I took one step on October 1st and knew that this time, it felt different. What was once a lingering sliver of pain, taunting me on every third or fourth stride, was now a stabbing, blistering dagger landing blow after blow on the lower-left side of my back. I tried pressing on, hoping in vain that the pain would work itself out as I ran further away from the sanctuary of the OSU team van.
I made it to about three miles on the day, at which point I was forced into a limp–I guess one could say I ran until I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that something was very, very wrong with my body.
It was on the three-mile limp back to the van where I first contemplated the potential implications of the injury. I knew that it was serious (whatever it was) and that it would sideline me for a while (although I didn’t know exactly how long this would be). I also knew that the injury would mean that I would have to redshirt my freshman cross country season, a season in which I had proven myself as a top freshman and gained the approval and focus of the coaching staff. I could not really grasp anything beyond the physical nature of the injury at that point.
I made it back to the van, told my coaches about what had happened, and got a ride back to campus. That was the last time I spoke to the head coach for over six months. I began the rehabilitation process for what was diagnosed as a piriformis syndrome, essentially a strain of the upper-gluteal piriformis muscle. The training room became my solitary sanctuary, my home–I spent three to four hours daily working through stretches, strengthening exercises, and drills designed to correct my injury with just my iPod to keep me company.
My fellow freshmen on the team naturally and gradually drifted further and further away–I was removed from their immediate social group at practice. They moved on with their friendship–a friendship that I was a part of at the beginning–without me. While all the friendships I had worked to build were falling apart, I was failing to progress in my rehabilitation. I couldn’t understand why–I spent so much time on it, and yet the 6-week deadline for the injury passed without me having made any meaningful progress toward recovery. The doctor told me that my career could be in jeopardy, all due to an injury that nobody could recognize. So the doctor told me to rest. Just rest, no rehab. I did this for another 6 weeks to no avail. I finally begged for an MRI, to which the doctor replied that I did not need one and it wouldn’t show anything he didn’t already know. So I paid out-of-pocket, got the MRI, and learned that I had a large break in my pelvic bone, a full crack near my sacroiliac joint.
My coaches became upset. All the rehabilitation that I had gone through was worth nothing, and the medical staff had wasted months of time with a misdiagnosis. I was ordered to rest some more. My life now began to really descend to a depth I hadn’t ever been before. I would wake up in my dorm room, alone. I would go to class alone. I would eat lunch alone. I would go back to my dorm alone. I would go to dinner alone. I would do homework alone. I would go to bed without having spoken to a single person. Repeat. It was a terrible existence, a nightmare in which I could only pray to God for help. I had no friends and nobody near me who I could talk to. So time passed and not much changed until one day about mid-December.
*I am writing all this down to hopefully gain some personal closure.