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I ran my first 5K.
It was also my first race since high school cross country.
I had forgotten how much fun the energy can be.
I guess I’ll have to do it again.
Back in September I planned on registering to run a half marathon in January with my sister, but I was too late and ended up on a wait list. I thought I would continue to train and hope for the best.
Fast forward to now, my sister is not going to be running after all. After a couple of setbacks in her own training she now has to lay off her foot completely. So she said she’d transfer her registration to me. Who has been doing nothing but working, house hunting, and ignoring the lovely training program I created for myself.
I’ve got a little over six weeks to get my ass in gear. With a little motivation, I can usually get back to form quickly. I went out last night in the cold wind for a 3-miler. Just a little warm-up that left me grimacing every other step this morning.
Update 12/07/08: I managed to injure myself on that first run. My left foot’s arch is making it impossible for me to walk normally, so I’ve been hobbling the last 2 shifts. 1 more before I can finally put my feet up. There’s no way I’m going to run 13 miles in six weeks. I can deal with sore muscles. These sharp pains are a deal breaker.
The last time I ever had this type of injury was about five years ago after a 10-mile run. I haven’t completed my first year of nursing, and I’ve already been a little achy around the balls of my feet the last two months. And that’s without adding running to the mix.
Floor nursing is going down.
We hadn’t run together in nearly a year. At least once a week he would ask, “Are we training today?” Our private running joke, pun intended. We once agreed to train for a marathon, but I abandoned my training schedule after the first painful 10 mile run. (I don’t know how far he got, or if he ever really started since we lived in separate states.) This particular evening he came home from work and asked, “Do you want to go to the track?” He was serious, and I went to change.
Twenty minutes later we pulled up to the high school stadium. Our town has a yearly week-long festival that takes over the main street every March. The sun was just beginning to set as we stepped onto the track with the Ferris wheel looming a block ahead. We could see the fair lights and hear the lively, tinkling music blending into a discordant, jangling sound. Our easy pace allowed us to talk, but for some time we simply ran in silence broken only by our breathing.
When he finally spoke, it was about his current struggles with anxiety. Only in recent years have I come to understand the depression and anxiety that has plagued my father most of his life. All throughout my childhood I never understood what he was battling. I just knew that I didn’t like the father I saw: angry, short-tempered, always yelling. We would tiptoe around my father and speak softly to avoid setting him off. At night I would imagine ways to get him out of my life (not usually fatal…and if so, painless). I hated the man I lived with, but I loved the daddy that occasionally made an appearance – the one who gave me wet kisses on my cheek, who told bedtime stories about superheroes, who teased my mom, who laughed loudly and played soccer with us in the backyard. It was those brief moments that gave some hope, but that hope wasn’t enough. Our relationship was strained and difficult at best. I was angry at my father and only made angrier by him always telling me that I was just like him.
The turning point finally arrived when I was 18. I had accepted a full scholarship to a university four states away, and I was ecstatic. I just knew this was my chance to get away from everything I thought was holding me back. He fought hard and dirty with daily lectures of how I was abandoning my family and by throwing away my mail. I responding by working more hours and using a friend’s address for correspondence with the university. I was livid the day I discovered that he had answered phone calls from the scholarship committee and told them not once, but twice that I had decided not to go after all. During my freshman year, he never once spoke to me while I was at school. I would call home once a week, and my mother would always end the conversation with “Your father says he loves you.” When I was home during vacations, the subject of school was never brought up. By my third year he was talking to me regularly on the phone, though the conversations were brief. He surprised me at the end of one call and told me that he was proud of me. After I hung up I sat on the floor and cried.
Our relationship improved gradually. He began asking about school and my life. The tension during my visits home was dissolving. I was happy, sharing an apartment with my three best friends and enjoying my job on a cardiac unit. Everything felt good and then great when I was accepted into a nursing program along with one of my roommates. Until I began experiencing my own bouts of anxiety.
Skills check-offs took place at the beginning of each semester. Skills were drawn randomly and performed in front of an evaluator. At first I thought I was just nervous. After all, it was either 100% pass or fail. Success determined whether we continued in the program, regardless of our standing through classes and clinicals. As the semesters went on, that nervousness grew into something I couldn’t manage anymore. No amount of preparation and study made a difference. I was comfortable with the skills, having performed them regularly during clinicals and for my job, but I couldn’t seem to pull myself together when it mattered. I felt fine and ready the night before and on my way to the school. It wasn’t until I made my way to the testing room that I would start experiencing shortness of breath and tremors. As I waited outside the room, I tried desperately to quell those foreboding feelings and calm myself with breathing exercises. Once inside the symptoms would only worsen. A sense of suffocation came over me, and my hands would shake so violently that I had trouble manipulating the equipment. At one point I was to draw up insulin into a syringe, and I couldn’t get the needle into the vial. After several attempts a sympathetic evaluator asked me to take a moment before continuing. (They aren’t supposed to say anything to us during testing.)
With all the anxiety, it was a lone, innocuous mistake that kept me from passing. I argued the point to no avail. The program’s policy with a first failure was to pull you out and let you try again during the next semester’s check-offs. I was embarrassed but determined not to let this keep me down. The weeks before my next check-off were spent in the skills lab practicing with an instructor. She had worked with me during clinicals and seemed just as determined that I succeed. We went over every skill until we were both confident that no amount of nerves could impede my performance. In the meantime, I was also practicing every available skill at work with my supervising nurses. I couldn’t think of anything more that I could do to prepare myself.
That afternoon I pulled the skills that I had hoped to pull: a female catheter and a blood draw. When those familiar feelings hit me with a vengeance, I felt helpless. It was as if I was just watching myself make one ridiculous mistake after another; all I could hear was the screaming in my head. Afterwards I didn’t even wait to hear what my evaluator had to say. I held back tears until I’d hidden myself in a bathroom stall on the fifth floor. What the hell was wrong with me? I knew this stuff. I was supposed to meet with my director, but I e-mailed her instead and received a very polite e-mail in return. Two unsuccessful check-offs meant an immediate dismissal from the program.
I’d never failed before. Not like this. How do you fail gracefully? I was so ashamed and angry at myself. I didn’t understand what had happened to me. I’ve been nervous before, but these feelings went deeper and were beyond my control. I knew that I was good at nursing. Every experience in clinicals and on the job affirmed that choice, but my journal entries from that time questioned everything. I felt like such a failure. The only option I could see was to move back home and finish my degree at a small, local university. My scholarship was ending, and I couldn’t afford to live on my own and pay tuition. I sent in the paperwork and tied up loose ends. On the surface I was getting along with my life, but that shame and doubt was eating me away inside. I withdrew from my friends and my regular activities to the point that I was just working and sleeping. I didn’t want to leave my room, but I would make myself so that my roommates wouldn’t worry. We had such conflicting schedules that they had no idea I spent most of my time in bed. I thought I should be stronger, and it was even more embarrassing to me that I couldn’t rise above this temporary failure.
I dreaded telling anyone the truth, so I didn’t. I just said that I decided to transfer programs and gave vague explanations such as “I wasn’t happy with the program” and “for a lot of personal reasons.” More than anything I dreaded my father’s reaction, the man who told me I would never get into college after I got my first B in the seventh grade. I imagined him to be self-righteous and smugly satisfied. Instead, he was just happy that I was home again. That meant so much to me, and I settled back into a routine. I was admitted into a new program, and I’m currently set to graduate (finally) this December with my BSN.
It’s been over a year; I’m not in that dark place anymore, but I feel down when I have time to think. I’m not where I want to be, and I’m still angry at myself for messing up my plan. It scares me how quickly I fell down that depressive hole and how long it’s taking me to find my way out. I haven’t again experienced such crippling anxiety (my current program is set up quite differently), but I am afraid of the prospect.
As I listened to my father’s agony in the dark, I focused on the white lines before me and struggled to keep from crying. I understood better than he knew, but I couldn’t bring myself to say, “Me, too.”
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I’ve decided on the San Antonio Marathon to meet my running goal this year. It’s within driving distance (about 5 hours) and leaves me plenty of time to train and increase my mileage gradually. My last training attempt left me with a foot injury after only a ten-mile run. Looking back I can see that I was pushing too hard and too fast, following an 18-week training program. Silly girl. This time I’ll take the same program, but I’ll stretch out the increases to cover the nine months.