Be scared…and then do it anyway

I’m typically a private person (we’re talking Harper Lee or Greta Garbo-style reclusiveness, actually) so the small circle of people that know me really well, will be fully shocked to read about how all sorts of real I’m about to get here…and probably even more shocked that I’m willing to put it out there on the interweb. Those of you who know me a little bit, probably think I’m kinda quiet and shy – you aren’t wrong – but you might be surprised at my candour (aka: my language haha) Don’t be offended. It’s just who I am.

So, why am I writing this?

I’m doing it for myself as a form of catharsis, maybe. Perhaps I’m even doing it to make amends for not speaking up earlier when maybe I should have. I’m also doing it to rid, even in some small way, that little bit of unnecessary arrogance we unfortunately seem to have in the medical community – a community in which I’m a part. I’m doing it for you…someone…anyone…that might find connection to my experience.

Years ago, I once had a patient see me shopping for groceries while in full-on Saturday mode: messy hair in a bun, sweat pants, you name it. He stopped me and said, “oh my god, Jodi, it’s so odd to see you here.” He shook his head in bewilderment and continued after a moment’s thought, “…but I guess you’re human and have to eat, too” before carrying on with his day.

That small moment has stuck with me over the years and it’s contributed to how I approach my practice every single day. It reminded me of how disconnected the health care field can seem for many people. How shrouded in mystery people with a “title” can be to others. It also gave me a business idea of publishing a magazine of photos of my colleagues pumping gas, walking their dogs, etc…you know, a “They’re Just Like Us!” of medical professionals…but I digress.

Because the truth is, we are just like you. We all have a story. We all have our struggles and insecurities. We are not immune.

Let me give you an example. In the stylings of everyone’s favourite crotchety Italian Golden Girl, Sophia…picture it…Swift Current…about 3 years ago…

I was pregnant with our second child. The pregnancy was uneventful save for the first 3 months where I spent the better part of my day with my head in a toilet while our toddler jumped on my back riding me like a goddamn horse.

9 days before my due date, I experienced what’s called a placental abruption. If you google machine that little ditty, you’ll see that my uneventful pregnancy quickly became a full-on emergency.

I won’t get into all the gory details of what happened next. Haemorrhaging, surgery, wound tunnelling, daily wound milking, daily wound packing, IV poles in my living room, IV locks in my hand, infection, home care nurses visiting daily, being forced to “eat protein like it was my job” to promote wound healing, ultrasounds, intra-vaginal ultrasounds, electrolyte imbalances, blood work, CT scans, medications, doctors appointments. Oh, and I had a newborn I was trying to bond with, trying to breast feed, and a rambunctious toddler at home to boot.

This was my reality and it went on for months. Nearly 23 months, actually.

I was scared.

I was scared that nobody had any answers and at how close things came to having a very different ending.

I was scared of doing anything that might cause me to have yet another setback in what seemed like a tortoise-like recovery.

I was scared that I would forever have a gaping hole that spanned the width of my entire abdomen and that said gaping hole would never be free of blood, infection, inflammation.

I was scared that another woman would follow in my footsteps and have a similar experience and that by not speaking up about the issues surrounding my situation when the lady from patient services at the health region urged me to, would make me somehow complicit in this woman’s pain.

(sidebar: if there’s a woman out there that this may be true for; I’m sorry. My only defence was that I was focused on survival during that time and the thought of meeting with a room full of people to discuss what happened vs what should’ve happened was more than I could bear. I failed you).

I was also angry. Nope, scratch that. I was livid.

I was livid that I was being robbed of valuable time bonding with my new baby.

I was livid that my husband was under so much pressure during this time and that the concept of family coming before work, especially in times of crisis, seemed like a foreign concept to some.

I was livid that I was at the mercy of this situation that seemed to have a life of its own and that it was utterly consuming me and throwing my wonderful little family into such upheaval.

I was livid that I was losing control, and mostly, I was livid that it seemed like there wasn’t a f*cking thing I could do about it.

But, we persevered. Because that’s what you do when you have little people relying on you for life – you cart around your IV pole in your living room, timing your medications to nurse your baby while reading a book to your toddler. You wait until nap time to change your blood drenched dressing and cry in the bathroom for just a little minute. Your husband takes whatever days he needs to (and ultimately a change in position entirely) to be at home more, so you can get to your daily medical appointments regardless of the damage it may do to his career. You. make. it. work.

Don’t get me wrong, I know how lucky we are. We were able to wake up from our nightmare eventually. This is a luxury not everyone is afforded – those battling cancer in its horrible final stages, those medical mommas fighting every day for the health of their baby (I’m looking at you, K.T.) By comparison, I have no room to complain. I’m thankful to the medical team that ultimately made mistakes, but also saved us and worked damn hard during this difficult time (home care nurses and wound care specialists deserve a parade!) But it was still tough. Real tough. And it’s created some lasting complications that I continue to grapple with.

Even though nearly 2.5 years later I am deemed “healed;” I am left with a body I no longer recognize as my own. To say I am somewhat de-conditioned would be like saying Bill Gates makes a pretty decent living – a gigantic understatement.

My body is weak. Parts of my body are numb. My abdomen is a mess of restricted fascia and scar tissue. I am carrying more weight than is reasonable for my frame after a lengthy period of time unable to exercise. (I’ve got enough junk in my trunk that even Sir-Mix-a-lot himself would fall short of knowing what in Sam Hell to do with it all.) Yes, folks, it’s safe to say that I am in the worst physical shape of my life. And while this is difficult to admit, it pales in comparison to the difficulty in admitting that my mental health was just as affected by this ordeal. Anxiety and PTSD are now a reality of my life.

But, I ain’t no quitter.

This brings me to the final tangent of this post…the shitbags.

You know who I’m talking about. These are people that seemingly don’t know the struggle. The ones that cast a judgmental eye or utter a snarky under-the-breath comment and make it difficult to make that first step toward improving your health through exercise or a better diet. It’s of no doubt that shitbags are overcome with their own insecurities that they feel the need to overcompensate by behaving this way; nevertheless, shitbags are intimidating and tough on the ‘ol self-esteem.

Gyms are notorious for housing a shitbag or two. I’ve seen it myself over the years and it just seems crazy to me. But then again, the world’s gone a bit crazy, hasn’t it? I mean, we’re living in a time where a billionaire with a bad spray tan who plays fast and loose with the English language (Bigly? Seriously, are you kidding me with that?) is president of the United States. Children arrive to school hungry, unable to concentrate, in our very own community of Swift Current. Girls in Africa have their genitals mutilated just because they’re girls. So, to all the shitbags in gyms passing judgement on those courageous enough to walk through the doors: We have much bigger problems to discuss than the fact that a mom carrying some extra weight is walking on a treadmill or that a skinny guy has a shitty squat that he’s working on improving. Get over yourselves.

But again, I digress…

So, combine my paralyzing fear of re-injury, the fact that I’m in the worst shape of my life, and that judgy-von-holier-than-thou attitudes make me rage – the thought of jumping back into some training after such a long time off, felt terrifying. Me. Terrified. Did I also happen to mention that I own one half of CrossFit Swift Current – the space, the equipment, the contract with CF HQ, the whole she-bang AND employ the people who work there? All this, and I was STILL TERRIFIED to start. So, those of you that are overweight, de-conditioned, coming off an injury, scared, insecure, weak, what have you, but looking for change – you are my motherf*cking tribe. I get you. I feel you. I. Am. You.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. What I do know is this: I feel better when I move my body. I know that my mental state is better when I move my body regularly. Self care in the form of exercise is vital to my recovery, both physical and mental. I’ve learned that I’m worth the time and effort. As importantly, I’ve learned my awesome little family is worth me taking the time and effort.

So, if you’re ready to start taking care of yourself, come see me and my colleagues. There’s no judgement here. Remember, we’re just like you. We all have a story. We want nothing more than to make you feel comfortable and get you back to feeling good in your own skin, able to move without restriction, and get a handle on your life. STRIDE and CrossFit Swift Current are decidedly shitbag-free zones, I promise.

These days, I’m happy to report that I’m not quite as scared or angry. Now, I’m mostly grateful. I’m alive. My baby is not only alive, but now a healthy, happy toddler. My husband and I have found better balance between our work and our family life. I have a top-drawer business partner with whom together we’ve created a place we come to work everyday that we’re proud of and have worked hard to achieve. I get to spend my day alongside some of the most talented, skilled, and caring colleagues to ever grace their fields. I have the great privilege everyday of working with people, hopefully improving their lives, even in some small way. Yep. It’s pretty good to be Jodi – and I know it.

But, none of this happened overnight, and it’s definitely not all luck. It’s a continual work in progress. STRIDE didn’t just “happen.” It continuing to exist and grow each and every day doesn’t just “happen.” Every inch of it is a result of a painstaking process of analyzing, researching, debating, stressing, and so on.

Just like starting to get my health (both physical and mental) back in check is a process. I’ve got a crazy, long way to go, but my desire for it now outweighs my fear so…I’m working on it.

Whew! I realize that got all sorts of ramb-ly (What? That’s a word. I’m sure The Donald thinks so anyway). If you’re somehow still reading; I appreciate that.

Here’s what I know in summary:

  • Trust that inner voice screaming at you that something is wrong even if all the experts in the room are saying otherwise. 120 seconds can be the difference between life and death.
  • Everyone makes mistakes, including health care workers. Because, human. In that same vein, as a patient/client, you have every right to question and challenge. Don’t be intimidated by a degree on a wall or letters behind a name. Remember: health care professionals shop for groceries in their sweat pants just like anybody else.
  • Don’t be a shitbag. If you see someone trying to do something to better themselves, commend them on their courage and wise choice.
  • To my colleagues – we have knowledge. We’ve spent big money, time, effort and sacrifice for our training. We are experts. But all that knowledge and expertise is useless if no one wants to come see us because we’re unicorn, elitist douche-bags. Do the work, and remain humble.

and probably most of all,

  • If something that’s important to you, scares you….

be scared…and then do it anyway.

– J