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Life gets better

The abyss. I have been spending a lot of time there in the last month. If you are not familiar with the abyss it’s the dark place where you hang out and worry that all your worst fears are true. I really don’t think of myself as an overly dramatic person and I try not to indulge in self-pity for extended periods of time, but there is something about being in pain all day and getting very little sleep that will mess with your mind.

Since the last update I’ve gone to see a surgeon who told me he thought my issue was nerve related and sent me to get an EMG. The EMG showed that there was evidence of nerve issues and the doctor said it could be a herniated disc or something else pushing on the sciatic nerve and causing me to feel the symptoms in my leg. He told me to go get an MRI on my back and we’d discuss treatments once the issue was diagnosed.

Sadly through a combination of bad timing and my incredible bad luck, we were due to switch insurance providers two days later at work so I had to wait to get the new information before I could schedule the MRI. It took two weeks to get the new insurance information and in that two weeks, I spent quite a lot of time in the abyss.

Since I had to wait for a diagnosis from the doctor I took to the web and started to diagnosis myself. When I had sufficiently worried myself there I started googling herniated discs and other possible nerve issues and how they affected jiu-jitsu (I recommend you never do that). As all of this was going on, the pain was getting increasingly worse and I was in a constant state of stress and aggravation. I started to worry that the pain wold never go away and that I would never get to train jiu-jitsu again. Then something happened jiu-jitsu related last week that made me start to think the universe was sending me every signal that jiu-jitsu didn’t want me anymore.

So there I was last Thursday, laying around in pain and indulging in my misery. I was complaining to a friend of mine about all of this and she told me that I couldn’t give up, that life will get better. I told her something pathetic like “I hope so” and she told me to stop worrying, that it would. She has been through way more medically lately than I have and I started to feel pretty ashamed that she could have that positive outlook and I was being so sullen. I made the decision that I was going to try my best to be more positive and stop feeling miserable all the time.

That very day I got my new health insurance information! Now I think that probably my decision to be positive had little effect on the people at Aetna but it seemed like a sign that the universe was rewarding my effort to stop wearing my grumpy pants. With the new information I was able to get my MRI authorized that day and scheduled for Saturday…more good stuff!

Saturday rolled around and my new positive attitude was being tested. Some good friends and training partners of mine at another school were getting promoted. Their instructor wanted to make sure that there were lots of women there to support them and beat them up (it’s often the same thing) and I wanted to go even if I couldn’t participate much. I feared it would be very depressing to watch everyone continue and progress in their training while I couldn’t even think about getting back to my own yet.

As I was getting ready to head out in the morning I started cleaning up around the house a bit and came across a picture that my jiu-jitsu bestie had given me a few weeks before. It was a picture of me, her and another friend at the women’s camp we went to in February. When she gave it to me she said it was so I would remember happy times training and be motivated to get back to the mats. I hadn’t put it up yet because I still wasn’t sure I would be back on the mats. I looked at the picture and decided that I was going to do everything possible to get back on the mats. I put it up in a prominent location and I look at it everyday as a reminder of what I’m working for.

Instead of feeling depressed at the promotions, I felt inspired. I got to talk over my situation with some awesome higher belts and I got a reminder of what I wanted to get back to. After promotions I went to get my MRI and yesterday received word from my doctor that I do indeed have a herniated disc. Next week I get a steroid injection in my spine (I’m not freaked out by that…) and then I will start PT and I hope to be on the mats again at least by the end of summer, if not before.

For now I’ll keep looking at that picture everyday to remind myself what I am working towards. The world better look out when I get back on the mats…I have a lot of ass kicking to make up for 🙂

My inspiration

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Ow

I am sorry for another long delay in posts. I have had some pretty bad luck with my knee in the weeks since the open and haven’t been able to train much. When I can’t train, it tends to be the beginning of a downward spiral where I do all sorts of bad stuff and it’s very hard for me to keep up with the blog because I am depressed I am not training. I am not trying to make excuses (well maybe a little) but I wanted to offer some kind of explanation as to why my blogging has been so spotty lately as well as a promise to try to do better…trust me, you can’t stay mad at me!

I don’t want to turn this jiu-jitsu blog into a knee injury blog so I’m not going to focus too much on medical stuff. Basically my doctor tried a new treatment a couple of weeks ago and not only did it not work, but my leg has been in a lot of pain since. While it’s been sad not to be able to train, it’s been worse not being able to walk, stand, sit or even lie down without pain. I know, poor me 😦

So while I don’t want to get into boring medical details, I would like to talk about the effect this injury is having mentally because maybe that will be more useful to someone someday. If you don’t want to read a whole post about what I think about being injured I can sum it nicely right now for you…it sucks.

I am basically planning everything around what is good for my knee now. I can’t do anything that involves much walking because that is agonizing after about a minute. I’ve been coming into work earlier because I work in a massive building with parking all over the place and I want to get a closer spot to minimize the walking. I also plan trips to the grocery store to hit only one section at a time for the same reason. Anywhere I go now I have to think about how much walking will be involved and what kind of seating arrangements there are. My knee does pretty good on hard chairs but will start hurting pretty soon if I sit in a soft chair.

Besides the fact that my number one priority in life has become pain management, I also think about odd things when I’m hobbling around. Last week I was leaving work and a guy was walking behind me and I thought that if he, or anyone, decided to attack me there was no way I was going to run away. I did not find this man particularly threatening but it was a weird little moment of realization and now whenever someone is behind me I inevitably think about how they could physically dominate me and it makes me sad that I can’t fight anymore. I also bristle a little every time someone passes me because I am walking too slow. I have fantasies of yelling out “I used to the passer and not the passee!” and then telling them all about my glory days with two functional knees.

So while it’s hard enough that my knee is on my mind almost all the time (sadly because my knee hurts while I am sleeping I even often dream about knee pain) it’s super hard that I am going through all this stress and I’ve lost my number one way to deal with stress…jiu-jitsu! And not only do I not get to train but because I’ve let jiu-jitsu permeate pretty much all areas of my life, I am constantly being reminded that I am not training. All I see in social media is jiu-jitsu stuff. Most of my friends are doing jiu-jitsu. Hell I am even wearing a jiu-jitsu shirt right now! I can’t escape the fact that there is a ton of jiu-jitsu going on and I am not involved in any of it.

The part that is the most frustrating to me is the fact that I don’t have a diagnosis for what is causing the pain and therefore no plan to fix it. Back in September when I got an MRI, I was told it was a sprained ligament but I feel that something else must have happened since then because the pain is much worse now and is not getting better. I had another appointment this week and my doctor was worried it might be a blood clot so I had to get an ultrasound. You know you are desperate for a solution when you are actually sad the doctor tells you that you don’t have a clot. I am planning to push for a scope at my next appointment because I really just want to know what’s going on right now. Part of me is afraid of what they’ll find and how long it will take to recover but I think the scarier prospect is that they tell me there is nothing to fix and knee pain is part of my life from now on.

I am trying to stay as positive as I can and tell myself that something will work and my knee will get better. It’s been such a long process that I have to admit that it’s getting difficult to keep the faith. Sometimes when I am really frustrated I start to wonder if this is how my jiu-jitsu story is going to end. I hurt my knee and I kept pushing it and finally my knee gave up on me and we will live the rest of our respective lives hating each other. I really don’t think this is where my path was meant to end though so I have no choice but to keep looking for a solution.

So that’s what’s been up with me the last few weeks. I promise more jiu-jitsu themed blogs soon and in the meantime, I hope you are all enjoying your time on the mats!

Ouch

If you have been reading this blog for the last 8 or 9 months then you probably know that I have a knee injury that has managed to permeate every facet of my life, especially training. For a while I was very focused on fixing it and was not training much. After 5 or 6 months though, I got really frustrated and figured if my leg was going to hurt either way, I might as well train. I am still regularly going to see the doctor and trying things to fix the knee, but I am definitely training a lot more than I was.

I am not advocating training while injured but for me I couldn’t handle the mental side-effects of not training any longer. I was feeling depressed and angry. I could not stick to healthy habits without jits as the cornerstone of my healthy lifestyle. I couldn’t exercise much, I was eating crap, gaining weight, etc. It was an endless cycle of blah. So I made the decision to not only go back to training more but because I am a very goal-oriented person, I also made the decision to train for some competitions.  I competed in an in-house tournament a few weeks ago but the big focus has been the New York Open, coming up this weekend.

Overall I am happy with the decision to train and compete again. Yes my knee is a constant problem but through some sort of bodily truce, rarely bothers me while I’m training. However, I am always aware that I am training injured. I have been hurt training and competing plenty of times but this injury has made me really focus on the dangers of training, probably because it has lasted so long and has not just affected my training but my off-the-mat life as well.

Something occurred Monday night that has been making me think of jiu-jitsu injuries even more. We were rolling at the end of class and I ended up with another blue belt guy. He is very new to our gym having just recently transferred from another gym because of location. I rolled with him his first night at our gym which, if I recall, was his first night training in a while. I did not care for the level of intensity he brought to the roll considering our obvious size difference (I would say he is at least 8 inches taller than me and probably at least 50 pounds heavier). I felt somewhat apprehensive about rolling with him but he is a very nice guy when you talk to him and I thought maybe he just went too hard that first night because of nerves.

Sadly I discovered this was not the case. He quickly got past my guard and I turtled up and he managed to flatten me out and then lay on top of me while he tried to work his hands in to get my collar. He tried to roll me to get hooks in and I managed to escape and then he went for an armbar. I started to defend but really wasn’t comfortable with the grip he had on my arm and thought to myself it wasn’t worth getting hurt, especially with the open coming up, so I tapped.

As we reset I felt very uncomfortable. I thought to myself “I just have to get through this roll and then I will avoid this guy in the future, especially this week because I don’t want to get hurt before the open”. Of course since I put the thought of getting hurt before the tournament into the universe, I set myself up to do exactly that. He went to bump sweep me and I posted. There was a brief pause after I posted and then I guess he figured it didn’t work because he didn’t do it hard enough and he put all his force behind another bump. This forced me to roll over every finger of my left hand. I immediately screamed in pain (it hurt!) and rolled over onto my hand and off the mat. To my horror, I even started crying. Not because it hurt but because I feared that all of the hard work I’ve put into getting ready to compete being was going to be wasted because I had just hurt my hand.

I took some time to ice and evaluate the injury. It hurt but I was pretty sure nothing was broken. I have rolled over fingers before so I anticipated that I was going to have a rough few days of swollen fingers and inability to bend them. I was really upset that it was going to affect my ability to train this week as I had a whole list of things I wanted to work on but I was just hoping it would be functional by Saturday.

While I was icing, the coach who was running class came over to check on me. He was very nice and very concerned about my hand. He told me that he had seen it about to happen and that next time I should be really careful to tuck the hand and just go with the sweep. Now that I am out of the heat of the moment, I am willing to admit there is probably something technique-wise I did wrong here. Maybe I posted too close to my body or didn’t have my fingers positioned right, but at the time, this really aggravated me. To my mind, this happened because my partner was going inappropriately hard given our size difference and I was mad at him for doing it and mad at my coach for implying it was my fault for not going with the sweep.

I lined up at the end of class with my teammates in a very sullen mood. My rolling partner apologized several times and obviously felt bad (I am willing to admit that very few people would start a roll thinking “I hope I hurt her hand!”) but I just couldn’t find it in me to be nice to him. I of course said “it’s ok” or something of the sort but I couldn’t bring myself to do anything more to make him feel better. After class ended, I packed up my stuff and quietly headed out.

As the night continued on I went from feeling angry to feeling depressed. I was thinking about the increasing frequency of injuries in the last year and wondering if I was doomed to a life of forever being hurt. I started to wonder if regularly being the only girl on the mat meant that I was just going to have to deal with getting hurt more. I will admit it, I indulged in a full out pity party.

I don’t like my pity parties to last more than a night so the next day I started to think about how I got hurt and what I could do to prevent it in the future. I think that it is a fair statement to say that anyone who is smaller or weaker than almost all of their training partners has to be aware of physical safety much more than their bigger, stronger counterparts. I have already said in this post that I felt uncomfortable while rolling with my partner so why did I continue to do so? I think partly because he is generally a nice guy and I didn’t want to make him feel bad. But largely I think, and this has always been an issue with me, that I don’t want to admit to the guys I train with that I can’t handle rolling with someone. I often feel like an outsider as it is and wonder if I have what it takes to train with the guys. I am always anxious that I am a bad training partner for them, to the point I sometimes feel guilty about messing up training for the person drilling with me. How much worse would it be if I had to admit to them, and to myself, that they are too big and strong for me to roll with?

Logically I know that this is ridiculous. If you feel like you are being physically assaulted during a roll and are afraid you are going to get hurt, you have every right to ask your partner to lower the intensity level or even just stop the roll. I just know that in practice I am going to have a hard time doing this. I will let pride and stubbornness get in the way of good sense (it’s somewhat my thing).

So I tried to think of a plan going forward to avoid more injuries but I don’t know that I was successful. I am going to try to be more selective about rolling partners. I am going to try to stop being an idiot and tell people in the future if I am not comfortable rolling with them. After that, I got nothing.

Of course I know that avoiding injury altogether in jiu-jitsu is not going to happen. It’s a combat sport after all! However I feel that I’ve had a number of injuries that have been caused by or compounded by the fact that I was outsized and outstrengthed and I’d like to cut down on those. They’re not fun.

I am happy to report that my hand is doing very well today. It’s still slightly swollen and bruised but I can close my fingers all the way and I suspect that once that adrenaline starts pumping I won’t even know that it was hurt this week. I was even able to go train last night! So the goal right now is to focus on the tournament and then after that…I don’t know. Body armor?

Broken

This is pretty much the theme of my life right now. I feel like my body is broken, my training is broken and thanks to an aggravating incident a couple of weeks ago, my car is also broken (see what I did there? I made you feel bad for me so that you wouldn’t hold it against me that I haven’t posted anything in a long time).

Since I’ve been MIA for a while, you might be wondering what I’ve been up to in the last 3 weeks or so. My life has continued much as it has for the last 6 months. I am embroiled in what feels like a never-ending battle with my knee. Sometimes I think the only thing that changes is that I get increasingly despondent about it.

I feel like I’ve tried everything I can to make the knee pain go away and nothing has worked. I have taken time off multiple times (the longest stretch for about 6 weeks), I did physical therapy, I have been to two orthopedists, had a couple of injections in my knee, ice, heat, elevation, compression, anit-inflammatories…nothing seems to be helping it get better!

It’s not even really the pain that I find to be the upsetting part (although I’m not gonna lie, I would like to arrive at work one of these days walking instead of limping), it’s the fact that I cannot train like I used to anymore. I feel the effects of my bad knee in all aspects of my training. Not only can I not attend class as much as I want to, I find it difficult to do cardio training that doesn’t aggravate my knee. As a result when I actually do get to train, I can tell that I am slow and I gas so much easier now. I also do not have the ability to be as quick because of my knee which means I am spending a lot of time getting smashed on bottom. I have had some great opportunities to train recently and every time I do, I end up feeling aggravated and depressed because I feel like I am functioning at about 50% of what I used to be capable of.

We hosted our monthly women’s open mat this weekend and I felt so terrible about my rolling afterwards that I stubbornly declared to myself that I was done working around this knee. If it was going to hurt no matter what I did then I was going to train as much as I want to! So of course I have spent the last two days in excruciating pain. It’s as if my knee heard me and decided to show me who was boss.

Most of the time I know that this is just something I have to learn to deal with to keep training. It’s one of those cases where jiu-jitsu imitates life and even though I have grand plans of the training I want to do, jiu-jitsu has other plans for me. But sometimes in my darker hours I wonder if life is trying to tell me that jiu-jitsu is not for me. I feel like part of my personal jiu-jitsu journey has been about proving that even though I am not the biggest, strongest person on the mat, I still belong there. I have always felt a certain pride that I am tough enough to go out and train with 20 or more guys, often being the only woman on the mat. Lately I feel like I have failed at this and I wonder if I will ever be able to be successful.

In the end, I can’t imagine a jiu-jitsuless existence but I am hoping something helps with my knee soon. I just want to train!

The frustrated and the furious

This has been my life since I have started to get back to training. I am now done with physical therapy (not because my knee was 100% better but because the prescription was for 4 weeks and I did not go back and get another) and trying to smartly ease my way back into training. At first I wasn’t going every night and now I am going more nights than not but trying not to roll hard two days in a row.  It’s been mostly going well but every now and then (like this past weekend) I push it too hard and my knee swells up and gets painful again. This is of course super annoying because all I want to do is get back to training like I was and each setback makes me wonder if that is even possible.

For some reason (advancing age? broken down body?) this injury seems to have taken more out of me than my others as well. I am having trouble picking up anything we drill and when I roll I feel weak, slow, gassed and ineffectual. I know that I just have to get used to training again but it’s hard not to feel frustrated by taking steps back.

I am no stranger to jiu-jitsu injuries. I have had a few rib injuries, concussions, popped elbows, my fair share of black eyes and more gi burns, scrapes and bruises than I can count. Mostly when I’ve been injured my focus has been on rehab and all I can think about is getting back on the mat. However with this injury I am experiencing a lot of anger for the first time.

Why am I so angry? Because this injury was 100% preventable. In the past when I’ve gotten hurt it’s been during tournaments or rolling where I go in knowing that I am accepting a lot of risk but this injury came about because an overzealous partner went too hard while drilling single legs. It’s really hard for me to admit that “out loud” because I feel like I am breaking one of the sacred, unspoken rules of jiu-jitsu in which we never blame our partner for an injury.

I think it’s important to state that I know that my partner did not intentionally injure my knee and although I am not overly happy with this drilling style, I don’t think any less of him as a person or hate him now (truthfully I don’t see him anymore as he’s gone back to school but if/when he comes back, I still won’t hate him). But the fact of the matter is that I was standing there offering no resistance and my partner shot in really hard on my knee and I got hurt and when I think about it, I get angry.

Besides the fact that I feel completely rusty, I find that I am shutting down and just concentrating on not getting hurt when I roll. This is a problem I had before and I definitely do not want to go back to that style of jiu-jitsu. I worked really hard to overcome this in the past and I feel like I’ve added a mental setback to the long list of physical setbacks I have to deal with. This is, I think, why I feel so angry about this injury. Because I feel like I’ve regressed and this would not have happened if my partner was a little more careful when drilling.

I also find that I am feeling overly anxious about who I roll with. My gym has a lot of big guys (to me at least, I guess it’s all perspective) and in the past I have not been afraid to roll with most of them. I have felt that my jiu-jitsu was to the point that I could deal with someone wanting to hulk smash me but now whenever I get approached by one of the big guys, in the back of my head all I am thinking is “don’t hurt me”. This is definitely not a good mental state to be in when starting a roll.

So this is where I’m at right now. I’m rusty, out of shape, angry and afraid of half the people at the gym. Sounds bleak right? I’m not going to lie, it is. But as much as my brain is feeling done with jiu-jitsu right now I know that this is nowhere near the end of my journey. Even now as I am driving to the gym making myself nuts overthinking everything (this is one of my more endearing qualities), I feel the surge of adrenaline and anticipation I get every time I go to train. There have been moments where I’ve had a good roll or something finally clicks and I remember the part of jiu-jitsu that is pure joy.

So the plan for now is to keep being smart about training but to keep pushing myself to go. Eventually my brain will remember what the rest of me has not forgotten and we’ll all love jiu-jitsu again. I also have to make peace with my anger because it is only getting in the way of me moving past this injury. As always the only solution to a jiu-jitsu problem is more jiu-jitsu!

Things to do when you’re injured

A question I’ve been getting a lot since I had to stop training because of a sprained ligament in my knee is “what are you doing with all your spare time now?”. I typically train jiu-jitsu in some fashion at least 5 days a week so I have found myself with a lot of “extra” time I am not used to having. Because this is a high impact martial art, chances are most of you will have to miss some time because of an injury at some point in your training as well. Should you find yourself on the sideline wondering what to do with the copious amounts of time you are not spending rolling around on the floor in your pajamas, here is a list of things I have been doing to keep myself busy.

  1. Eat – I figure I need to heal the injury from the inside which means I need a lot of calories.
  2. Drink – Since I cannot train I am not getting an endorphin rush nor am I wearing myself out on a nightly basis, alcohol has been a suitable (and delicious!) substitute for making me feel both happy and sleepy.
  3. Spend some time with friends – Since I spend so much time training I often neglect my friends, especially with tournaments coming up. Having some down time has been a great way to reconnect with some of them. It’s also a good excuse to partake in numbers 1 and 2.
  4. Catch up on TV shows – I am proud to report that I am now entirely caught up on The Vampire Diaries and ready for the new season to begin (on Thursday!). Soon I might start on this Breaking Bad everyone is so fond of (although now that I have had so many years of people telling me it’s the best show ever I am sure that I will watch it and be let down by unrealistic expectations…I’d rather be the freak who never watched Breaking Bad than the freak who didn’t like it). If you are feeling ambitious number 4 can be combined with numbers 1,2 and/or 3.
  5. Rest – I really need to make sure I heal up so I am trying to move the knee as little as possible. This takes much skill and the patience to lie on the couch for hours at a time.
  6. The “to do” list – We all have a list of things that we neglect because we have no time between work and training. Whether it be the light that has been burnt out for months, the closet that needs to be cleaned, the pile of mail yet to be opened or the hundreds of other things that need to get done, when you are injured it is the perfect time to pick off some items from that list. I am totally going to start doing that. For real. Soon.
  7. Permanently mar your skin – As you may know, I am a huge fan of shoulder pressure and it has become my best weapon in jiu-jitsu. One of my teammates felt he was spending so much time with my shoulder that he named it Stanley. The name stuck and I started to think of my shoulder as “Stanley” as did many of my training partners. I have wanted to get a Stanley tattoo on my shoulder for a while but never wanted to give up a week or more of training time. Since I had some extra time…
tattoo

A close up on the tattoo

tattooPlacement

The tattoo placement (plus my chest looks jacked in this picture)

So as you can see I have been keeping myself quite busy! Luckily the physical therapist says I can try drilling tonight and if I don’t have problems with that, I should be able to start training full time again soon. Hopefully all goes well or I may end up coming back to jiu-jitsu with two full sleeves.

The results are in

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes over the last week. I went back to the orthopedist on Tuesday to get the results of the MRI and he said there were no significant tears but one of my ligaments on the outside of the knee is sprained. We are treating it conservatively with physical therapy and meds and hopefully in 2-3 weeks I should be good to go. It was about the best news I could have hoped for!

I had my first PT appointment last night. The therapist’s name is also Cynthia but luckily she goes by Cindy so we won’t get all confused. She did a workup and showed me where the injury was on my knee with a chart. Some ligament attached to the fibula with a fancy name I can’t remember and there also seems to be some irritation with the hamstring in the same area.

She also said my knee is moving too much and probably got hyper-extended. I had a flashback to a few weeks ago where, when drilling takedowns, my partner bent my knee back while going for a single leg. Which was also around the time my knee got much worse. Now it all makes sense. I knew standup was the devil. She gave me some stretches to do at home and we start actual therapy next week, yippee!

I have to admit that I was driving to work after the orthopedist appointment the other day I started wondering if just a sprain meant I could compete in No-Gi Pan Ams afterall. The doctor said that anything that is potentially jarring to the knee is definitely a no-no but he also said it might be better in 2-3 weeks. That would mean that it could be healed up just in time for Pan Ams.

I talked over my options with a training buddy and he definitely didn’t think competing was a good idea (he actually threatened to take my knee fully out of commission should I try). We talked a bit about what the motivation could be to compete when my knee was injured and I really didn’t know what to say.

I think a lot of the reason I wanted to compete was that I want to prove I’m tough. It’s jiu-jitsu, we don’t stop training for puny little sprains! I actually felt embarrassed when I told my coach what the diagnosis was. But in the end I realize that a sprain is an injury and I definitely don’t want to damage the ligament anymore so I am taking the doctor’s advice and refraining from jiu-jitsu until the knee starts feeling better.

So the next couple of weeks will be therapy, focusing on diet, doing some upper body and core work and tightening up my cheerleading game for the No-Gi Pan Ams.

I am also still working on a really long blog post that is taking me forever but I promise to post soon. My life has been quite hectic with work and running around to different doctors but hopefully it will settle soon.

 

No answers yet

A quick update on the knee. I went to the doctor on Tuesday and he said he doesn’t think it’s a ligament (phew) but it could be a torn meniscus.  It also might just be a sprain which is what I’m hoping for. I got an MRI last night and will go over the results with the doctor on Tuesday morning.

This was my first time getting an MRI which really wasn’t so bad. I went in feet first so my head was outside and I didn’t feel claustrophobic. It was difficult after a while not to move but I did get to listen to the Grease soundtrack so that was a bonus.

They gave me a CD that has all the images from the MRI on it when I was done. I naturally looked at it today and saw lots of pictures of my knee that I had no idea how to read. I am thinking of posting them to Facebook and sharing them on the wall of every doctor I can find 🙂

In the meantime I am not allowed to train because the doctor says training with a torn meniscus could result in damage to the ligament which is apparently much harder to fix than a meniscus. I am going somewhat stir crazy but I have been researching exercises I can do that do not require the use of legs and figure now is a good time to work on upper body strength and abs. I’m also making sure to stick to a good diet since I can’t train.

I am so far remaining calm and trying to keep the “what ifs” out of my brain. I am doing a surprisingly good job of it (I think at least) but I am super anxious to get the results on Tuesday. I just want to know what I am facing so I can figure out the plan to kick its ass!

That river in Egypt

Sorry for the long delay between posts. I have actually been working hard on what’s turned into a very long post about some recent BJJ events in my life that I hope to post later in the week. I think for the first time in my life, I am understanding this thing they call “writer’s block” as I am struggling to find the right words for the situation. I was also off of work last week and traveling a bit and getting food poisoning so it’s been busy busy busy.

I did two very contradictory things in the past week that make little sense. The first is that I registered for the no-gi Pan Ams which take place in 24 days. The second is that I finally admitted to myself that my knee might be seriously injured and I made an appointment with an orthopedist which takes place today.

I’ve had nagging knee pain for a couple of months now but it hasn’t been bad enough that it kept me from training. When it started I gave up running (which I’d probably use any excuse to do anyway, not a big fan of the running) and started biking instead but it still wouldn’t go away. Twice I’ve taken close to a week off of everything to try to let the knee heal but the pain would not go away. I kept telling myself it was nothing and trying to push through but the last couple of weeks it’s been getting progressively worse. The knee took a lot of abuse after a particularly vigorous single leg a couple of weeks ago and it’s gotten to the point that I can’t walk without discomfort.

I am really nervous about what the doctor will find because I do not want any kind of lengthy time off right now, I’m too old for that! I am doing my best to stay optimistic but I fear I will become a mess if it’s bad news today. Oh well, hopefully in 6 hours or so I’ll have some news and I’ll know where to go from there. Wish me luck, I promise updates and the really long post soon!

Do as I say

I will be the first person to admit that I train too much, I even talked about it in this post. This doesn’t only mean that I spend the majority of my free time training (I do) but also that I am sometimes (often) guilty of training when I know that I shouldn’t. Specifically I have trained through an injury in the past and I know that should I get injured in the future, I would probably do so again.

This is a hard thing for me to admit to everyone because I know that it is wrong. In my brain, I am thinking the same thing that the non-BJJ people in my life are thinking…are you nuts? I am nuts. My drive and desire to train jiu-jitsu is so strong that the physical discomfort I feel when I have an injury is often secondary to the mental anguish I suffer by staying off the mats.

Sure there are times when I have had injuries bad enough that I had to stay off the mats because I just couldn’t do anything. But even when this happens I know I come back before I should. Whereas in the past I would have used the excuse to not be active, now I am coming up with excuses why it is still ok to train. The longest I’ve had to abstain from training was for one month when I had concussion last year and I was MISERABLE. I found myself getting angry at everyone and everything and sitting on my couch depressed at night because I couldn’t go train. I even started watching WWE because I was so hungry for anything combat related. I started watching wrestling people!

This is just something I’ve learned to deal with when training and I know I am not alone. Someone once told me that if you are not nursing at least two injuries at a time than you are not doing jiu-jitsu right. So there you have it. I train while injured even though I know it’s probably not the smartest thing to do.

However I found myself in a somewhat uncomfortable position yesterday while chatting with another woman who trains at my gym. As I have mentioned before, I teach a women’s only class on Saturdays and this particular student was not in attendance yesterday. I was not surprised by this as I had heard through the grapevine that she had hurt her ribs. She asked me how class had gone and I asked her how her ribs were doing. She said they were still sore but she was coming back this week to train because she couldn’t stand being off the mat any longer. My mind immediately started thinking of the logical replies:  “don’t rush back”, “BJJ will always be there, take care of yourself”, “health is the most important thing”. But before my fingers could type what my brain was thinking, she sent me another message in which she basically said that she knew I would do the same thing.

Now besides being a person who overtrains, I also pride myself on being a woman of my word. I try my best to live an honest life and carry through on all my commitments. So when she said that she knew I would do the same, I found myself struggling to figure out what to say to her. She was right, I would do the same. I have done the same. I will most likely do the same again.

I like to think of myself as a mentor-type person to the newer women who train at the gym. I teach the women’s only class and I try to talk to them about what it’s like to train as a woman in a male-dominated sport. I try to tell them about mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned in the hopes that they can avoid them and maybe have a little smoother time as they transition into BJJ badasses.

So as someone who thinks of themselves as a mentor-type person, I couldn’t encourage her to train while injured, that would make me the most irresponsible mentor ever! However as someone who tries to be honest, I couldn’t lie and tell her I wouldn’t do the same. So we started talking about our mutual love of BJJ and the frustration of being injured. I eventually suggested to her that she come to class to try to drill but not roll at first. I also suggested that if there was an uneven number in class that she should work in the group of three so that she could take a break or not be grappling dummy while drilling if it was a move that hurt her ribs. These are things I have done while injured. While I miss rolling I find that drilling is better than no BJJ at all. The hardest part is making myself leave when the rolling starts.

But looking at the situation from the point of view of someone who is supposed to be something of a role model to the women who are just starting really made me think about my own training while injured. If I feel uncomfortable telling someone to train through an injury, why do I do it? If I had to answer that question I would say that my psychological need to train sometimes outweighs my physical wellbeing. Is this smart? No, probably not. But it’s true. So next time I am injured I am going to try to think about what I would tell one of the new students to do in the same situation. Does this mean I’ll stay off the mat an appropriate length of time? Honestly, probably not. But at least I’ll feel remorse about my bad decisions. That’s a start!

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