I realised today that next month it will be a year since I injured myself. A year since that ill fated decision to lift my toddler son up off the ground while carrying bags of shopping leading to me being unable to run for six months. A year since I injured my back.
Even though the back pain and nerve pain have dissipated, I have been left with the after effects of the injury plus lots of niggles that keep flaring up, preventing me from a much wanted return to regular running. The physical effects have been obvious to me, what was not so obvious were the mental effects.
The longer I was injured the lower I became in mood. When getting back into running wasn’t as straight forward as I liked this was amplified further. Over the last few months especially these thoughts and feelings have been much worse and it’s only recently for some reason that I can acknowledge how I’ve been feeling. Which is ridiculous because, you know, it’s just running. Right?
Well no it’s not just running to me. Running is one of the things in my life that gives me confidence to do other things. Running has been a release for me when I’ve been finding things tough emotionally. Running has been my way to escape the pressures of tough life situations. Running has been a way to make me feel invincible and like I could take on anything. But with prolonged injury things like this have floated through my mind:
‘I’m rubbish, why do I bother?’
‘I should just give up running now, I’m getting too old for it’.
‘I hate myself’.
‘I hate running’.
‘I’m never getting over this, I may as well just leave it’.
‘Who was I kidding trying to be a runner anyway?’.
As my time being injured extended before me, the chipping away at my confidence and self image continued, gradually extending itself into other areas of life. And then last week a couple of things happened which made me realise how low I had become and how unbelievably crap I was feeling about myself. I was put into two situations where I had to talk about myself and had to sell myself both as a professional and as a person. I struggled with both and it was a shock to me. I’ve become so low that I can’t even bring myself to talk about my good points, because right now I’m not totally convinced I have any to share. Pathetic? Probably, but I can only be honest about how I have been feeling.
Have I been depressed? Possibly, my husband occasionally expresses the opinion that he thinks I am. I then feel guilty because my husband has actual clinical depression and all I did was hurt myself a bit so that I couldn’t run. Daft. However I then think about literature I’ve read about pain and how the pain and emotional neural pathways are very closely linked within the brain and I guess it is possible that large amounts of pain over an extended period can affect your mood level. I’ve certainly seen it in patients I’ve treated so why do I think I’m automatically immune?
This isn’t really a self pity post. If it comes across like that I apologise, it’s really not intended to be. I just needed to share how being injured as a runner can affect you emotionally and socially. Bravado and staying upbeat and positive can last so long but injury isn’t just a limp or a grimace of pain. Injury goes far, far deeper. If you are one of those injured runners right now, don’t be so hard on yourself and while you’re letting your body heal, make sure your mind and soul are looked after too.