It may seem trivial, especially given the grave and tragic world events occurring daily, to make such a big deal out of running, but we all still have our personal challenges to deal with each day, and I in no way mean to minimize the suffering of others in this post.
Here are the five stages and how I have experienced them and still continue to:
- Denial. When I first felt the pain, I thought I'd just take a few weeks off and get back to it. I went to several doctors over the course of several weeks, not accepting the possible diagnoses I received, which would have required serious treatment that I didn't think I really needed.
- Anger. When it became clear that a diagnosis—never mind a treatment plan—was not going to be easy to come by, I grew very frustrated, and scared. All I wanted was a plan—a way forward, and I couldn't seem to get one.
- Bargaining. I decided I'd be okay without running for a while as long as I could do other things—bike, swim, and workout at the gym. But of course, these would only be temporary. I'd trade them back in for running when my foot was healed.
- Depression. When it started to feel as though my foot would never heal, after a false start back to running, I became depressed about my situation. I then went to another doctor and received a stress fracture diagnosis. At first, this was happy news. It was a solid diagnosis (I thought) with a real treatment plan. I kept up my training with some restrictions, but soon began to doubt that the stress fracture was the real problem. The closer I got to my two-month "sentence" in my fracture boot and on restricted exercise, the more I felt unconvinced that I'd be able to run in the foreseeable future. The fracture, if it really existed, was in a different location than my initial foot pain, so the doctor wasn't able to address the initial problem until the fracture finished healing. After two months and three weeks, I was released from the boot got a cortisone shot in my foot for what we thought could be a neuroma. I thought the shot would be the answer. But it didn't help. And I was back to the start, with new pains I'd developed from wearing the boot. I went to yet another doctor, who told me the MRI I'd previously gotten did not clearly show a stress fracture (I think I went through an entire grieving process for that news alone), and essentially I'd wasted three months on a misdiagnosis. She re-diagnosed me with metatarsophalangeal (MTP) synovitis (basically, ball-of-foot pain). She prescribed a treatment regimen for me to try for a few weeks, which I'm still doing beyond that few weeks, because I wasn't very dedicated the first time around.
- Acceptance. I feel I've had no choice but to reach this stage. It's not that I think I'll never run again, but I cannot plan for it. I can't keep asking, "when?" That has only led me to disappointment and frustration and depression. I have to live my life the way I can now, even if that means without running. I've gone back to yoga, a practice I used to do regularly but fell out of when running took over. It was hard to go back; I felt I'd betrayed the practice and I had to overcome my own guilt from walking away. But now that I'm doing it a couple times a week, it feels really right.
Life without running is still a good life—a great life, if I allow it to be. Arriving at that realization has not been easy, and on a cheesy, pre-Thanksgiving gratitude note, I also have to say how thankful I am for the family and friends who stuck with me through all of my gloom and doom. You helped pull me through the worst of it, and I'm so grateful.