Why am I jumping for joy? Because I can!
One year ago, I was just starting to walk again.
In late March 2019, I was playing in recreational volleyball game. In the third set, I went to sprint for a ball. All of a sudden, I was on the ground. I looked up thinking someone tripped me, but there was absolutely no one around me. Then I thought maybe someone hit me in the back of the leg with a volleyball from one of the other games going on…….but there was no volleyball around me. Then, I felt my muscle in my lower leg start to roll up in my leg……and I knew….I just tore my achilles!
I tried to hold my muscle down and get my words out to my teammates that it was more than just an ankle sprain. As I was telling them, the thought of it set in and I started to go into shock. I got very nauseous and my face lost its color but it only lasted for about 10 minutes. Because the muscle was no longer attached and had zero tension, it felt extremely weird and started twitching. Honestly, it didn’t hurt that much, but what I couldn’t handle was how my muscle kept non-stop twitching! Think of how annoying it is when your eye twitches non-stop and then multiply it by 10!
Neil is called to pick me up
I had so many thoughts running through my head and so many uncertainties. While I kept my emotions pretty in check while waiting for Neil, I completely fell apart once I was helped into the car. I was upset about the potential loss of being able to run and participate in sports. All my life, that had been such a big part of me. Even though I wasn’t per se an athlete anymore, I felt really lost. You see, I had a pretty big running goal I wanted to achieve before I turned 30.
In 2015, I was in the best shape of my life. I had a goal to break 1hr 30min in the half marathon. I came up 27 seconds short. So, I decided I would try for it again before I turned 30 and was getting there. I was hitting running times I hadn’t hit before and was feeling pretty confident. So, to lose it all in one day hit me pretty hard. But I was also trying to rationalize with myself and tell myself (and Neil) there are bigger things in life. Not being able to get this goal isn’t a big deal. Things could be worse.
I was so hopeful that I had only partially torn my achilles and was wishing with all my might that I wouldn’t have to have surgery. Surgery truly scared me even though I’d had surgery before. But after getting my MRI results back with a complete tear with a 2 inch separation of my two ends of my tendon, there really wasn’t any other option.
After surgery, the surgeon told Neil that I had snapped another tendon up by my knee and he took a picture of my leg opened up (I won’t put it here because it is pretty graphic!). Overall, he said the surgery was successful! Great news! Now it was just time for a lengthy recovery. In total, it would be 1.5 months in a cast and 1 month in a boot.
Before surgery, I had a nerve block put in from my knee down. So I couldn’t feel anything for about 24 hours, but oh my, when that started to wear off….the pain was very strong! So for the first two days, I took the prescribed pain medications but they made me so sleepy! I slept for 22 out of 24 hours on day 2 and 20 out of 24 hours on day 3, and that’s when I had enough of that! So I switched over to less powerful ibuprofen and found that it helped enough and I could stay awake!
I had lots of couch time and our cats for sure took advantage of it!
Right after surgery, the cast was put on with my toe pointed to not have tension on my muscle and tendon. Then every two weeks, I was re-cast with my toe slowly brought back up to slowly add more stretch. I really looked forward to that change because the stretch felt amazing! And, it was fantastic to get the cast off – even if it was for just 10 min. The twitching that was happening when I first tore my achilles continued after surgery except I couldn’t massage it with the cast on! It was extremely annoying and almost felt claustrophobic! So every two weeks, it gave me a chance to massage my leg super quick!
Loss of Independence
During this time in the cast, I came to truly believe what I was telling myself the night I got hurt. I no longer cared whether I could run or play sports – If I ended up being able to, that was a bonus, but I just wanted to be able to walk again! Still, my mental health did truly suffer but it was more about independence.
I no longer could drive since it was my right foot. I could no longer bike, which was my main form of getting around Minneapolis. I had to cancel so many things and anytime I needed to go somewhere, I needed a ride. Beyond that, I quickly learned how so few places are handicap accessible. I often had to crawl up stairs, take much longer routes to be able to get in certain buildings, and some places I just could not access at all. Even in our own townhouse, our bathroom was on the second floor but sleeping on the couch was way more comfortable for me on the first floor. So I learned the fastest way was to crab walk up and down the stairs. Then later when I got stronger, I started using it as a workout and would hop on one leg up the stairs!
I’m a pretty independent person and I have a hard time asking for help. But in this time, I really needed help. I’m so thankful for Neil who took care of me non-stop! Neil had to take over pretty much all of my responsibilities and he worked around the clock non-stop. I’m so grateful to have a husband so giving and caring. I’m also so thankful for my friends who gave me rides! Huge shout out to Michaela who would give me rides and helped me up the stairs to our townhouse every time!
Getting back to moving
When the cast came off and I moved to a boot, I started physical therapy and it felt absolutely amazing to be walking again! I felt like a brand new person and my mental health greatly improved! It is truly extraordinary the effects of exercise on improving mental health! Yet, I had a long road of getting back to normal.
I was told it would be somewhere between 6 months to a year before I could try running again. So, from the middle of May, my focus was gaining that muscle and strength back in my lower leg. I think around June I was finally walking with a normal gait, but my leg would be extremely sore at the end of the day – especially when we started shooting weddings again!
So my goals changed. I wanted to get to a point where walking and being on my feet all day went back to feeling normal and as a bonus, I wanted to be able to run before I turned 30. It didn’t matter how long – I just wanted to be able to feel somewhat normal running. Even though I had this goal, I was just so scared to start running for a fear I would hurt myself. But with my physical therapist, she was able to get me to run and get to a point of doing so much more before I turned 30! She had me jumping for joy! Shout out to Motion Therapy for being awesome!
Jumping for Joy
Now, I would say I’m 90% back to normal but still somewhat cautious with some activities. I haven’t gotten into any team sports yet as I feel like I need to strengthen more. I have gotten back into running more consistently and my goals are more about just staying healthy. Still, I have a fear of tearing my other achilles. Maybe in the future I can think about running races again and participating in recreational team sports. For now, I’m just ever grateful I can walk and work with no issues!
Overall, I’m jumping for joy because I can. I can work, exercise, and have independence! I’m so thankful for those who helped me through this time, and I couldn’t have done it without Neil. This is an injury I would never wish upon anyone and hope no one has to go through this. But, I did learn once again lessons about resilience, strength, and the importance of community for mental health. Without people in my corner keeping me going, I could’ve given up on a lot of things. All in all, be jumping for joy when you can and make sure you do it with others you care about!