My ankle snapped in Israel with a loud, “CRACK!” The pain felt searing hot. It swelled to a blue softball within an hour. Immediately my thoughts were of the critical contract I had been fulfilling training the IDF special forces. What if I lost my contract and ruined my credibility with this careless injury? This was really my debut and I would never get another chance in my career to give a first impression. This was my first, and potentially final, chance to prove my value and establish my credibility, so I could provide for my family.
No one but my partner appeared to have realized. In the following few hours of training, I taught with severely tightened shoe laces to reduce the swelling; carefully demonstrating with as perfect of technique as possible. Any deviation would result in tremendously sharp pain, and potentially worsen the break.
Because the pain had focused my technique to perfection, my demonstrations had so impressed the commanders that they had awarded us with commendations for contributing to the health, strength and performance of their units. The pain had helped me perform better, where if I had not experienced it, I could have potentially lost the contract from less-than-perfect performance (which had led to the injury).
Despite the temporary mental elation, when I returned to my room, my shoe unlaced a blackened watermelon. Had I permanently injured myself with my worry about my ability to provide for my family? Anxiety and pain clouded my judgment for weeks, as I retuned back to the States, and began meeting with doctors.
Whenever I ran any long distance, the ankle would swell immediately in agony that would level me to my knees. When it snapped, it did not go back fully into place, and healed slightly dislocated. Bone spurs had grown across the joint. Only surgery could shave them off, and even then, the spurs would regrow within 5 years I had been advised. Ironically, my healthy bones were accelerating how much and how fast my bone regrows.
My doctors recommended that if I didn’t need to run long distances, I should stop as the spurs would continue to shred the tendons and tissue of my ankle with each step. I was forced to focus purely on my short duration training methods upon which my career had been founded.
My diet had to be tightened to coordinate with my exercise, since I couldn’t just “go for a run” if I had splurged on crap. If I was going to continue to be a professional, I had to reorganize my lifestyle to accommodate my condition.
Wendy Kelly advised, “Force yourself out of victim mode. Take positive, strong, healthy steps toward incorporating pain in your life, learning its lessons and moving forward into joy and peace again.” When I reframed this new lifestyle to my advantage, of making me a better athlete and coach, by demanding my commitment to my training methods, nutritional dedication and recovery techniques, I realized the blessing it was.
Without that gift of pain, I would not have become the professional I have, but I had needed to stop playing the victim to it, and embrace WHY it had come into my life, and how it had been secretly benefited me. Pain comes to teach us a lesson and offer us growth, and if we receive it and learn from it, suffering the pain disappears into the night.
Moving on doesn’t mean you forget about things. It just means you accept what has happened and continue living. And when you encounter someone else in pain, remember to encourage them, because pain can cloud our every thought. No matter how imperceptibly slow our progress, hang on; suffering stops, pain ends, and the blessing appears.