In mid-August I carried a full 5-gallon bucket of mayonnaise at work and tweaked my back. It was sore on and off for two weeks, but I just dismissed it as muscle soreness and assumed it would eventually pass. One day in late August, I got out of bed and my back exploded in pain. Desperately I tried to find a position that offered some relief, with no success. For the rest of the day I could not get comfortable or escape the pain. Thankfully, as the next few days passed, the pain subsided, but as the pain decreased I became aware of numbness spreading down the outside of my leg into the heel of my foot. I also realized that I was unable to raise up on the ball of my foot, which led to an uncomfortable borderline painful limp as I walked. After a visit to the doctor, I started regular physical therapy. Reluctantly I put my gym membership on hold for the month of September, but was optimistic that I’d return to my daily gym routine by the end of the month
September passed, and despite twice weekly physical therapy the symptoms persisted, so I tearfully put my gym membership on hold for another month. October passed with little to no improvement so I set aside my gym membership indefinitely. At the end of October my physical therapist, concerned with the lack of improvement, urged me to request an MRI. The MRI indicated a bulging disc which, albeit small, was situated such that it impinged on the S-1 nerve root, leading to the symptoms I was exhibiting.
Almost 4 months have passed during which I have not been able to work out. I honestly thought that I’d be out one, two months at the most. I haven’t taken more than two weeks off from the gym for the past seven years, and this unintentional break has been one of the biggest lessons in acceptance that I’ve ever faced. Those of you who know me well know how big a part of my life that fitness is. I’ve gone from disappointed to self-pitying to angry to depressed to scared. I have never had an injury that has kept me out of the gym until now. My recovery has been so painfully slow that I’ve been terrified that I won’t get better; that this numbness and decreased muscle strength will persist and keep me from the activities I love.
I realize that in the grand scheme of things I’m really lucky. This is not life-threatening. Fortunately, except for the first couple days of the injury, I’ve had no pain, and my sleep hasn’t been affected at all. I haven’t had to miss even one day of work. I know in my heart that the Universe gives us challenges to learn from and to grow, so I must trust and have faith in Universe’s plan, even if I think that it’s not MY plan. There is a line in the text of A Course in Miracles which has given me great comfort: One of the most difficult temptations to recognize is that to doubt a healing because of the appearance of continuing symptoms is a mistake in the form of a lack of trust.”
Over the past three weeks, the strength has SLOWLY started coming back to my calf muscle and my limp is significantly less pronounced. Last week I saw a spine specialist who was extremely heartened at how well I was doing given the MRI results taken at the beginning of November. My physical therapist has just given me the green light to carefully start working out again: perhaps a spin class, the elliptical, or weight machines. I’m a long way from doing any hill sprints, crossfit or powerlifting activities – perhaps never – but hey, I’ll take it. Up until this event, I’ve taken for granted what my body has been able to do. I know for certain that I will never take it for granted again.