Every once in a while, I’m prone to share a more vulnerable, personal story – a struggle, if you will. This post is one of those. It’s about evolving – the need to. More specifically, it’s about the important parts of me that have fallen and the struggles to continue to evolve.
It’s a pain in the neck – literally. Last year, I injured my neck, and I haven’t been able to recover. I might’ve pulled a muscle or so while working out, but the following Saturday, I got hit pretty hard from the back – the other player flying straight into the back of my neck. My right arm went numb for a few minutes. I rested up after that, but you know what happened? Nothing. Almost two months went by, and I didn’t feel better. My neck was in all sorts of pain. I couldn’t turn to my right to look at my girlfriend in the passenger seat of my car without feeling pain in my neck.
I went to the doctor who prescribed physical therapy. I blew past the 8 sessions, and my PT was able to get more sessions from my insurance provider. However, I had plateaued. I wasn’t getting better.
All this time, I changed everything about my workouts – lowering all the weights, changing the exercises, etc. In soccer, I moved myself towards the backline. I favored the middle of the park, but it required me to be more mobile. The back and forth and sideways movement was too much. Playing in my favored role required quick changes in direction. Apparently, changing directions on a sprint heavily involves one’s neck. That was no good. I started slotting into the backline. This, at least, kept most of the play in front of me. I could put a little distance so I could also prepare if I needed to break out into a sprint. That’s how much my pain was.
I didn’t get more sessions from insurance for PT. I had “failed out”. I went back to the doctor and was told to get an MRI. The results… was a herniated disc.
The troubling part about a herniated disc is that there is little that can be done. Like many injuries, you lean on your body to repair itself. However, it’s been so long with the herniated disc that it was clear my body had not repaired itself… and grimly, might not. We opted for a couple epidural injections over the next couple months to ease the pain while perhaps giving my body some “space” to heal.
Sadly, that hasn’t proven the case.
The next treatment? There’s really only one option – vertebrae fusion. It’s, “eff your disc, it’s not getting better. We’re just going to fuse the two vertebrae that is separated by the disc together.” Except 80% of folks I talk to say not to do it. They say most people don’t get better, and the complications that can arise from this surgery is “worth it”. Awesome.
I sit here today getting ready to play soccer in a few minutes. My neck is sore. It’s not in a lot of pain at the moment unless I articulate my neck within 15-degrees of my prior-limits (looking left, right, up, and down. That’s a lot of restriction. Tomorrow, I hope to work out. Except, I’ll approach it as a very strict “de-de-load” session.
To be honest, I’m scared. I’m scared because I’m feeling aches in my body now, and I don’t know what else can be done. Or rather, I don’t like the next options. I’ve already limited so much of what I do – weight, range of motion, exercises, etc. I’ve lowered my expectations. I apply a heat pack daily to my neck and upper traps. I stretch as much as I can. I’m scared I’m losing a big part of me – the physical me.
For years, soccer was my passion. It was who I was. In high school French class, I always volunteered at the beginning of class [for participation points] to say what I did the day prior in French. “J’ai joue au foot!” (I played soccer!) I was like a parrot I said it so often. I played soccer every day. I played soccer throughout college. Then, I kept playing after college. Then, something happened. Friends couldn’t play anymore. They were moved out-of-town. They were having kids. Organizing soccer with friends became harder.
At that point, working out had started to be THE thing for me. If soccer was hard to come by because of a lack of friends (team sport), then working out was a sport I didn’t have to rely on anyone else. It was me against myself. Weights didn’t care if I had a bad day. It was perfect.
Working out became such a big part of my life. It even became a part of my entrepreneurial life with Body Boss.
Now, it’s possibly being taken away from me. Now, I think I’m losing that, too. I’m no longer the competitive soccer player. Now, I may not be the strongest guy in the room. I may not be the guy everyone looks up to for being able to lift and do impressive feats of exercise.
I admit that when I think about how I can’t challenge myself because of the pain, it hurts real fricken deep. When I feel the pain coming when I work out, I wonder if I should just pack it up and go home. Don’t know how many people around me know this feeling. I wouldn’t wish anyone to face this. In some ways, it’s an existential crisis. If I have stern look these days, chances are, the back of my mind is trying to rush into the front of my mind – reminding me of the pain and the possibility of everything going away. I didn’t think this would happen to me, let alone so soon.
Last week, I remember rolling up from the bench press into a sitting position. I was able to lift a good heavy weight, but I knew that I used to be able to lift so much more. I knew that I used to know I could push myself. Now? Now, I’m scared to. I’m afraid of the pain. Again, I think about going home. I looked down at my watch, though, and realized my 2-minute rest was about over. Well, while I still can, “eff it”. I rolled back down on the bench and go to my next set. Might as well…
It sucks. I’m scared. I don’t want to be anyone else, yet. But looks like I might have to. Who will I have be next?