No matter what the circumstances, injuries have a tendency to suck.  Bad.

The most positive among us find ways (after the fact, of course) to say how their “time away from running” (i.e. gym seclusion) allowed them to focus more time on weights, or their core strength, or some other silver lining that emerged from their “experiences.”

The truth is, there are countless moments during the injury period that threaten to turn your world into a crap factory.  A misdiagnosis.  Failed expectations.  An inability to drive to that god-forsaken-gym-and-get-on-that-butt-numbing-bike-one-more-time.  Ugh.  That’s what they are: “Ugh Moments.”

Last year, I wrote with brutal honesty of many “Ugh Moments,” often using language not permitted at Walmart.  I’ve also written odes to the self-discovery that happens when your body and mind are taken to unpleasant places, and epitaphs on what becomes of the soul when the body is buried in what feels like endless physical pain.  The thread that ties them all together is the power of the mind, and how hard (yet important) it is to fight for positivity.  When you lose that fight, you bury your head under your pillow, missing all the life that still exists, beautifully, outside of your tiny window of pain.

Image of a Rose hiding the affirmation "I Am Grateful"

Here’s the cryptic symbol for gratitude I was talking about. It is made with the letters that spell “I Am Grateful.”

I’ve heard those who don’t understand runners write off our suffering as flippant.  “Compared to cancer, or famine, or world war….come on!”  But if you are a true runner (or intimately know one), you know that a bum knee is never just a bum knee.  Sure, it keeps them from physically running, but a true runner lives to run, and without that functional knee they don’t feel as though they are living.  All pain is to be respected, and no person can judge the comparative value of another’s struggles.

After four weeks of not running, and despite amazing medical help, I am still without a satisfactory diagnosis.  My symptoms, (as is the norm for me), seem to defy the norm.  Injuries are hard enough to cope with when you know what’s wrong with you.  You still have to pass the prescribed number of days cross-training or resting.  You must tick all the boxes of your rehab and treatment plan, whatever it might be: ice and elevate; advil with your meal; bone growth stimulator 2x daily; self-massage and foam rolling.

Without a confident diagnosis, its not only a matter of passing the days.  How many days will it take?  Four or forty?  I find myself setting expectations in my mind of when I will be healed, only to scratch out that day on the calendar and talk myself off the edge of total exasperation back toward positivity.

Without a confident diagnosis, its not only a matter of ticking the boxes.  If its pain from inflammation, use ice, advil, and elevation.  If its nerve, use heat and protection and maybe a cortisone shot.  If its bone, anti-inflammatories are bad news, and a bone growth stimulator is in the cards.  But using a bone stimulator without a bone injury can cause bone spurs.  Many things can be knocked out with rest.  Some things require a cortisone injection and rest won’t help much.  But using cortisone when you don’t need it damages tissues.  WTF?!  I’m back on the edge of exasperation!

Its time for a pat on the back: I’ve made it four whole weeks with only two and a half days hiding under my pillow.  Considering the vagaries of my situation, that’s pretty freaking good.  I’ll have another test (ultrasound of some sort) on Tuesday that will hopefully shed some light on the situation.  But until then, I’ll keep doing my best and fighting for positivity.

When I came through the other end of my navicular injury and won the USA Championship last June, my Irish friend Ro and I had a long talk about how positivity is a discipline, not a given.  A focus on “gratitude” for what one has is the best way to get through painful situations.  Together we designed a picture to help us focus on gratitude to ride out the rough times that would undoubtedly occur on our path to our 2012 Olympic Dreams.

Every day for the past four weeks, I’ve looked at that picture and used the affirmation, “I Am Grateful,” and it has kept me from ever getting too screwed up.  On those especially tough days, I wear the t-shirt we made with our drawing on it, and it helps me take notice of all the good in my life.  Nobody else has a clue what it says, but that doesn’t matter.  I like that its cryptic.  Its for me, and its working.