I always told myself that I wouldn't be affected by any sort of emotional scars. After 2 years of dealing with a chronic back problem that led to a rotator cuff injury, I was done. I told myself I'd take on a hard outer shell and only feel pain from physical injuries - because it made sense. You can feel it physically affecting you, everything hurts all the time.
I was pretty good at that, ignoring my emotions. The rest of my life was still together. I was in my senior year of high school and getting healed. I planned on playing water polo in college, and I thought I was healthy enough. And I was. My back was in good condition. I played the first semester, and in the second, something happened one day and my upper back and shoulders were injured. This was February of last year, 2014. I stopped playing sports and I lost my motivation for schoolwork, getting the lowest GPA I never thought I'd get. My parents were mad. Without playing sports, I had so much time to do stuff that I ended up doing nothing.
Over the summer I worked on my injury and got better. I was strong. I was lifting in the gym, swimming every day, and my muscles were getting stronger. I felt good. I came back to school and within the first week of sitting in classes my back was in so much pain. I went to one water polo practice and knew I had to stop. I started seeing doctors. I went to physical therapy at the student center, saw a sports medicine doctor, got an MRI for my neck, an EMG for my shoulder/right arm to check my nerves, saw physical therapy in the UPMC system. It seemed hopeless. I was going to the gym every day though, lifting with 2 pound weights and feeling disgustingly embarrassed. No!! You don't understand!! I'm just injured! I'm strong! I wanted to shout at everyone but I couldn't. That's weird.
Second semester came and I was still in pain. I went back to physical therapy. I broke down crying at the gym and my friend had to come comfort me and tell me that I needed to stop going to the gym because I definitely wasn't strong enough. I cried at the end of classes when it hurt. I cried in front of people a lot. Think about feeling a pinching, pulling pain in your shoulder blades when you breathe. Think about leaning your head forward and feeling a disgusting pulling sensation in your upper spine in your muscles. Think about waking up and having your fingers numb from your nerves being impinged. Nerve pain isn't something you can massage out or ice away. Your shoulders hurt. It hurts to lift things. And then your doctor tells you he's disappointed in you because you aren't getting better. Your lower back is so sore when you wake up in the morning. It's a dull pain that just sits and settles. It's not something I'd wish upon anyone.
What people don't understand about physical pain, and what I only just realized is that it's a different type of stress on the body. So you have that, and then you get emotionally stressed and you get anxious and worried and you think you will never get better. And that's even more stress on your body. It's all so connected.
It's gotten to the point where I think every day if I should stay here. I could stop this pain so easily. It could just go away. But I can't do that because I need to show people that they can get through it. I'm not ashamed of going to counseling and seeing therapists and acknowledging that I have a problem.
I get embarrassed because people stare at me when I'm stretching in class. How amateur is that? I stand up to stretch my hips, I stretch my neck, my arms, and I just look like a complete doofus. Stop staring at me. STOP STARING AT ME I don't want this either! I don't want to feel like this!! Stop making me remember that there's something wrong with me. When I called the on-call counselor she told me that it's not me. You know what, people are just looking for a distraction. They're just curious. And if anything, I'm setting an example for people on how to be healthy.
Then I'm having problems with my friends, boys, feeling like I still need to lose weight to look better and make my back feel better, not getting good grades, having people compete with me to get good grades - I'm only there so they can feel better about having a higher grade than me, which isn't that hard anyway. My friend group is falling apart, I know things I shouldn't know and I'm losing my faith in some of them. I have so much stress on me to do my jobs perfectly in my sorority. I don't know how to say no to people and I take on too much. 12 credits feels like 12000 to me right now. I am so behind. I can't sit for 4 hours like people can in the library. I'm getting angry all the time. I scream, I yell, I act like I'm 2 years old when I'm 2 decades old. I get mad at everyone. And I'm so sorry. I wish I wouldn't.
I wonder if people think about how lucky they are. They can sit and study for hours and immerse themselves in the material. i'm always always thinking about my back. Always. What am I doing to make it better? Why does it hurt? They can push open those stupid revolving doors without wincing. They can do so much that I can't. I miss water polo, I miss being on a team. No one seems to understand what I am going through, and that's understandable. Only you will understand it all. But no one seems to be giving me a break. Oh, that's not a real problem. Your back just hurts. You're not in a cast, a sling, you didn't get surgery. Just suck it up, they say. How do I write excuses to my professors, my employers? I can't. I'm just stuck.
I scare myself into being in pain. I know I do. It's mental. So much of this is mental. It's scary how complex and amazing the human mind is.
My escape is playing guitar and thinking about soccer. When I play songs I forget that I'm in pain. I'm not that good but I like hearing my voice, it reminds me that I'm alive. When I watch soccer with people I'm reminded that this is a community that accepts you for who you are because you have one main goal in mind - watching soccer. It's like nothing I've experienced before. It makes me smile. It makes me happy and no one can take that away from me.
What am I doing next? I'm still going. I'm making these cheesy instagram posts everyday about positivity, good things in my life, and general deep things that should make people think. It's hard because I sometimes don't even believe it. Every time I start doubting my recovery, physically and mentally, I have to think of the post I make. That's keeping me here. I'm hoping that in some way I can inspire someone. Even if it's just one person, I've done my job. Laugh at me for being serious on social media, but this is me. I have to do this. I am breathing. I am working on my breathing because it makes me forget about my problems. For the time being.
My biggest fear is not being healthy enough to be an athletic trainer, which is all I've wanted in my life. For a year and a half, fine, but there's something about working with athletes who are driven, dedicated and committed every day. They inspire me so much. The discipline they have, that I need. I need to get better. There's no way around it. I'm scared of disappointing my parents with my grades, not being as good as my sisters at everything, being alone, and being stuck like this for the rest of my life.
My favorite quote is, "Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, but never give up". I can't give up. I can't. I have to be here for other people who want to give up.
Instead of studying I'm spending half an hour typing this. I have a lab due on Thursday but I know that I need to clear my head. I am so scared of everything but I have to keep going. For my soccer team, for my friends, my family, and the future people that I can hopefully inspire. Thank you so much for listening.
Jordan, thank you so much for showing me that first of all, there are so many different types of things people go through. In the fact that we as humans struggle, I'm not alone. And that makes me feel good. I keep trying to put things in perspective. I'm not sure why I'm going to keep going but something in me tells me that it's all worth it. And that makes me feel good. Someone, if not me, can benefit from this. I don't think I can study any more tonight, but I have 2 tests next week on the same day and so much stuff to do. So much to do, so little time."