Updated: Aug 26, 2020
I put off writing this post a bit because, well frankly, I didn't want to write it. Its a miserable, basically all bad news story. But, I promise, if you make it through to the end, there should be a good message. I've had more than enough time to think and reflect- and although there was a majority of negatives going on- I've also had to summon new levels of strength, courage, and self-encouragement along the way.
Another note: I'm at the very begining of this entry, but I must add to please excuse the quality of my writing. My head, body, and soul are the most tired they've ever been and while I normally love proofreading, who knows what form this will take.
Okay! First up of course is quarantine training. I was actually handling this part really well, finding creative ways to work out wasn't putting too much of a damper on my mood. I was prepared to do what I had to do and felt like I had a great community of support around me anyways.
I had been sort of dealing with some hamstring pain leading up to the quarantine restrictions. At training camp this winter, I took some days off on sprint days because of this pulling feeling I was having in my right hamstring. This decision was based purely on a "this doesn't feel right" diagnosis and I would rest and be fine.
This pattern unfortunately persisted for a while so I finally decided to really cut back and was primarily biking/resting for awhile. Ultimately, I was able to talk to physical therapists and identify some issues in my form and body. With the resting I had done, and new exercises to strengthen where I was lacking, I got ready to phase back into more of a normal training routine.
First day back on the track!
Not doing anything difficult or special, just strides. It was one of the first super hot days this year and I was so excited to be back.
Unfortunately, right after I finished I started to feel some pain in my head that slowly was building in intensity. This pain was familiar to me, I have had what I thought were migraine headaches a few times in the past, so I was equipped with a pill which I promptly took and headed home to wait out the storm.
About a year and a half ago, I experienced these severe headaches every morning for about a week. It was absolutely maddening- waking up each morning with a debilitating headache, popping a pill and waiting for it to end. I would go back to sleep and text my coach to let him know I'd have to workout later.
After talking to a doctor, I learned that what I was experiencing is called cluster headaches.
To help summarize this rare disorder, I'm pulling a line from this article in the Atlantic: "the rare 'suicide-headache' is lesser-known than migraines, widely misunderstood, and often described as the worst pain known to humans."
So every morning I was waking up to level-10, burning, hot poker sensation on the right side of my head. Within 1-2 maddening hours the pain would subside. It was horrible, traumatizing, and every night I had to go to bed knowing this would probably happen again.
So, because of what had happened to me back in 2018, I was aware of what was happening again that day at the track. As upset as I was that this was starting again, I thought that, like before, I would experience these headaches for a few days, be fine when I wasn't having an attack, and move on again.
Boy was I wrong! I started having 2 headache attacks a day. In between headaches I still had pain that left me on the couch with an ice pack 90% of the time.
I tried so many medications. Like got to the point where the man at the pharmacy said "I feel like I see you every single day!"
During an attack, the pain is so bad that you can't lay down, speak, or hardly think. All you can do is wait for the pain to go away. You can't cry either- it makes it worse. In my case this time, the pain would minimize finally, but never fully go away.
I went to an Urgent Care just over a week into the ordeal and was given more medication that ultimately didn't help. Some of the attacks got even worse and lasted for 3+ hours. There have been two days where the headaches were so long and severe that I couldn't take it anymore and headed to the ER.
The second trip to the ER finally gave me medicine that seemed to help. For the first time in two weeks, I woke up and had a full day without an attack. It was the most glorious thing.
I was given medication that decreased in dosage for the next week, and while I still had pain, I spoke to a neurologist and we hoped that it was finally over. After 2 weeks of this, my head was bound to be sore- made sense to me.
Unfortunately, more bad news.
I told ya it wasn't a fun story. The day after the medication stopped, I felt another attack coming on. Fortunately, it responded really well to the medicine I took and never got anywhere near as severe as what I had been dealing with before.
Unfortunately however, my luck didn't last and within 2 days I experienced another ferocious attack.
That's probably more than enough info. on the physical side. As of writing this, I've experienced several days of mediocre comfort (aka, no attacks but still feel crappy) thanks to another dosage of medicine. And I can only hope that this is the end of the line and tomorrow I continue to get better, without medicine.
(I feel like its important to add quick, I had my head scanned and nothing life-threatening was discovered.)
flowers, to show the better part of this post is coming.
If you're wondering how this is a training update, well:
I haven't been able to train in a month.
I've barely been able to move for a month.
My fitness is entirely gone.
Mentally and physically I have gone through the hardest, scariest time of my life.
And I have to find a way to bounce back from this.
I am 'back at square one'. For probably the first time ever. The most intensive workout I've done in the last month is a slow walk around my community. Not to mention, I now have a rare, difficult to treat, disorder on my mind. Ugh.
Every day I'm questioning what that means for the future of my life. It feels like my world is falling in on top of me and that everything I dreamed of doing is going to become impossible. Mentally wrapping my head around all of it isn't as difficult as the pain at its worst, obviously, but its a different type of pain that is just as debilitating.
Not only am I facing the challenge of how will I come back from this physically, but how will I heal and recover my mind and soul.
For now, I don't fully know.
So, what do I know?
I know that I have a newfound appreciation for... literally everything. The other day when I was having a good day I sat outside on a bench and I was so thankful to feel the sun on my face and the breeze. Its absurd how grateful I felt for this smallest thing.
I never want to take even the smallest things for granted. I am blessed in so many ways, and I don't always think about it. Perhaps sometimes you have to get to your lowest point to remember just how phenomenal "normal" is.
Being thankful for the little things makes every day easier. You're just happy to be there and grateful to be doing what you do. I'm excited to feel that.
I know that I will have a fresh slate. If you add it all up, my body has been "resting" from the typical demands of a training season for quite a while now. I got fresh legs. I can slowly build back up and I know what to focus on to prevent my hamstring from slowing me down.
I'm nervous in this uncharted territory. But in it I see so much potential.
I know what I can get through. Like I said at the begining, I have had to summon new levels of strength and self-encouragement through this. I've now combated feelings of helplessness, loneliness, and despair at a level which before I couldn't have even imagined. There were days where I had to convince my body to move at all. Like: "walk to the kitchen. You can do it. Take a step."
I'm bound to complain about a tough workout again at some point. But it's unlikely that I'll ever feel a pain close in comparison to these headaches (BTW, I read that women who have these headaches and have also given birth, say the headaches are worse!)
So bring on the 1000 repeats and the all-out 300s. At least I'm able to run.
P.S.- I'm not one to talk much about my hardships publicly, especially mental ones. But I wanted to share, and will continue to share, just in case anyone who feels helpless needs to see that you can get through so much more than you think you can. That being said, I need positivity more than ever before. So please share, if you're able, coping techniques that work for you when you're in dark times!