Photo: Lidia Abraha

Through My Eyes: Keep breathing

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By Monica Sadowski

I was nine years old when I became interested in sports, falling in love with soccer, cross country running, track and field—all sports I would continue to dedicate a lot of time to for the years to come.

I joined several teams, and every day I would anticipate practice after class, time becoming my worst enemy as the seconds dragged by.

Then there was one weekend in 2016 that sealed my fate for the rest of my life. I had the chance to not go to my opening soccer tournament, but I did, and during the first game I fell multiple times. My right hip felt strange the entire day, but I brushed it off, eager to play the next game. One night of rest didn’t help. Despite the consistent pain, I continued with the tournament.

And that was my first fatal mistake.

At school, after a week of rest, I continued with track practices. My hip still felt sore, raw almost. I kept dismissing it for a pulled muscle, because I was significantly improving, especially at hurdles, and I believed that every practice missed would take me a step back. My days started to become filled with me vigorously stretching and exercising my leg as if I could shake off the pain.

Oh, how I was mistaken.

Track season ended, but I continued through the pain for soccer. It was only after two months that I finally decided to go to the doctor. But even with medical test after medical test, the results were always fine. I had a hip as good as new, apparently.

This was all driving me crazy. I stopped playing soccer for two years, stopped running track, and lost my gains in cross country. I was so devastated to the point that my breathing was affected. I was told that it was from stress, stress that I would have been able to relieve through the sports I could no longer partake in. This led to more doctor visits, medical tests for my lungs to make sure that nothing was wrong there. And there wasn’t. In fact, one doctor told me that he wasn’t surprised I loved sports so much because my oxygen capacity was incredible.

I was always OK. Thankfully. But it was driving me crazy that there was no concrete answer to anything that was happening.

My poor breathing ended up staying with me, affecting my ability to run. I was worried 24/7 that my hip would never heal and I’d never be able to run again. I know that seems dramatic, but the stress was getting to me and I was anxious. All the time.

And the weirdest part was that although sports kept me busy, I was never stressed because of them. It was only when I became physically ill that I had to stop, and the stress washed over me like a wave, literally knocking the breath out of me.

How weird is it that one little mistake would make something as simple as breathing so difficult?

If I had just stopped to take a breath and to tell myself to take care of my hip two years ago, I would have been in a better position right now. To this day my hip will start to hurt randomly. To this day I am too scared to jump another hurdle. To this day, I can’t lift my leg or move it in any way without anticipating the sharp jolt of pain I lived with for so long. And this is all because I was determined to keep practicing.

So where am I getting with all of this? Go get your injury checked out. We have free healthcare.

I am all for working hard, pushing yourself to your limits. I grew up in fear of failure, but my persistence finally caught up to me and stripped me from my ability to breath regularly.

Though one thing I learned is to sometimes take a step back. I didn’t let the reality of forcing myself to keep practicing sink in until it punched me in the face and landed me in a life where I fear lifting my leg in case the pain returns.

It’s not bad to take a break. It’s not the same as giving up. It’s OK to take a step back because sometimes not doing so will only set you back even further. It took a lot of physical and mental pain to learn this, but I had to learn somehow.

When you’re faced with a hurdle, think about how to get over it instead of instinctively jumping.

And if something does go wrong, then just keep breathing.

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