The Aftermath

Yesterday, I strapped on my ski boot for the first time since I broke my ankle. I gingerly stuffed my foot into the plastic, buckled it loosely, and leaned forward, waiting for the pain to come screaming up my leg. It didn’t, so I thought, “Damn, I think can do this.”

I felt a foundational piece of myself return as I rooted around for gear that had sat un-used for seven weeks, as I went through the familiar ritual of donning base layers, braiding my hair, and tossing my skis in the back of the truck.

Driving up to the hill, I imagined that these one or two runs would feel like my best of the season, even if they were just groomers, because they were the light at the end of the long dark tunnel of recovery. The sun came out as I stepped out of the gondola, lighting up those big peaks I’d been missing for two months. I finally felt like myself again.

And then I took my first turn.

No stability. No lateral mobility. It was like I’d been jettisoned back to my first season—I was a clumsy baby giraffe slowly making my way down the green cat track while all the good skiers zoomed past me to the Stoke Chair in enviable displays of coordination and speed.

I bypassed the Stoke, uncertain of my ability to ski a full 5600’ of vertical, even on a green groomed run. I slowly turned my way down Last Spike, wary of people slamming into me and sending me back to square one. I’d expected it to be hard, but I didn’t think it would be this hard.

Hobbling back to my truck at the bottom of the mountain with my ankle burning and my pride bruised, my frustration was a far cry from that high I’d imagined an hour before.

This is the part no one tells you about: the aftermath. After the bone is healed and the doctor gives you the green light to walk without that damn moon boot. The part when your soft tissue is so screwed that the bone mend seems like an afterthought. When you thought you were going to be back to normal but you still have just as long in front of you as you do behind you.

Or maybe people did tell me about it, and I just didn’t want to hear it. I held onto the 6-week timeline for healing like a lifeline, and now I’m thrashing through uncharted waters. I’d envisioned being out touring by next weekend, back to full charging capacity in a month, running by the time the trails melted out in the valley.

But more than missing playing outside, exploring new mountains, and being exhausted at the end of the day – I miss that part of myself that those things represented, that part that went AWOL when I broke my ankle. I realized that my friends in Revelstoke have known me as an injured endorphin junkie trying to cope for longer than they’ve known me as, well, me. Those things are part of my core, because they’re some of the things that make me happiest in the world. That piece has been missing from my identity, and the fact that it’s still out of reach is heartbreaking.

The light at the end of the tunnel is still  there, but it looks pretty weak right now.

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6 thoughts on “The Aftermath

  1. This is part of you, too…the strong, brave, kickass, determined, doesn’t give up part. Maybe the best part, really, cuz it’s also what makes the cheerful, fun-loving, adventure-seeker, live fully and appreciate everything part of you.

    I love you and am so sorry how much the aftermath sucks. Keep skiing though it.

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  2. Such a tough injury for the super-active person you are. I wish it hadn’t happened! I know you will take good care of it so that you will be flying down the slopes next season, but it sure must be taking a lot of patience to power through it. A ton of love is flowing your way!

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  3. Pingback: It’s All Enough | Directional Detour

  4. I stumbled on your site somewhere not terribly long ago and have left it open in my internet browser to eventually get to reading it. Today I am not at work, out running or biking on this absolutely beautiful Minnesota day because I am laid up with a broken foot. Just happened yesterday and don’t see ortho until tomorrow. Can’t put any weight on it.

    People have reached out with their thoughts for healing and knowing how this will impact me, “as such an active person”. I feed off of getting to be outside and being mobile.

    I chose to read this one first. I’m reminded of the tough road to recovery.. I appreciate how you describe that feeling and the disappointment. What I do know though is that there will be some kind of even stronger inner strength that will come through this making me even more reslilient. In my situation I am also reminded of the need for the best people in one’s life. Perhaps this will root out any less healthy relationships and make fledgling friendships stronger.

    I hope I will read more about your road to recovery on these pages!

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    • Oh man, I feel your pain! It’s so hard to be laid up, no matter the season, no matter the injury. And there’s no “right” way to spend your time while you’re healing. As long as you can keep your head above water and find ways to be happy, you’re doing well!

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