A Review of a Different Sort

Instead of getting into how I’m going to DNS the Cherry Tree 10 Miler for the third time (I am never registering for the damn thing ever again), because nobody is interested in listening to me whine about my broken heart, I am going to replace the would-be DNS review with something else.  It isn’t really a review per se; it’s more like a very loquacious way of getting around to a very simple point.  But anyway.

Despite my whole “I am too depressed to have the motivation to do anything” mindset, I planned a dive trip anyway, banking on feeling glad about it once I was actually diving.  And that kind of did happen.  I mean, I stupidly neglected to pay attention to the water temperature, assuming it would be, you know, warm; I did not realize that it would be so cold in Key Largo at this time of year, but even though I was freezing for most of it, I did love that I was finally diving again.  I hardly get to do it.

My happy place!

My happy place!

These dives were a bit of a novel experience for me, though.  In the past, I’ve always gone diving with a group.  Even though we did pair off into buddy teams before hitting the water, it was mostly for the sake of propriety; we generally all stuck together.

This time, it was more like, “Here’s the dive site, it’s called ____, this is the history behind it.  The time right now is whatever o’clock, be back here in one hour.  Have fun!”  And off we went on our own.

It is quite fortuitous that I was deemed the timekeeper of the team instead of the navigator.  It baffles me how I ever passed the Underwater Navigation portion of the Advanced Open Water test, because I couldn’t find my way around with a compass on land if you paid me.  I really need to work on that.

Now, for that simple point… I wear a 7mm wetsuit.  Always.  Even in the Caribbean in August.  Yes, I get a little warm, but I’d rather be a little warm than have a dive ruined because I’m too busy shivering miserably to enjoy it.  The downside of having such a thick wetsuit is that it increases buoyancy, which means I need to add weight.  It’s a fine balancing act — if I add enough weight to get myself easily to depth, I am then dragging along the bottom.

This isn’t such a big problem when in a group with an instructor.  They’re good at buoyancy no matter how much weight they have — so they can help me get down there in the first place, and if I have too much or too little, they can help out, there, too.  But since we were on our own this time, I warned my buddies that I’d probably take a while to make my way down from the surface.

And you know what?  That didn’t happen.  When left to my own devices, I was able to make it down just fine.  This is even true of my second set of dives, when I had an additional 3mm of protection.  I added four pounds of weight to compensate for that, and I basically sank like a stone; I used quite a bit of air on that dive, since I needed to inflate my BCD a little.  (Not something I love to do, but I figured it didn’t matter since having dived with this buddy previously, I knew I was vastly more efficient with my oxygen consumption.)  I dumped those additional four pounds for the second dive, and still had no problem descending.  I went with the where the head leads, the body follows thing — instead of trying to get myself below the surface just by inhaling/exhaling, I upended myself and swam toward the bottom.  Which I have tried before, and it hasn’t always worked.

What this tells me is that being left to your own devices is the best thing that can possibly happen.  Lacking an instructor to bail me out, so to speak, somehow I miraculously had the ability to make it work on my own.

I was right.  I did love diving, even though I was freezing.  (Yes, even with 10mm worth of exposure protection!)  I wish I could do it far more often than I do.  It isn’t quite the same, of course, but it’s what comes the closest to running for me from a mental perspective.

And then I came home and ran outside for a cumulative fourteen minutes and twelve seconds.  Which helps me not at all with this weekend’s ten mile race.  What else is new?

What I’ve Learned

There are people who believe that everything that happens can be turned into a learning experience.  I’m not entirely sure that I subscribe to that philosophy, but since sleep and I are not on intimate terms these days, I have many empty hours in which to ponder random shit, which leaves me with a hodgepodge list of things I’ve learned from this fracture.  Some of them are more reinforcements of what I already believed than new realizations, but who cares?

  • I am angry.  This is obvious.  I am angry at the world in general.  But most of all, I am filled with such fury and loathing toward my body that I can’t find the words to even come close to adequately expressing it.  An entire thesaurus of words can’t do that.  And when I say “I am filled with fury and loathing toward my body,” I don’t mean in an aesthetic sense, though that, of course, is also true.  I mean that it does nothing but let me down repeatedly, regardless of whether I respect it.  Which is a problem, because …
  • The only person you can ever really count on is yourself.  Sure, other people might want to help, and upon occasion, they  might even make as if to try.  But in the end, it all comes down to you.  Someone who is good for absolutely nothing but oxygen expenditure is probably not the best person on whom to hang your hopes.  Having a perpetually broken body and a perpetually broken mind as your last resort is not encouraging.
  • When you think it’s getting better, you are most likely wrong.  I am aware of the general healing time for stress fractures, thank you.  Plenty of experience there.  So I also know how my body tends to heal from them.  Or I thought I did.  Because it felt better (which is not the same thing as being healed, but nonetheless), and then it started to hurt again.  Which is not supposed to happen.  Unless, of course, you are someone like me who is evidently not allowed to be happy for longer than 2.7 seconds.
  • I am also a horribly spoiled rotten child.  I want what I want, and nothing else will do.  Yes, I do enjoy rock climbing — and the rapid improvement inherent in beginning a new activity is a nice ego boost because I can pretend that I might be decent at it — but it is not running.  And running is the one thing that I categorically cannot live without.  (Sadly, this is not literal.  It is extremely unfortunate that it won’t actually kill me, but I am not living.  I am existing.)
  • Above all, I have learned this: hard work is not worth it.  I picked up my bib for the Gridiron 4M this morning.  I have run this race every year since 2013, and I PRed every year.  When I said upon registering that I probably wouldn’t PR this time, I did not mean that I wouldn’t get to run it at all.  But I should have known something like this would happen.  I can’t even think about running right now because it hurts too much; yet I still went and picked up my bib, because this is the last B bib I will ever have.  I all but killed myself to earn it this past April, and now it’s going to be taken away from me.  I see no point in clawing my way back to it if I’m just going to lose it again.  Quite frankly, I don’t see the point in working hard for anything ever again, because no matter what I do, I always end up right back here in the exact same place.

Identity

People are multifaceted creatures who can identify themselves in a number of ways, most often using careers, relationships, or hobbies as frames of reference.  There is, however, usually one classification that predominates over all the others.

I don’t have one.  In fact, I don’t think I have any at all.

Career: this is not something I view as reflective of who I am.  I do it because I need money and health insurance and am uniquely unqualified to do pretty much anything at all and this is what I somehow fell into.  There’s nothing more to it than that.

Relationships: I am not, never will be, and have no desire to be anyone’s anything.

Hobbies: when I am not too depressed to have any interest in existing, of course there are activities that I enjoy.  But, I mean… you can’t say, “I’m a reader.”  That isn’t a thing.  And I’m no more a writer or a photographer than anyone who can string two sentences together or press the shutter on a camera.  These are things I sometimes do, not what I am.

I might say I am a diver.  Even though I possess a C-card, which should give me the right to claim it… that’s really only true for a very select few days of the year, which is sad, but that’s the way it is.  I always like it, but I hardly do it.  (Side note: theoretically, I would love to go on a dive trip right now.  But I think about the effort I would have to expend in planning a trip, and then actually taking it… packing and traveling and diving and returning home… and I feel exhausted without even doing anything.)

And so we come around to the big elephant in the room.  Am I not a runner?  Given that, you know… I fall to pieces when I can’t run?

I take issue with calling myself one.  This isn’t about me having a complex over being “too slow” — it’s never been like that for me.  I know that I am faster than a lot of people, and still more people are much faster than me.  I don’t believe that pace is what makes one a runner; running does that.  And I can hardly ever do it.

Even when I can kind of string a couple of weeks of it together, I always feel like an impostor.  Training talk?  Yeah, I got nothing to contribute there, because I have never “trained” for anything in my life.  (Oh, wait, that’s not quite true; I did try it twice.  Neither time ended well.)

So if I feel like I don’t belong even when I am able to run, you can just imagine how it is when I’m not.  When people who run get together, they will talk about running.  This makes sense.  And while I feel extraneous around that all the time, right now it is more than that — it is physically painful to be surrounded by it.  I can’t listen to other people talking about it because it might be white noise under other circumstances, but now it’s a thousand arrows straight into my heart.

This leads to quite a bit of isolation when you normally keep company with a lot of people who get to do the one thing for which you would give pretty much everything.  I really do not need to hear about all the people who are going to be running the half marathon I would have been running this weekend if my body weren’t the shit that it is, solely to allow me to hang on to the B bib to which I clawed my way by the skin of my teeth.  I’m going to lose it now.  What is the point in ever trying to accomplish anything, if it just gets snatched away again?

So yeah, I’m an obnoxious selfish bitch, but if that’s the topic of conversation… I’m going to walk away.  I have to.  Mutual isolation, I guess.  I can’t talk to other people, and other people can’t talk to me.

In the end, it doesn’t matter why it happens or whether it’s an internal or external belief — if I imagine it as real or if it really is that way.  Because it is reality to me.  And it’s telling me that if I can’t run, and I can’t talk about it, I am not worth anything.

It Isn’t Funny

The other day I was reading some blog post or article or whatever about the resolutioners who hit the gym in January, and someone commented that making fun of a fat person at the gym is like making fun of a homeless person at a job fair.

I mulled this over for a couple of days until I decided that I can really draw a parallel between that analogy and my own life.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been what would have been called “melancholy” in the distant past.  It’s been a decade since I was officially branded dysthymic, but I never bothered to actually look that up to see what it meant from a diagnostic standpoint.  Why bother?  The DSM is mainly for insurance purposes, and I don’t need it to elucidate what I already know in general terms.  I live it every day.

But for whatever reason, recently I did look it up.  And so many things just instantly clicked into place.  Every.  Single.  Symptom.  It was like I was created using that as a blueprint.  So all of these things that make me a horrible human and terrible to be around — things that I’ve always viewed as being “just my personality” — are attributed to this.  The negativity, indecisiveness, suicidal ideation, hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness — it’s all there.

Which is why, as I thought about all the times I’ve been teased about these things — sometimes good-naturedly, sometimes not — I started to get kind of pissed off, because it’s not like I am that way since I think it’s cute or quirky.  This is my brain.  It is broken.  (Like the rest of me.)

And like making fun of a fat person at the gym or a homeless person at a job fair, mocking me for this is really kind of a dick thing to do.  A better example might be teasing a paralyzed person for being unable to move.  They didn’t choose it, and they can’t help it.  Making light of their situation is just cruel.  If you don’t want to hang around a disabled person because it hampers your own enjoyment of life, of course that’s your prerogative.  But you don’t need to knock them down for good measure.

Night Terror

Under a falling sky
Hopeless, there’s nowhere to hide
The terror is real this time
Under a falling sky
I’m under, I’m under
A falling sky

Two things universally acknowledged to be beneficial for mental and physical health: good nutrition and sufficient sleep.

The nutrition part, well, that isn’t going to be happening here; no point in eating if I can’t run, even if I did have an appetite, which I don’t.  So.  Moving on.

Sufficient sleep.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha.  I haven’t slept well in at least twenty years.  Generally this means it takes at least an hour to fall asleep, and heaven forbid if I should actually sleep through the night after that.  It is not at all unusual for me to wake up two or three times a night and consequently spend a minimum of fifteen or twenty minutes being furious at my stupid body for not knowing that when it needs sleep, it is supposed to sleep.

That’s normal to me.  Has been for a long time.  But of late, we’ve taken it up a notch — it isn’t enough to wake up multiple times in the middle of the night, now it needs to be accompanied by a panic attack.  Don’t ask me why panic attacks in the middle of the night seem so much worse than in the light of day, but they do.  It’s fine that I have such trouble falling asleep, because at this point I’m almost afraid to go to sleep anyway.

And then I had an epiphany.  I know exactly why this is happening.  It’s because I feel trapped.  In a body that hates me, in life I never wanted.

You would think that there is a limit on how long someone could feel this way and not just spontaneously combust by sheer force of will.  You would be sadly mistaken.  Because somehow, inexplicably, to my immense displeasure, I am still here.

(Necessary interjection to clarify that no, I am not going to jump out the nearest window, if only since with my luck, I’d end up paraplegic instead of dead, and that would be a million times worse than the current situation… even if I have now managed to screw up something in my “good” foot so that it hurts more than the “bad” leg, and this happened without running.)

There is a very popular phrase that gets bandied about: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  I’m not even going to get into why I take issue with every single facet of that statement, because that will entail saying things nobody wants to hear, and the comfort of one’s interlocutor is of paramount importance.  (Maybe a wee bit of sarcasm there.  Though it is true to the extent that when I can’t stop thinking this way, I just don’t talk to anyone.)  But I am going to settle for this: not everything is temporary, unless you consider that every single human life is temporary.  Explication not forthcoming.

This is why I wake up and find myself in terror of the future — and I don’t mean the distant future, either.  It’s the same whether it comes to that, or tomorrow, or even the next hour.  Because this is not temporary, and I am not able to deal with it, and sans my primary successful coping mechanism, I never will be.

We’re Not Doing This

Normally at this point on the calendar, I would do a running recap of the year.  But that is exactly what I am not going to do, because my primary goal is always to remain unbroken, and I have failed, so everything else is completely irrelevant.  And thinking about running makes my heart hurt.

Instead, we’re going to tell a story that has been rehashed before, but it’s such a compelling tale that it bears constant repeating.  (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.  Geez.)

Once upon a time, when I was young and stupid (okay, 2011), I had the misfortune of sustaining five stress fractures while attempting to run my first half marathon.  Which sucked a whole hell of a lot, but, you know, shit happens, right?  Everyone gets hurt at some point or another, and I got a particularly large dose of bad luck there, but that must have been a fluke, because it’s just too outrageous to have been anything else.

Scrub everything clean and start afresh a few months later.  And get another stress fracture a few months after that.

Start over again, this time opting for less time spent running and more time spent cycling, even though I hate it, because it is supposed to be kinder to my fragile bones.  Turns out this is not true when spandexed assholes cause you to crash spectacularly and leave you with three more fractures.

This all happened over the span of nine months.  Nine months, nine fractures.  At which point I allowed myself to be convinced that if I weighed more, my bones would be happier; I wanted to run more than I wanted to be skinny, so fine, we’ll give it a shot.

Three and a half years.  That’s how long I spent wanting to throw up every time I looked in a mirror and feeling like I was crawling out of my skin, because I do not like being this fat, but they were fracture-free years, so I considered it a fair trade.

When you allow yourself to be lulled into complacency, the other shoe drops even harder.  I did not see that stress fracture coming last fall.  At all.  Stupidly, I had let myself believe I was past that.  The cold reality of the fact that I wasn’t sent me into a depressive episode of quite impressive proportions.

Sure, that fracture healed.  Physically.  I never got over it mentally.  Every single day, I lived in terror of having it happen again, because I am really not any less fragile than I was in 2011.  I watched with an envy so huge it made me cross-eyed as people ran more miles in a day than I could ever dream of running in a week, all because I was pandering to a fucking worthless shit of a body that is good for absolutely nothing but falling apart again and again and again.

All that pandering served no useful purpose at all, as true to form… I still failed.  And that depressive episode from last fall?  Had nothing on this one.  Because I am really well and truly fucked, and now I’m going to be even more terrified of this happening again.  Which it will.  That’s guaranteed.  (Especially if you buy into the theory that this all happened because I was too skinny, which I’m not sure that I do anymore, as a result of which I refuse to force myself to eat when I have zero appetite.)

Kind of makes it hard to want to exist at all when the future is an endless string of days just like these that really does stretch on into infinity because every single one feels like it lasts ten thousand years.

No.

People tend to think I’m being hyperbolic when I say that getting injured turns me into a suicidal homicidal maniac, because when that isn’t the case, I can seem relatively sedate.  And then, yet again, my worst nightmare comes to life in the form of another fucking stress fracture (that’s #11 or #12, depending on whether you count the 2015 incident as one or two), and SURPRISE!  I really wasn’t kidding.

There is literally nothing I could have done to prevent this, because despite doing everything right, I still fail.  “Helpful” advice generally isn’t, because this has been happening to me for long enough that if there were a fix, I would know about it.

There is also nothing anyone can do about it.  I appreciate that some people might want to, even though I can’t help but view everything via an innate cynicism that says everyone is just thankful it didn’t happen to them instead.  But there is no way to “support” a brain that doesn’t want to live this life anymore.  The majority of people don’t want to listen to that, despite professing a desire to help, and it is exactly the opposite of helpful to make someone feel like more of a useless burden on the world than they already do.

This is why I deactivated my Facebook account after my stress fracture last year.  I don’t even want to hear about running when it is the one thing that can save me — and the one thing that keeps destroying me.

If you think I’m overreacting, come back to me once your bone doctor (oh, that’s right, most “young, healthy” people don’t have a bone doctor) hails such news with, “We can’t prevent every fracture, especially when you make great demands on a compromised skeleton.  Your fracture incidence has gone down dramatically and your healing has improved.”

In other words, I’m supposed to accept a yearly fracture as an improvement.  I do not want to live like that.  I can’t live like that, unless you consider it “living” to spend every possible moment hiding in bed since doing anything else is too damn painful.  And I don’t mean at the fracture site.

(Also?  “Help” is not always enough.)