If I can run, then I can do anything… My brain suddenly (and unhelpfully) spat this thought out the other evening, and this moment of realisation hit me in spite of the cold hard truth that had until that moment been keeping me grounded.
If I can run, then I can join the university running and athletics society, I can finally join an athletics club, OH MY GOODNESS I can even play football again! I can sail, I can swim, I can take the stairs in one go, I can go for walks alone, there will be no physical limitations stopping me doing all of the things I dreamed of, all the things I used to do…
Off I went, researching park runs and running clubs near my uni (I decided my birthday present to myself will be completing a park run in the month of my birthday), and downloading running apps. In the back of my mind was another thought, a more logical (and realistic) thought that went something like this: I can’t even walk that far yet, and I was told not to expect to be able to run like I used to – no joining clubs or competing or anything, why on earth am I acting like this is ever going to be a possibility? Naturally, I ignored this thought and started looking into how I could represent the university. Before I knew it I’d decided that I’m joining the university athletics and running soc. in January. This isn’t going to happen. It is completely unrealistic, but my brain was off – running before my body can deal with walking. And I let it run away with itself, because it is about to lose everything for a little bit. It is about to go through things that will make it question its decision to hold on, to try running and avoid ending it all, and so for at least a few minutes (ok it was way longer than that) I let it cling to hopeless hoping.
I was told by my cardiologist not to swim, on account of the risk that my heart may have a tantrum while I’m in the pool and lead me to lose consciousness in the water and drown (something that may happen when I run, but shouldn’t involve the possibility of drowning in that instance). And yet… I started looking into joining the university swim team. The trials are in October, and there is a social right after. I miss the social interaction that comes with sport. I loved the thought of meeting people and making new friends – the friends I made through sport were some of the best friends I’ve ever had. I miss that coach-coachee bond, the encouragement, the motivation, the belief… And there’s a casual squad so… Oh who am I kidding I’m not aiming for the lowest group – which is exactly my problem. The BUCS swimming championships take place in November. I was sensible enough to realise that I’d never be ready to compete then. But I kept looking. Three are friendly galas between the London universities from December onwards, and the long course individual championships are in February. These are also not achievable goals, but in my brain I was capable of far more than I probably will ever be, and so these events went down in my notebook.
I went to sleep after all of this feeling a little light headed, but ignored it. I woke up in no fit state to swim, as I had been intending to do while my family were all out and would have no idea that I’d decided to be completely stupid and attempt swimming again. In my mind I was so sure it would be alright, until I woke up feeling lousy. So I held off. And I clung to the thought of running again.
“Running… With your heart problems?” My little brother said skeptically when he learned of my intentions to run again, “Well what if you pass out in the middle of wherever?”Good point. Fairly likely to happen. I promised not to run alone to calm everyone down about this possibility, but I will probably run alone because I’m embarrassed at my complete inability to run at all and that doesn’t need to be witnessed.
And then last night I was up all night with bad kidney pain and a dull crushing pain in the centre of my chest that crept out to my shoulder and into my jaw as the night went on. Neither of these things worried me or phased me at all, but I would have appreciated some sleep. I went out shopping today and bought a load of running gear in an outlet store.
“You’re never going to run are you?” My mum said, more of a statement than a question, stupidly fuelling the fire inside of me – the determination to prove everyone wrong yet again. My knee was attempting to dislocate itself as I walked. My kidney was causing me a great deal of discomfort. And then, around 2pm, I was walking around a shop and this wave of dizziness overwhelmed me. I could hardly stand, but I did. It didn’t worry me, I knew I could handle it. I stumbled a little as I walked, unable to go in a straight line, and as the dizziness intensified my vision would fade out to nothing extremely frequently. My mum got worried that I was going to pass out, she said I looked rough. I made it to the car, and we aborted the shopping trip (after a bratwurst hot dog, because she thought food might help. It didn’t – combined with the dizziness it made me want to throw up). Slowly I figured out that the dizziness got worse when my heart felt funny – not in an abnormal rhythm (ok it was skipping the occasional beat but everybody’s heart does that), it just felt weird, and my rate was highly variable.
And what had caused it? Walking. The effort of walking a tiny bit around some shops, of holding some shopping bags. It took its toll and I paid the price for hours. Even now, almost ten hours later, after sleeping for hours, I am incredibly dizzy and I don’t feel right at all. And I realise now how tough running is going to be. I realise what I’m up against, how impossible my aim is. My body hasn’t changed at all. It is the same body that three weeks ago made running an impossibility and held any possibility of it so far in the future that I never dreamed I’d run again. It is the same body that nearly died too many times this summer alone. It is the same incapable, weak, unhealthy, malfunctioning body that bails on me and endangers my life frequently. I am not different, I simply have a hopeless, “unachievable” “impossible” (in the words of others) ambition that I have pinned my entire life on. It is the same body that can barely deal with walking right now, that three months ago sat in a wheelchair… But that isn’t going to stop me trying.
I carried on through the dizziness, I stumbled into things and I pushed my heart until eventually I passed out in my bedroom (note to self – the stairs were a bit too much). I was not giving in, I was not backing down, and I was not scared or worried at all or bothered in the slightest. The dizziness backed off a little, and I sat and felt my pulse, concluding that the weird feeling in Skippy (my heart) was nothing to worry about, and I… Started a second blog (which currently has no posts but that I am slowly building into a viewer-worthy thing). A blog to follow my attempts to run again, so that anyone who sponsors me can see how I’m getting along. I want to use it as a platform to inspire others to get into running, but more than that… I want to use it as a platform to inspire other chronically ill people to aim for things that would be difficult to achieve in one go – when dealing with health things have to be taken slowly, one step at a time, and failing to reach the end goal in a reasonable or even normal time frame can be extremely disheartening, so I hope to build a little online community or something, where people are inspired to aim for things that time or health or a lack of motivation (etc. etc.) have stopped them from achieving, one small, realistic goal at a time.
I’m worried nobody is going to sponsor me, I’m worried this whole idea is going to crash and burn, but I’m so passionate about passing on the benefit of this process, this hope… That I’m willing to look a fool.
“Just take it easy.” My mum said slowly, in a reluctant and patronising tone, when she failed to talk me out of attempting to run again. Nobody thinks that I can do this, which is exactly why I am going to try more than is sensible in order to prove them wrong.
In my mind, I am convinced that someday my body will match the imagined state my brain currently views it in.
I am grounded by logic, but my head is in the clouds.
And as long as that brings positivity into my life, I don’t want to cut it down.
Ok so now my heart is doing weird things in addition to the funny feeling, and in the last minute the dizziness has become beyond ridiculous, which means I’m probably about to pass out so… Bye for now.
I guess the title for this post should have been: In my mind I’m running before I can walk without this happening afterwards.