“I decry the injustice of my wounds, only to look down and see that I am holding a smoking gun in one hand and a fistful of ammunition in the other.” ―
If you had known me just 6 months ago, my life would look quite different than it does today. I was following a routine of grinding away with a heavy physical job that I didn’t love, awaiting the birth of my first child, intensively toiling away on my fitness goals with an exhausting strength training program and obsessively-compulsively planning out both my nutrition plan and my workout logs for the week.
If I was stressed out or anxious, I would run. If I was upset or angered about something I would find a way to break a sweat and I loved it. It drained me. It brought me to a point that I could just slip away from the things that bothered me. I was physically drained and mentally refreshed.
I was making fantastic progress with my routine and my physique. I had dreams of entering a competition one day in men’s physique or becoming a personal trainer. I felt like I was living for that physical and mental determination, and that it would drive me directly into my future success.
I had tunnel vision. It was all I could see and it was all that I cared about. All of those other struggles in my life took a back seat to my ambitions in this area of my life, and in this area, I was seeing progress. I was hooked.
I can even admit that I was becoming a little cocky, even arrogant at times. I was impressed with myself and my fetes of strength, and others were noticing. It motivated me faster and harder. I had to become the strongest, I had to become the best version of myself, I had to become a beast… And then…
It all changed…
Quietly and inconspicuously. One overhead press too many on a stressful day and I lost control of the weight. I lost the stability of the bar ahead and I did not keep my spine in a straight and neutral position. Instead, I looked down and to my right for only a moment and I felt a zap shoot through the back of my neck. It didn’t feel too bad at first. I thought I had pulled a muscle. I didn’t even halt my workout. Yet the next few weeks would change my life.
After that workout, I had 2 or 3 days of waking up with a stiff neck. I had sore muscles in the back of my right shoulder which bothered me with any sort of use. I had to miss a couple days of work.
I visited the doctor.
I was diagnosed with a rhomboid strain, no big deal.
Another week passes. No improvement.
I visit a physiotherapist. He disagrees with doctors diagnosis.
A tight muscle in my neck he said. No big deal. Phew!
I stretched the shit out of that neck muscle.
Took my Christmas vacation and returned to work.
Things seemed better with all of that time off.
After 1 week of working, I woke up again with a stiff neck.
Ah, shit! It’s happening again.
I visit my physiotherapist, and he’s not concerned about it. Shows me some rotator cuff movements to strengthen the back of that right shoulder and tells me I’m good to go. Just take those workouts down from 100% to 80%.
I return to the gym for the last moderately heavy session that I would do.
My strength seemed fine in the gym, albeit a little weaker than before. Upon returning home, the pain in my neck and shoulder spread through the right side of my body in intense waves of muscle convulsions. My thumb grew dull and numb, my forearm twitched and throbbed, my tricep was shaking and pulsing, the back of my shoulder and neck were in agony. I could not lay in any position without pain. I could not stand in any position without pain. I simply had to exist in discomfort and reel around like a clubbed seal waiting for its inevitable death, except the death would never come.
The night ended with a heavy dose of leftover narcotics so that I could manage a few hours of sleep and make it to the emergency room at my local hospital the next morning.
The doctor diagnosed my symptoms and had me perform a few simple movement tests with my neck and right arm, and then explained to me her diagnosis. I had a herniated disc protruding from the right side of my cervical spine affecting a nerve that runs through my shoulder, upper chest, tricep and down to my thumb.
This felt serious… And it was…
Three months have passed since then and I haven’t yet returned to work. I’ve taken solace in my short term disability coverage through my employee assistance program. I’ve not been able to relieve my stress on a relaxing jog out in the quiet of nature like I used to. I’ve been limited to things that don’t jar the neck as much, such as stationary bicycles and Stairmaster machines. I have slowly returned to doing some weight work at a fraction of my old capabilities. Some of the muscles in my right arm have atrophied.
I had to find a new outlet in my life. I had to search deep and adapt to my new situation and find hope somewhere other than what I had known in the life that I was previously living.
I was humbled… And now I had to start again without the pretense. The breakdown was terrible, excruciating and in the end, liberating.
There were other passions in my life that I had been ignoring and I was stuck in a rut. This flipped my life upside down and forced me to adapt.
The change has been positive for me in the worst of ways.
I have since applied to a few Universities, receiving an acceptance letter to one. Still waiting on the other but I remain confident. I’ve found my passion for writing again which I had lost for a while. My future seems to have more of a set path then it did before. Even though portions of that future remain clouded and uncertain. There is a light shining at the end of this tunnel and I’m determined to find it.
This is just the beginning of another chapter of my life and I don’t intend to mourn the chapter that I’ve left behind.