I am by no means an experienced hashtagger. There were many years where I flat out refused to hashtag. I still call them pound signs sometimes. In fact, when I started hashtagging at the urging of one of my bosses to become more active on social media, I used the hashtag "istillcallthempoundsigns." However, I got used to it. Not sure if you could say that I enjoy it yet...
When I threw the #injuredrunnerhealing hashtag up on a recent post, it resonated with me in a different way. It was the first time I had used that hashtag. Actually, according to Instagram, it was the first time it had been used at all. I liked it. It's what I am. Previously I had been posting about my frustrations, my sadness, my cross-training perseverance, occasional positive outlooks, etc. As I talked to my therapist during a recent dry-needling session, she asked what my favorite race distance was. I told her it was the half marathon and that I usually tried to run one every year, but that this year, although I had been eyeing one in October, I might just make it a year of healing. I had a few shorter races on the books for later on, but I hadn't scheduled a half.
She agreed that healing would probably be a good idea and said that even though the time off was forced, it might lead to me becoming even stronger later.
I'm not very public with my down times. I do have them, just like everyone else, but rarely do I feel like putting them out on social media helps me heal. I try to keep my posts and updates positive and fun. If I do post about a hardship, I try to look at it through the lens of a learning experience and cap it with some kind of positive take away. I do believe that life is a pendulum and that it will continue to swing in both directions. The bad helps us appreciate the good, neither are permanent states, blah blah blah.
This year has been rough and interesting. I've taken some hard looks at several aspects of my life. I've had things that I thought would always be present, important and paramount... not be. I'll elaborate.
I've taken a not-so-public break from theatre. I'm still being sent out regularly by my agent and doing the occasional commercial, but I stopped even looking at theatre auditions. I stopped pushing myself to go to shows and I stopped sending out headshots. I didn't make an announcement. I knew I was burnt out and I still don't know when I'll go back to it. I believe that one of the reasons I haven't said anything to many people is because I don't want people to stop thinking of me as an actor. And I want to keep the door open. Or at least cracked. But I wasn't having fun anymore. It wasn't sparking anything. There was no passion there. It's something I never thought I would say.
I began cleaning out my possessions this year. I did a big Marie Kondo clothing and book dump. I've been going through stuff and decluttering in a major way. I found all of these binders of notes I used to keep on every audition I went to, every theatre I saw a play at, callbacks, programs, all of it. All of it alphabetically arranged with dividers and a corresponding Excel spreadsheet entry. If I saw a show; what I thought of it, would I want to work with them, why. If I had an audition; what pieces I did, did I get called back, any notes about anything that happened. I sat there and looked at these things as if some other person had done this work. And in a way, I guess she is another person. I don't know exactly when I stopped doing all of that, when that inspired, driven passion stopped, but it's been a while. I threw it all out.
I went through a fairly intense bout of depression this winter. It affected my relationships with friends and it affected my productivity. It affected my confidence at work and thus my stress levels skyrocketed. Working in fitness is an interesting thing. You're there to inspire and motivate others. I very much felt that my public face could not show doubt, sadness, depression or any struggle. In a way, I was still acting my ass off every day. Go to work and do the performance of a happy and energetic, inspiring Meredith, come home and fall apart. I worked very hard to keep my head above water. I forced myself to continue my own workouts. I made sure I went to bed on time and I ate very well. I started going to therapy, which was it's own mess because of some insurance confusion, which was fun because then therapy itself was stressing me out. I sat in front of a Happy Light for at least 30 minutes every day. I took a writing class to be doing something productive. I started working toward an online degree in Business Marketing, which I thought it might help me market myself in theatre and fitness eventually. I tried to meet with friends, although I thought (incorrectly) that they all were tired of me and didn't want to meet with me. I did a lot of meditating. I didn't post a thing on social media. I was already feeling unstable at work and I felt it would be some kind of career suicide. And honestly, I didn't think it would help.
Fortunately for me, I discovered that my depression was seasonal. Dean and I went on our usual February vacation to somewhere warm and it was like my depression didn't exist. Even for the first week after we returned the Vitamin D that I had stored up kept me nice and normal. I noticed when I dropped back down a few weeks later, but sure enough, as the sun began staying out longer and days began getting warmer, my mood began to elevate and stabilize. I'm incredibly relieved to find out the cause, but now I'm even more terrified of winter than I was before.
Spring finally began to warm and my ankle gave way. Or, more specifically, several different muscles and tendons in my calf that hold my ankle and foot onto the rest of my leg began to announce loudly that they were tired. Suddenly I couldn't run. My favorite season in Chicago had finally come and I was unable to enjoy it. I went to my doctor several times. One thing would heal, another would give. Not only was I unable to run, teaching was painful. Especially yoga as being in my bare feet was worse than when I was wearing shoes. I couldn't jump without pain so kickboxing was interesting. I had also just added four new kickboxing classes to my schedule. The worst was not knowing what was going on, how long it would last and how I could fix it. I biked, I swam (ugh) and I spent a lot of time on all kinds of elliptical machines. My ankle pain became tolerable, but wasn't going away.
I desperately googled running injuries and eventually came across a forum on Facebook called Running4Real (there's a podcast too, it's pretty good). I posted about my injury and several runners jumped on and recommended dry needling. I researched and found a physical therapist that took my insurance and did dry needling and asked my doctor for a referral. All I'll say about it is that it's amazing and being cleared to walk again was a life saver. I haven't been able to run regularly since April 28th which has been physically difficult, yes, but mentally and emotionally crushing. I am just now getting back to it by carefully following a transitional program.
A week ago I met my mother in Idaho where my grandmother lives. My mom goes up twice a year to help out and visit my grandma. My grandma is 94 years old and I hadn't seen her in five years. I have wanted to go for a while, but I was always in a show. I was also a little afraid. I knew she was losing her memory and couldn't move around on her own. I tried to decide if I just wanted to remember her as she was or if I would regret not seeing her again. I decided to go.
That trip was one of the best decisions I've made this year. Of course there were noticeable changes, but grandma was still grandma. Her memory isn't great, but she gets so delighted by the little things, birds, flowers, photographs, that it's wonderful to see and refreshing to be around. And if she gets delighted by the same photographs five times in a row as if she hadn't just looked at them two seconds before, who cares? I also got to spend some time with my mom while my grandma was resting (which was frequent enough) and we did yard work, cooked, cleaned and had an occasional glass of wine. It was nice to have straightforward tasks to do for and with someone you love. I got to have a visit with my grandma and her sisters also. All ladies in their 90s. One of my mom's old friends from when she was a teenager came over and they reconnected for the first time since they were nineteen. I got to look at a lot of old family photo albums. My younger cousin had a new baby and I got to see them.
The trip offered a good dose of perspective. Barring tragedy, I have a nice long life ahead of me, that may not even be halfway done. These rough patches are very short periods of time. This may be the longest I haven't run in my entire life, but in the grand scheme of life, it's a very short time. I believe that I knew this on a logical level. On a logical level, I also know that letting things heal and giving them time is important. It is very different to know things on a logical level and to understand them and accept them on an emotional plane.
I've accepted that this may just be a year of letting myself heal in many different ways. And honestly, I had no idea that healing was necessary. I honestly thought everything was fine until everything started to break down. I haven't been the best at accepting it either. I've been frustrated with myself for taking so long of a break. For not just being able to 'snap out of it.' For not being able to do what I've always been able to do. Even knowing that things change and nothing stays the same, including everything about me, didn't help. I'm not sure what exactly it was, but I'm okay with giving myself a break now. Probably for as long as it takes. Yes, I would like to be able to run sooner than later and yes, I really really really hope that this winter doesn't bring me down as bad as the last one did, and I would like to make some kind of art soon. But you can't get blood from a stone. If it's not there, it's not there and I need to let it be.
Have there been positives as a result of all of this? Well, of course. When you go to an uncomfortable place, change is created and I have been uncomfortable for a fairly long time. I have learned some things and I have been productive. It's in my nature. That's not what this post is about though.
I'm allowing myself to say that everything is not always great and everything is not always fine and I am not always a ball of positivism. And it's okay. The pendulum will swing again.