through this injury or a similar one, you know that it takes a TON of willpower to do what your team of specialists tells you to do.  It's hard to know how hard to push and when to rest.  You never know if you are doing enough or the right thing.  And you have set backs.  Most importantly, you can't predict how your body will respond to surgery.  And it's even worse when your team of specialists doesn't really give you the support you need to get "back to sport" because THEY weren't anticipating setbacks.

But, I finally realized that *I* was all that I had.  That I wanted a fully functional knee, that I wanted to keep doing Crossfit, and that no one was going to do the work for me.  I had already been busting my ass of course, and doing the best I could with what I knew, but I still wanted someone to "save me".  I wanted someone to give me a magic pill that would make it better.  I wanted someone to motivate me.  Encourage me.  To push me.  To give me advice.  To tell me what to do and how.  But in reality, all I really needed was to find that trust and fight within myself.  Because there was no one else as dedicated to me than me. I knew enough to keep moving forward, and I could still seek out new specialists for help, but I was the most important factor in everything.  Not some gym.  Not some coach.  Not some therapist.

I can't tell you how many times people have told me that I "should be further along" or "should have done A, B, and C".  I had enough trouble keeping those thoughts out of my own head, I certainly didn't need doctors telling me the same thing.  It wasn't helpful. I felt like the person in the little cartoon to the left.

Radical acceptance is about accepting life on life’s terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical acceptance is about saying yes to life, just as it is.  I can keep working on my ROM and my strength.  And I can keep doing Crossfit as best I can.  I cannot change anything from the past.  I cannot change the fact that my knee is not what it used to be.  I cannot force people to help me when they don't want to, or don't know how.  But I can keep moving forward, step by step, in the direction that I want to go in.  

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