If you’re follower of my site, you know that I have always been all about all things Crossfit. I have so many posts that rave about how Crossfit completely changed my life… And well it did… But sometimes life throws things at you that make you change again; change from the person you thought you were.
CrossFit has been a part of my identity for years now. So much of how people knew me revolved around how much I loved crossfit; as a sport and a community. In fact, when I moved from New Jersey to Texas I had my new Crossfit community decided on before I had picked an apartment! It was the centerfold of what kept me calm, happy, challenged, and healthy. It changed my self-image, confidence, motivation… It changed everything. It turned me from this person I was so unhappy with to someone excited about life and tackling every day. But what happens when this thing that you loved so much, that made you so happy, is now the source of pain and frustration – mentally and physically – what do you do? How do you move forward?
I spend my days at work having patient after patient tell me about all the things that have gone wrong in their lives. I sit in this state jail listening to these men take a victim role and talk to me about how everything has happened TO them. I counsel them, I conduct group therapy, and I try to teach these grown men how to develop the skills to cope with, accept, and move forward from these burdens they carry. And all of a sudden, I found myself struggling to find a way to go through that same process.
About a year and a half ago, I started experiencing a lot of strange pains in my body – things I had never felt before. They came and went at first, then got gradually worse and more frequent. I started working with doctors and eventually had a laparoscopic surgery to diagnose Endometriosis. This was almost exactly a year ago. June 3rd 2016. I was officially diagnosed and told that 5 various areas of my body were affected. However, I was told that the lesions were handled and that my pain should subside. Well fast forward a year and I am in more pain than ever before.
The year following surgery has been a roller coaster and I am nowhere near the end. As many of my posts over the last year have discussed, my pain returned soon after. My doctor swore it was not the Endometriosis back so soon. They couldn’t find any cysts or other explanations. Specialist after specialist turned me away with clear tests and blood work every time. 6 months ago I began working with a Functional Medicine specialist. We were able to clear up some issues with my gallbladder and did some of the most expensive, as well as mentally and emotionally exhausting, tests and planning I have done in my life. We found out my hormones were a mess. I finally gave in and told myself, maybe it has been these hormones the whole time. I told myself that. I told my family that. I told my fiancé that.… But I really didn’t accept that. I couldn’t. I had a mental block.
I have spent the last 6 months struggling every day to try to force myself to accept that this diagnosis might be what is keeping me down. I have been working continuously on how I fight this. Now I have made a lot of positive changes for myself and I don’t want to discredit the things this journey has taught me, but I have also had to make a lot of very difficult and very discouraging changes. I have cried more days than not in the last 6 months and I just could not bring myself to believe that this was it. That there was no answer and I was destined to be in this much pain for an unknown amount of time. I tried to force myself to identify with the Endometriosis and chronically ill population. That is one tough pill to swallow. I found myself getting annoyed listening to the problems of others, especially at work – which is problematic since I am a mental health counselor and listening to the problems of others is the basis of my work – because I was so consumed with my own. I knew I needed to make a change but I didn’t know how. Then came all the events of the last two months…
About two months ago, I started noticing how few things I could do without pain now. My pain went from bad to worse and workouts were absolutely unbearable. I cried in the middle of a workout on more than one occasion before I finally took a step back. Crossfit went from being my form of stress relief and my happy place to the thing that was increasing my pain, making me cry, and adding a level of frustration with my physical self that was worse than anything I have ever experienced. Here I was in full swing of wedding planning trying be excited about getting ready for the most beautiful day of my life and I cried the day my wedding gown came in, not from excitement, but because I didn’t even want to go try it on. The pain was too much. My stomach was constantly distended. I could barely stand up straight most days because the pain in my abdomen was so intense. How was I supposed to put on this gown and feel beautiful?!
That’s when I decided that I needed a change.
When I walked into my first yoga class in a LONG time, I knew I found it. I found a place I was meant to be. It was slow paced, relaxed, and strongly based around meditation. But it was challenging and it was filled with things that challenged my skill level, challenged my fitness. It was perfect. It was the first time in 6 months that I felt calm. It was the first night in months that I did not cry.
I went a few weeks of trying to still fit in my normal Crossfit routine. I was scaling some things back but still pushing hard; still in denial of physical limits. I didn’t want to give in to pain. I didn’t want to be weak. I was trying to use yoga to counter my heavy lifting and intense workouts. It wasn’t working.
About mid-April I stopped going to Crossfit entirely. I went about a month that way. I did YouTube yoga at home and went to this new studio. I was running and maybe trying some slow paced light kettlebell workouts in my garage. I was emotionally struggling through losing something that was such a big part of my identity. I struggled with giving up something I was still so sure was the only thing that made me tough, made me great, made me the person that everyone expected me to be… That was it. I had to be the person everyone knew me as. I couldn’t change that image. I couldn’t disappoint people.
Eventually, a few weeks ago, it got to a point that I could not even run. I couldn’t do a mile without searing pain in my abdomen and an uncomfortable feeling that lingered for almost a full day afterwards. I went to the 6th new doctor I’ve seen in less than a year. As it stands we are exploring the possibility of a hernia or abdominal wall tear/strain. I still have no definitive answer … and a lot of pain… This journey still has a long way to go but what I am very proud of and what I want to share with everyone is that sometimes we have to reinvent ourselves, even when the self we were before was not a bad version of us.
Most often people think changes in fitness and exercise routines or diet styles are something that people who have a full swing routine don’t need to think about. Why would someone that participates in such a challenging and intense exercise regime change? Why would you give up something that has turned you from an unhealthy post –grad to a strong, fit, healthy role model?
Sometimes the things that make us who we are have to change. Sometimes we are forced to redefine ourselves. The key is doing that without losing yourself. When life throws something at you that makes you take a step back and re-evaluate your lifestyle it is not a cause to give up. It is not a cause to abandon your beliefs or your mentality. It is a challenge, a test of resilience. How would you stand up if the cornerstone of your being was taken away from you? When the way you define yourself is forced to change?
Over the last 3 weeks or so I have begun to embrace a new lifestyle. I have accepted that while I explore what is going on with my body, I need to find another way to keep myself stimulated. I realized that I love Crossfit because I love being challenged. I love having difficult physical feats that I can master. It validates me. Considering how limited I am physically, I turned back to yoga. I have done two crossfit workouts in the last month and they were EXTREMELY scaled. However, I have done yoga more days than not. And I am IN LOVE.
I am smiling daily. I am happy. I am relaxed. I am embracing the journey and allowing myself to find a calm in this storm… And I am challenged. I am pushed HARD. I am finding my body doing things I could never imagine doing before.
There are many days that I miss heavy lifting but there are NO days that I miss driving home in pain after trying to force myself through a workout. Yoga is what saved. Yoga has allowed me to feel strong even when putting 185# on my back isn’t an option anymore. Will I work myself back to where I was before in crossfit? I hope so. But for now, look out yogis 😉