It began with a pinch...
Summer 2019 was a high momentum time for me. Between riding the academic high of graduating in spring, moving in to a house with my then fiancé now wife Laura, and really investing my time and energy in to my own business…I was feeling pretty on top of things. This time period was also an excellent training period for me personally; my lifts had got stronger, I felt healthier and leaner, my residual pain from my tree incident was slowly diminishing, and my main lifts were bigger than they’d been during my 20’s thus far.
Somehow, despite all this I was still struggling with anxiety over living up to my own expectations post graduation, wanting to guarantee to myself that I’d be a successful and worth while partner to my fiancé, fulfilling the role of trainer/business owner with success, living in a way that aligned with my internal self image, and trying to not be too burdened by that ever pesky ego-centric persona we mask our true selves with for the sake other people.
At the core of all those anxieties was – ultimately – fear of loss. Fear of losing my self image, fear of losing my partner, fear of failure in my chosen career, fear of financial insecurity, and fear of judgement. The unfortunate thing is, I think that many of us live with these fears, or fears like them, all our lives without any real proof that they’re anything to be afraid of.
For example, I was at the time training diligently and performing well, my relationship with my partner was strong and stable, my business was growing, and I felt accepted and celebrated by my peers. My mismanagement of my emotional well being, or perhaps my lack of focus on what was actually going on, allowed anxiety and fear to grip me – to tell me that things I knew to be true and steady, weren’t.
Poor sleep, excessive caffeine consumption, and an inability to ratchet my energy down was getting to me – I was doing too much, and I didn’t even know it.
One weekend, I started having a little pinch in my hip. Nothing major, just a pinch. A quick roll out and a good warm up seemed to take care of it the first day. The second day a sharper pinch, more sudden and more frequent than the day prior came on. The third day, Alieve, Tylenol, a call to the docs to try to be seen during the week, a day with my leg up on the couch. The fourth day, gut wrenching pain with movement, but an abject denial of the likely culprit – hardware infection. Early AM the 5th day Laura drove me to the ER and after 12 hours, 8 fentanyl shots, 4 blood tests, a few bags of fluid, and an ambulance ride to KU medical – we had an answer. Sepsis. MRSA in my hip to be exact.
The photo below was in the ER, pinnacle septic shock – puffy, high fever, and on heaps of pain meds.
The first week in the hospital was reasonably straight forward. Joint aspiration and culture, wash outs, scans for my hardware, two types of echocardiogram (MRSA likes to settle in the heart), and a PICC line installed. 7 days in they sent me home, weight bearing permitted, with a prescription for 3 months of home IV antibiotics.
Alas, fevers persisted at home, and after two weeks my pain was back.
A midnight drive to KU Med’s ER, a 4 hour wait later in a cold waiting room, and being re-admitted via the “gauntlet of misery” as my surgeon phrased it. To put a very long story short, some of my old surgical hardware had mysteriously picked up MRSA, and it was eating a hole from my pelvis into my hip joint fueling the septic arthritis even after the initial rounds of washouts and drugs. The same day after being re-admitted I was brought in for surgery; full removal of the anterior hardware in the pelvic ring, and another washout. From this point, I would spend the next 10 days at KU with a surgical washout every other day for the first 7 out of 10 days. After going home I was non-weight bearing for 12 weeks, and had to self inject antibiotics twice a day for 16 weeks while also taking strong oral antibiotics.
The verdict of this medical trial ended in full destruction of my articular surface; there’s no more cartilage, the joint is bone on bone, and I am awaiting a full joint replacement in March 2021 if all goes well.
Today is November 10th, 2020
And…the above events happened November 12th, 2019.
My leg hasn’t worked like
“normal” in a year, and I’ve had constant pain since then too.
It’s been very difficult year, and somehow one of the best yet.
Covid has been anxiety inducing as a small business owner, and the fastest growing year for my business to date.
Covid has had me anxious about the health of my friends and family, and I’ve spent more precious quality time and found new ways of connecting with my wife, my family, and our close circle this year.
How is it possible, to be in the middle of difficulty and thrive?
What strategies do you use, to get yourself through hardship?
For me, replacing “but” with “and” has been a major help. It allows me to acknowledge my struggles AND celebrate my victories. It reconciles what seems like conflicting duality and says that two (or more) things can be true at once. Alas, that’s life.
It sounds trite, but as someone who has always clung to the self image of the high performer, not being able to go full throttle in everything “all-the -time-always” is – difficult. Which, written down, sounds ridiculous, but for a long time this was my way of coping with anxiety – being too busy to confront it and being to “hard” to give in to physical or emotional difficulty.
Alas, this leads to something I call “doing too much all the time.”
This is not strong, it’s escapist. I am very skilled at it, so trust me …..I’m an expert here.
(aftermath of survival pictured right)
Thankfully, life has a really funny way of putting the brakes on our bullshit.
Much like in lifting where doing too much too soon, failing to take breaks, to fully recover, etc leads to injury. Failing to take emotional care of yourself, to recover, communicate, process, etc – leads to MORE emotional tumult down the road.
For me, November 2019 was a wake up.
Stop. Slow down.
Now, you don’t have a choice in the matter.
Now, you have to be still.
Now, you have to be present with this challenge. Your feelings, and others’ feelings.
Now, you have to sit with your pain.
Now, you can’t run and you can’t numb yourself with work or activity.
Now, you have to sit. And sit. And wait.
Now, you have to center.
Now, you have to focus.
Now, you have to heal.
Now, you have to make your pain your companion.
Pain is a natural and mandatory part of the human experience.
Now, you must accept that pain, without resisting, and accept that it does not make joy mutually exclusive.
Now, you have to live. Show up for yourself. Thrive, not in pain’s absence – in its presence.
Now, let that pain make every moment sweeter and more precious.
Now, the choice to live is up to you.
The year of doing less better....
I’ve never been a “new year’s resolution” person. However this year, with an abundance of time at home, drugged up on pain meds, and unable to walk – I realized I’d have to do less this year by physical necessity. After all, the surgeon said it would be probably a full year before they could replace my hip.
SO with all this in mind I figured the best thing for me would be to try to do less and be better at what I was doing.
Do less, better. My one resolution this year.
While I had anxiety that not obsessing, not working 24/7, being on my computer, phone, constantly reading continuing ed, etc would be detrimental I had to take time to focus on healing, sleeping, good nutrition, connection time, too.
The current result? It’s now November, a year later, and I am – for the first time – firing on all cylinders. By this I mean that not constantly obsessing and “doing less better” has helped me:
Get enough sleep (despite pain at night)
Make a list and get it done in the limited time frame I impose on myself. Unlimited work time just leads me in to procrastination, while limiting my work time to a few hours forces me to not screw off during that time and get the work started and finished on time.
Schedule my own workouts consistently without giving up all my time to last minute meeting requests.
Say “NO” to things that aren’t one of my top 10 priorities (p.s. make a list of those and refocus on it regularly – it’s worth it!)
Doing less better has given me MORE time and HIGHER QUALITY time with the people I love the most.
Lastly, it’s helped me approach my business with a growth mind-set unfettered by burnout and excessive fatigue from over working.
SO, how do YOU plan to “do less, better” moving forward? Drop a comment below!