By Nathalie Daux, Fox Valley Aikikai
It started almost one year ago with an injury from an idiot who never apologized. That was the beginning of everything.
The injury and everything afterward brought me to my knees physically and mentally. And I am lucky to have been forced to my knees. I’m lucky to have been so broken and so hurt. I’m lucky because I was forced into asking myself the question: what do you do when what you love kills you, breaks you apart?
And I found the answer.
You don’t keep going.
I’m a busybody. Meaning that I really don’t like to stop moving. At all. Ever. I write, I make yoga videos, I workout, I train in my Aikido (a martial art), I do homework, etc. You name it and I do it. I don’t like to sit still and do nothing even if it is for relaxing. Or at least I didn’t use to.
There isn’t too much a problem with this. Not by itself at least. The problem comes when you look at my perfectionist habits and my mental health problems. Because I tied my eating disorder, my depression, and any measure of self-worth to my Aikido, my physical activities, and the amount of words I wrote in a day I was setting myself up to crash and burn. I was setting myself up to be injured.
Now, I’m not saying the injury I sustained was my fault because it wasn’t. I am saying that if it hadn’t been this person, it would have still happened somewhere. I was pushing my body too hard on too little. And this is not sustainable. But I was acting like it was as so many of us do because it is one of my passions. I wasn’t going to stop, not for a day not for a week. Taking time off from it was the same as burning down the White House, traitorous and worthy of punishment. The same went for my running. And my writing. No days off. No rest from it. No space. Just keep pushing through.
Until I received my elbow injury, all wrapped up in a nice little bow of KT tape, braces, and red warning tape. And then, not a week later, while angrily trying to run for some crazy consecutive day in a row on a weak knee I sustained my knee injury. I sat at my desk frustrated that I could not do anything physical that wouldn’t hurt me. So I started writing. Admittedly, I forced it too hard. Within another week I had begun to burn out.
Boy, everything sure was awful when I couldn’t work out and couldn’t write.
Of course, I didn’t stop. Having encountered injuries before, I kept pushing. And pushing. And pushing assuming that one day I would push through. Except things kept getting worse. Two months after my injury, I started doing Aikido again, running, and writing full tilt. And it tore me apart. My body and mind were in a terrible state.
One night, after a fit of frustrated tears, I asked the aforementioned question: what do you do when what you love kills you, breaks you apart?
Yep, you heard me. You stop and you acknowledge that you have hit a red light in your life and if you don’t stop, something will stop you (injury, mental breakdown, etc).
Well, then you do the hard part (as if stopping isn’t hard enough). You prioritize.
And there is A LOT to prioritize.
Let’s take a look.
The very first thing you prioritize is your injury or injuries. In this case, I had to go to the doctor, hear all about my ligament damage, and then head on over to physical therapy. It also meant that I had to slow down and take time off. My physical therapist hammered it into that no, I could not jump right back in and yes, I would have setbacks for probably another year.
2. Rebuilding myself
I had to rebuild everything about myself. My knee issue required a lot of different cross-training, wonky stretches, and patience. Because of previous diet issues, I had to focus on proper nutrition, higher levels of protein, and again, a lot of patience. Before I headed back full time to my writing, my Aikido, and my passion I had to build myself up first so that my passions could be sustainable. And that meant putting in a lot of work physically and mentally.
This is not selfish. It is not selfish to put your health first. There’s a stigma around taking time off for yourself whether it is for mental health or physical health. People expect that no matter what your dilemma is, you will be around to continue doing what you’re doing. It is OKAY to take time off to heal yourself.
Stepping away from something you love hurts. It’s not comfortable, it makes you feel like you aren’t being true to yourself, and it’s scary. It does put a lot of responsibility on you. Suddenly, your health is all in your hands and that’s daunting.
But it’s not just about martial arts and running and writing. It’s about life. If you’re broken, in one way or another, take time away from the thing that is hurting you. Ultimately you may find you can never return but more likely than not, you’ll return to what you love with a deeper passion for it. It won’t be the same as it used to. That doesn’t mean that it will be worse. It will be better.
So please, if you have something that is broken about you, don’t push through for your passions, for something you love. Step away. Heal. Unpopular opinion: if something hurts you, stop. Figure it out. And return healthy.
Nathalie Daux, 23 has trained at Fox Valley Aikikai for 15 years. Throughout her years of training, Aikido has earned a very special place in her heart. She intends to train for as long as she is alive and breathing.