I didn’t know what the right forum would be for this conversation. At first I considered Facebook, but the more I thought about it the more I realized I had to say. So many different moving pieces had to come together for me to write this blog post. The first moving piece was Shay Carl‘s newest daily vlog, where he completes the New York City Marathon (as seen below).
If you don’t know who Shay is or his family, the Shaytards, I highly encourage you to check them out. I’ve been watching these videos for about 5 years now and Shay and his family have motivated me in some of the darkest times of my life.
As the endslate rolls after the video (think the credits at the end of a movie) Shay begins to question us, what is your excuse? Get out there, get running, anyone can run a marathon. And although Shay (possibly and probably) literally means go run, this motivation can apply to anything. So of course, I scroll down lower, to the underbelly of the video, to examine the comments. And what do you know, it’s a list of everyone’s excuses. Some are comical, some are practical, while others sound eerily familiar. We’ve now reached the turning point, the entire reason I’ve written this blog post today.
One female viewer had commented that she loved running, but needed to find a new hobby because she recently dislocated her knee and was still recovering from this injury. The injury, she says, occurred this past month and she is still struggling.
Normally, if I comment on a youtube video at all, I leave a comment for the video creator. I try to stay out of the other viewers comment section to avoid drama or unnecessary conversations I’d rather not be a part of. This comment, however, was one that I could not simply scroll past.
Without even thinking I wrote back.
I dislocated my knee the first time in August 2009 and needed surgery. I dislocated the same knee for a second time September 2014. I did my physical therapy at home, I got back to my gym and my coaches and last night I snatched 70 pounds and did an full workout with little to no pain. I know we have different circumstances and lives but don’t let an injury get you down if you want to keep going. I also have hypermobility. I’ve dislocated both my shoulders and my thumb in my sleep, I’ve dislocated my hip, and I’ve pinched a nerve in my neck just by sneezing. Keep trying. You might get hurt along the way but you’ll also recover and get stronger. Don’t limit yourself, work with your body. You can do anything. =]
I’d like to expand on this statement a bit, or give a more accurate timeline of events, if you will.
This next section is a tad graphic. I’m also not the most anatomically correct person so I apologize to any medical savvy people who may happen upon this.
In 2007-2008 I tore a ligament in my ankle, which then proceed to roll up into a ball and sits on top of the ankle bone (imagine a snapped rubber band stuck under the skin). That year I also dislocated my hip while attempting “the worm” for a dance competition number. I went to urgent care, had xrays and an exam, but was told I just pulled my groin muscle. Three days, I walked around in excruciating pain until I finally went to my family doctor. He decided to readjust my back and when he turned me on my side and applied pressure to my leg (in an attempt to crack my back) my hip popped back into the socket.
August 28, 2009 I dislocated my left knee while dancing. This dislocation was so severe doctors in the emergency room could not find my knee cap and thought it had shattered. After three hours and numerous xrays they finally relocated it and it took another two hours and six very large male doctors and nurses to hold me down and to pop it back into place. To say it was the worst experience of my life so far would be a drastic understatement. I went to a bad doctor, was given bad advice, and after a month was no longer able to move my knee at all. When I sat down on a chair, even gravity could not force my leg to bend at the knee. I went through extensive physical therapy, found a new doctor, and had to have a manipulation under anesthesia to rip all the scar tissue that had formed in my leg. It took another six months before my atrophied muscles responded to electric pulses and even longer until I could walk without a limp. During this ordeal I was told that my ligaments, and tendons, basically all the connective tissue in my body is extremely flexible. I was told that I had about a 50-90% chance of dislocating my left knee again and a just as likely chance of dislocating my right knee during my lifetime.
In 2013 I had MRI’s of my spine done, due to the insane amount of nerve pain I was experiencing. For those of you who have experienced any sort of nerve pain, bless you. For those who have not, take every precaution to avoid it. From these MRI’s I learned that the connective tissues that should hold your discs in place were so loose that my discs were sliding out, encroaching on the nerves. I had sciatic pain in both my legs and nerve pain in both my arms, not to mention numerous pains in my stomach and under my ribs. I was the worst case this chiropractor (he was my third chiropractor) had ever seen in someone so young, who had never experienced a traumatic car accident. He was baffled by me and told me, he had nothing that would help me, he didn’t know how to help. I was called an anomaly. I did a few rounds of decompression but ultimately left to find a solution on my own. The MRI’s showed that every disc in my Lumbar region is bulging, and three discs in my neck are bulging, to the point that if I was ever to get in a serious car accident I could be paralyzed.
During the next couple years I suffered a few more dislocations. When I would sleep, I would make a fist with my hands, with my thumb in the middle of the fist. One night, as I rolled over I pinched a nerve in my neck, which caused my fist to clench so hard that I dislocated both the joints in my thumb. When I finally woke up the next morning my thumb and that side of my hand were so swollen and painful I couldn’t move it. I was in terrible pain and had to wear a cast for three days while the ligaments healed.
I’ve also dislocated both my shoulders in my sleep, however I don’t believe these are as extreme as the other dislocations. The first time it happened I had a dream that I had been shot in the shoulder, and when I woke up I had to lift my right arm with my left arm, above my head, to pop it back in. Typically, the entire area will be sore for a few days but won’t pop out while I’m doing daily tasks.
On September 12, 2014 I dislocated my left knee for the second time. I knew that day was coming but I didn’t expect it to be that day, and I didn’t expect it to happen at Crossfit, and I certainly didn’t expect it to be while we were on the ground, with our legs in the air, doing hollow rocks. But it happened. And I’m happy to report that it was rather painless. It got a little swollen but there were no hospital trips this time, no tears from the pain, just tears of regret. I knew this would set me back again.
In case you’re wondering why it’s so ridiculous that I dislocated my knee doing a hollow rock, here’s a little video tutorial.
Almost as a side note, in October I sneezed (like every normal person with allergies) and pinched a nerve in my neck. My entire right side was paralyzed by a muscle spasm and felt like it had been set on fire. Fun times. Here’s a picture of me after it happened getting in a little home decompression. Feel free to laugh, I do.
I apologize for the sob story and hope that many of you have made it this far into my post. I do have a point, I promise. When the woman left the comment on Shay’s video I didn’t write back because I was trying to compete with her. I didn’t write back because I have experienced more dislocations or injuries, therefore believe she should suck it up. I wrote back because I have been there. With every injury came uncertainty. With every injury came regret, and pain, and the feeling of being catapulted backwards. This woman has just had her first injury, which I believe is the hardest to overcome. This is the first time she’s experienced this kind of pain, this kind of wobbling around, this kind of inability to function at a normal capacity. It’s the first time she’ll have to overcome her fear of another dislocation, and the first time she’ll know what it feels like to start over. That’s why I wrote to her, because I’ve lived through that fear, I’ve started over a thousand times, and I wanted her to know that if someone as broken and beat down as me can get back up and put myself out there to the endless possibilities and injuries than so can she. If you give up after the first let down you may never get back up. I don’t want this injury to define her or anyone else who is in her place.
I am an anomaly, but not because of the reasons my doctor had mentioned. I’m an anomaly despite them. I’m an anomaly because I’ve had every reason to give up on myself and give up on this body that seems to be so dead set against me. I’m an anomaly because I don’t let my injuries define me, I let my resilience, my courage, and my sheer perseverance in the face of ridiculous odds (50-90% ain’t no picnic) and I keep pushing my body, pushing my mind, pushing everything that I stand for. I push myself to be limitless. I push myself to be unstoppable. I push myself to be brave.
This is where another piece of the puzzle comes into play. I recently went to Colton Dixon‘s concert and this is my favorite song right now. If you wouldn’t mind taking a listen it might help set the tone for this whole…whatever this is.
Like I mentioned earlier, I do crossfit. If you know anything about crossfit (or think you know anything) you’re probably sitting there thinking things like, well duh you dislocated your knee again, I mean…crossfit. Yeah, okay. Here’s the thing. Crossfit makes me stronger, mentally and physically. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but if you try it in a great facility with even better coaches and members who support you and care about your well being and health, you’re only going to succeed. I started crossfit because the last thing my “you’re an anomaly” chiropractor told me to do was to build up muscle around my back to help hold my discs in place, since my ligaments and tendons were obviously doing a less than admirable job.
Ah, and now we come to the last little puzzle piece. In my crossfit box there are a few words or phrases painted around the gym. This one is my favorite…
Now I’m going to appeal to my Potter friends (finally, a bookish thing you can maybe relate to). I posted this picture on my Facebook and one of my friends commented on it, saying they couldn’t be brave, they’re a Slytherin. Of course, this was meant as a joke but I sometimes think we take stereotypes, or whatever boxes society (or even ourselves) put us into, way too seriously. My reply was something along the lines of, it’s okay to be a Slytherin and be brave. You shouldn’t limit yourself to one set of qualities. Branch out. Not all Hufflepuff’s are addicted to food (okay, that one’s a stretch).
Anyways. It just seemed too much of a coincidence that all of these things came together in such a nice, relatable, little thought bubble, not to write about it. Don’t let your past define you. Don’t let injuries stop you from doing what you love. You won’t, however, hear me saying don’t let injuries slow you down, because if you’re smart about your recovery, you probably should go a little slower for a while. After an injury, you’re practically working with a new body. Take some time, feel it out. Discover what you have to reteach it, what it remembers, and what feels good, or better, or worse, and go from there.
Don’t limit yourself to any labels anyone puts on you, or any of the labels you put on yourself. Be relentless in your goals (as long as they’re positive, law abiding goals of course) and be resilient when you get knocked down. Because from my experience, you will get knocked down. Don’t focus on it, or spend too much time thinking about it, but prepare for it in your own way. And when it happens, make a plan. Mope about it for x amount of days or hours and then start your recovery. Become a new you. You can do it, as long as you take the first step and get back up, and try again.
Shay is right. You can run a marathon. You can do anything. You are limitless.
Here’s a video I made just 6 weeks after dislocating my knee for the second time. To see the crossfit stuff go to 3:35.