Sinking deeper and deeper into that familiar feeling of crazy depression, my ankle felt almost worse.
For four months, I haven’t been able to climb without pain, and climbing is my very simple world. Am I losing grip on my 17-year-old passion, slowly and involuntarily? Is this the end? Should I finish up that business degree, take up art, and make strides toward my dream to open a climber cafe in a spanish-speaking country near a climbing area?
Quickly after getting back on track, I realized how my own denial had caused me to make serious mistakes.
Mistake One: The Adjustment Bureau
Denial took it’s first tottering baby step a few week after surgery, during a visit to the physical therapist. When I asked “How long until I can go for a run?” and the doctor’s answer was “Ah, well…” – I blinked, and my heart skipped a beat (already, denial was causing arrhythmia). The doctor continued: “Don’t even think about running until after 6 months. For now, try the stretches first, then maybe walking…then maybe swimming…” (Swimming? Was that hard?) “…and work your way up.” He was right, of course. Try getting the bike not to wobble, then you can think about the Tour de France. That next week, I was climbing and stepping for the first time on the spin bike. Alone, I pumped on the pedals and refused to stop pedaling, reading Climbing to pass a solid hour. If I’d told a friend to help me slow down, they might have seen how silly I was pushing so hard in a cast. And this was the problem: I should brought in all my friends to help me stay on track. Like an ‘adjustment bureau’.
Mistake Two: No Sleep ‘Til PT
I had three sessions of P.T. in the US before traveling abroad, and the trip couldn’t wait. My goals in Mexico included hiking for days with a heavy pack, jumarring camera equipment up trad lines, doing my first big walls, maybe even climbing a 5.14. When they set the second cast, I was ready to train again. Still on crutches, watching my boyfriend train while I couch potato-ed, reading possessed me. Training for the New Alpinism, Marathon Training for Beginners…these books and others spurned my soul to fly off to the start line and juggle dumbbells. How was I going to deal?
The problem was, I didn’t. I was helping myself prepare for the future, but not for the present. Week two, still in the cast, I was heel hooking on .12c and began making hour-long sprints on spin bikes, turning up the resistance as the ache in the Taylor fracture was overpowered by my addiction to endorphins.
Mistake Three: “Well…poopsicles.”
After arriving in Mexico for our four month project, I began holding the camera like a teddy bear in my arms, changing focus from my climbing to other things: drawing the mountains of the Mexican national park La Huasteca, drawing the streets, shooting video of the at-risk program, and aiming a naked lens at everything I see. So desperate to keep myself still one morning, I knitted a ridiculous small blanket while the boys made a go at Sendero Luminoso. But this was not the problem – knitting only gives me minor carpel tunnel and a tendon ache. The problem was that, however much I wanted to obsess and progress on climbing projects, I could not, and could not let go. (This had happened once before, after winning two micro-fractured heels from a fall onto concrete.) After a while, frustration set in, like an unwelcome roommate to the already cluttered space of my mind. Also settling into the upstairs was resignation, quick to step in when frustration took a break. So that between trips outdoors and time with the roommates, I felt sadness, homesickness, and disappointment. That wasn’t working either, surprisingly.
Then, the heavens sparkled and, suddenly, unicorns existed.
A friend offered to bring me to a physical therapy clinic, where she was rehabilitating a knee injury. I made the decision to drive with her that morning to Clínica Everest (aptly named), over a very appealing job opportunity teaching English. In the office, my friend pointed to my sneaker. “Look at how she’s walking.” It was dented to the left, as if Patagonia had integrated a gangster lean into the lefts of their athletic shoe line.
I was very surprised when the doctor offered two months of physical therapy. Though I walked like Captain Ahab (I do tend to have his tunnel vision, too) still, at the offer of two months, I thought “Well, is it that bad?” Clearly, denial was strong in this one.
So big thank you, Clínica Everest.
I’m thankful that visiting this PT clinic with a friend woke me up to the realization that I was straggling. We are always finding ourselves in ruts, and always find out ways out through the offers of kind people.
With the time remaining in Mexico, I hope to recovery enough to climb more of the beautiful routes in La Huasteca and continue going out with the kids on our trips. Maybe even send 5.13?
So if you are injured before a long trip to La Huasteca, El Salto, or Potrero and may need PT, visit Clínica Everest.
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