So I thought nothing of putting two plates on (225 pounds total) after our warm-up set, which is typically something I can rep 8-12 times, depending on what set we're talking about. It was just another day at the gym with only a moderately heavy weight on the second set of the night. But something happened on rep five. I didn't feel right--definitely not like myself. In that instant of feeling off-kilter, I nearly ended up with a much worse injury than I did. I felt the forward lean, the bar shifting, and I just let it take me down to the safety guards that were placed just a little too low, unfortunately. Imagine your spine bending into a backwards C, then getting compressed with 225 pounds of weight. Not fun. I knew something dreadful had happened the instant I let go of the bar. My knees came to the ground, and that was the last time I was able to stand without pain. That was the last time I would walk for three days, and in those three days, I thought for sure that there would be surgery, and I began thinking of the then great possibility that I would never walk again. Someone like me is not meant to be kept still.
After the 10-hour ER visit that itself included buttloads of minimally effective narcotics--one of which made me see writing appearing across the walls a few times--the next 12 days included more narcotics, various other medications (laxatives, stool softeners, steroids, psych meds, etc.), hospitalization, and even more hospitalization at an inpatient rehabilitation facility, where I spent four hours every day doing intensive therapy. Each day, there was progress...along with a fuckload of pain. I'm home now, and there is still such a long way to go before I can ever go back to how my life used to be. I'm still terrified that I won't get to do that.
What does this have to do with mental health?
For me, everything. Again, I am not one to be kept still. My body is my tool of expression, whether that be through lifting weights, dancing, or playing music. My body is my ultimate project, and the gym will forever be my home--the place where I found my true self and can connect with that self on the deepest level. I am at peace when I am alone with those weights. There is pain and struggle, but it is for a purpose, and the progress that comes with that kind of hard work and dedication is doubly motivating. There are bad days, of course, but persistence always wins. Always. I am a physical being. I am so much so a physical being that when I cannot express myself in these ways, my mind unravels.
The meltdowns and periods of "not being okay" went to the extreme this weekend. Think somewhere about level nine, in a public place. All I have been thinking about is getting back to being myself. I physically do not feel right when my body is restricted this way. I feel uncomfortable in my skin when it is not allowed to move freely. I cannot look at myself without feeling that same level of discomfort. I see my body changing before my eyes because I am not allowed to use it the way I know I need to. It's disheartening to see all of your hard work disintegrate right in front of your face. Not only was this my life, but this was my livelihood, as I was scheduled to begin transitioning back to work next Monday. Obviously, with such a severe injury and limited mobility in my lumbar spine, personal training is kind of impossible at this point. (Now is when I attempt to avoid getting sucked into thinking about all the implications this has on my future and my life's ultimate purpose, in order to avoid thinking further about career options/opportunities that I may or may not have missed.)
I am struggling, but tomorrow is my appointment with Sports Medicine at UPMC, and I am hoping they can help alleviate some of my concerns. Being active again will be on my mind until it is able to happen again. I think what makes this a little more challenging is that exercise has proven to be one of the most important factors in controlling my ability to regulate my emotions and increase my level of tolerance when it comes to overstimulation. I seem to be dealing with more than one demon at a time when my defenses are already down. I don't really know much about how to handle this, and I feel like it's taking its toll on those around me. I will hopefully be able to return to therapy on Wednesday when I return for a second intake session, but there might be some insurance barriers. Those same insurance barriers may prevent me from getting medical assistance from the state, food stamps, and the like, though I am not sure if they will inhibit my ability to obtain SSDI and SSI funds. (As you can see, I am finding it harder and harder to stay in the moment. I lose control so much more easily, and quickly.)
This is why I want to study what I want to study, if I ever get the chance, because I know I am not the only one who benefits or can benefit to this extent from a combination of exercise and traditional psychotherapy methods.