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The In Between
Hi, I’ve missed youuuuuu!
Really, I have.
I’m here today to talk about this weird place I’m in right now — a place I’m not at all comfortable being, and not in that edgy “push yourself out of your comfort zone” kind of way.
Let’s go back in time for a sec.
Nearly one year ago, after months of continuous Crohn’s disease flare-ups, I was finally admitted to the hospital so the doctors could do every un-fun test imaginable in hopes of figuring out something — anything — that might ease my pain and help me get back to a “normal” lifestyle.
The hospital was terrible and I hated it there. The tests were unpleasant, the doctors were constantly M.I.A. and the nurses were rude and clueless and kept messing up my medications.
But then something wonderfully miraculous happened.
I was discharged from the hospital, I walked the five blocks home to my apartment and the next day I woke up and I was better.
Just like that.
I went to my friend’s fancy wedding, I returned to work and, best of all, I could run again.
In fact, just one week after I left the hospital, I got right back into marathon training and ran the Bronx 10-Miler. I even tacked on a few warm-up and cool-down miles to make it a 16-mile run, keeping me right on schedule with what was at the time my New York City Marathon training schedule.
Almost instantaneously, I went from being sick to being healthy.
There was no in between. Just a happy girl with a fresh marathon PR.
But now, here I am, one year later and stuck in this in-between place.
I hate the in-between place.
[I know that as an editor I should know when to hyphenate in-between and when not to, but I don’t and I don’t have it in me to learn grammar right now, so just go with it, won’t you? Thanks.]
You know the saga that has been 2013. Awful, terrible, 2013.
I got sick in January. I got worse in February. By March I was again admitted to the hospital, and throughout April, May, June and July I spiraled hard, all the way down to rock-bottom. It was bad.
By mid-July, my new doctor seemed to have found a combination of medications that would work for me: weekly Humira injections plus 100 mg/day of 6 MP (an oral medication). I was also on Budesonide, a steroid, and a few other things to treat specific symptoms, like the arthritis and the bloating and wow I’m beautiful.
I worked my way back into “real life” slowly. After spending seven months horizontal on my [then-shitty] couch, just walking down the block was a challenge. I started off with spin classes and I couldn’t even get my leg up on the bar to stretch afterward (uh, remember when I used to be a dancer and would watch entire episodes of “Saved By the Bell” in a split?). The subway stairs completely exhausted me. (Dang it, they still do. They always will.) And getting back into running was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve done in my adult life.
Those first few runs back were so unbelievably difficult. Every stride felt off, every breath was labored and there’s a reason I haven’t searched for my Garmin since last December.
Now, I’d say I’m operating at about 92% of my full health potential.
That’s an A-.
But I’ve always been an A+ kind of girl, and I’m struggling with the fact that I feel like I should be back in A+ mode and I’m not.
I’m trying to find the balance in my recovery period. And I’m having a hard time calling it a recovery period. How long does an arbitrary “recovery period” last? I don’t know.
Last year, my “comeback” was so easy. Even at my sickest, I hadn’t had to take much time off from work or working out, so I was able to bounce back after my time in the hospital fairly quickly and effortlessly. It probably helped that in the course of my illness, I’d lost some weight, and it turns out running when you’re lighter is easier. Oh, science.
This time around, nothing feels easy — and nothing is lighter, that I’m sure of. And while I’m usually up for a challenge, sometimes I just want it to be simple.
I’d love to say that life has seamlessly returned to business as usual, but it just hasn’t, no matter how hard I’ve tried. In a surprise perhaps only to me, the transition back to “regular life” has been difficult.
When it comes to my current state of running, things are great in the sense that I am, in fact, running! Last time we talked, I wasn’t. I had started running again, upped my mileage perhaps a bit too rapidly, and developed an unpleasant achy-pain in my right Achilles tendon-ish area.
I took three weeks off from running, which was a bummer. I was finally back!…and then I was out again, but for a totally different reason.
Once the pain was gone completely, I gave it a few extra days to fully heal, and then did a few slow, short runs here and there. Now I’m running again, hooray joy to the world! It’s tough, though. The runs that now qualify as “mind-blowingly amazing” would have completely discouraged me a year ago. So I’m just learning to readjust my goals and expectations. And it’s not all bad and tough: I really am grateful every time I get to lace up and run, even if I do have to still make 10 bathroom stops along the way.
So running has been roller coaster-esque. I expected it to come back naturally and easily, which was naively optimistic. I thought I’d be knocking out my “regular” 8:00/mile paces in no time. Instead, my miles are slow and my recovery time takes twice as long as it used to. My body seems to be requiring much more delicate care than it ever did, but I’m happy to give it that if it means I can keep moving. Punch me for being cheesy if you’d like, but each run really does feel special to me these days.
Nothing like a year of being sick to finally give you the kick you need to learn to be grateful for life, right?
Then there’s work.
Being out of work was so hard for me. I was heartbroken when I was told I had to go on medical leave and could no longer work from home. It was like a punch to my already beaten-up gut. Getting that email was when I realized the battle I was fighting was so much more than physical.
I’m back in the office as much as possible now. I still have to take time off for doctor’s appointments, bloodwork, things like that. But mostly I’m back, which is nice because that time without a paycheck was unpleasant and I just missed doing my job and being around people.
Again, though, the transition is hard. Things shifted around a lot while I was out, and it’s hard trying to move them back to where they used to be.
Beyond work and running, I currently feel a general sense of anxiety most of the time.
I used “but I’m sick” as an excuse for a lot of things when I was sick. Maybe it’s not an excuse since it was absolutely the truth, but I stopped doing everyday things like responding to emails and returning phone calls and being a good person/friend/sister/daughter/aunt/girlfriend/roommate.
I’m trying to put the pieces of my life back together and I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned this year is that I really need to chill out, calm down and ease up.
Stress makes me sick.
Anxiety makes me sick.
I really don’t think I could handle getting sick again the way I was sick this year. And if I don’t want that to happen again, I need to take better control of my life by not being so obsessed with control. That makes sense.
Maybe my running isn’t as fast as I want it to be.
Maybe my body and its new “soft and completely un-toned” form isn’t the way I want it to look.
Maybe I won’t ever respond to all 156 emails in my inbox (sorry, love you).
And maybe that’s just the way it’s going to be for a while.
Maybe “the in between” will last three months and maybe it’ll last 10.
I’m learning — kind of slowly — to chill.
To throw expectation out the window.
To be kinder to myself.
To take things one day…one hour…one perfect mid-run step on a very crunchy leaf…at a time.
And hey, thank you for sticking with me throughout all of this. While I mostly haven’t been blogging because I just haven’t had time, I’ve also found it challenging to put my mess of thoughts into a cohesive post. I realize that much of it comes across in a way that makes me sound like an absolute head-case, and that’s partly true, of course, but I am doing my best to get my brain in the game and get it caught up to my A- body. Whether you’ve kept reading in anticipation of the latest ridiculous thing I’m willing to admit or because you’re a fellow Crohn’s kid who thinks this stuff actually makes sense and is mildly relatable, I truly, madly, deeply appreciate it.
I love you.