A week out of the CAM boot, I was still trying to tell if my foot was fully healed. In the parking lot at Donner Pass, walking towards the PCT trailhead about to go on another short dayhike to test my foot, I felt a shooting pain in my foot at the stress fracture site. Fuck! What was happening? Was the bone not healed? Did I reinjure it? It was clear and intense pain.
|This pain was off the charts. -from Hyperbole and a Half|
I was a failure. The one thing I loved the most, I was an utter failure at. I was mad that my friends were still on the trail and I wasn't. I was pissed off that I still couldn't find something to blame for the stress fracture. The entire universe was unfair and I hated everyone and everything. I was fed up at myself for waiting around months thinking I would get back on the trail. Why couldn't I give up and find something else to do? My life was meaningless.
I sat in the car for a while while the sky opened up and the rain fell hard.
I was mad at myself for being so narrowly focused that I had nothing else in my life besides hiking the PCT. Here was the awful demon I had to face: I didn’t have another single goal to focus my life on after the PCT. The PCT was everything. Hiking was everything. My life was unbalanced and limited. It felt like I had lost interest in everything in my pursuit of the PCT, neglected my career, pushed aside other interests like trapeze, botany, books, movies, and other areas like family, relationships, community. Now I had nothing.
|Ripples on the pond.|
The next few days sucked. I had to stay off my foot again as I waited for my appointment with the physical therapist. No more walking. My foot kept feeling tight. I became convinced that the random twinges in my foot meant it was all over. That I wasn’t getting back on the PCT. That maybe I would never hike again. I could feel my heart fracturing too. My big dream that I’d been working towards for the past 5 years- hiking the PCT- that dream was over. This injury that I thought I was slowly recovering from, this huge major hurdle that I thought I was making headway on, because of this setback, it was showing me that I had nothing. No purpose, no passion, no home. That I was nothing. I wasn’t a hiker. I would never make it to Canada. I started looking at one way flights out of California. I wanted to run away from everything and be far away from the PCT.
How many mental pits of despair was I gonna fall into and then have to drag myself out of on this frickin’ journey? A journey that was suppose to be traveled on the PCT but which now taking me WAY beyond that.
I swam more circles around in the pond and looked at the sky. There were clouds high up. Birds. I felt the cool resistance of the water against my skin. I had never done much swimming before the stress fracture, but as I did circles, day after day, I noticed I was get stronger. I thought that maybe I was even sort of starting to like swimming.
Then, because I am a planner even when I don’t feel like I have anything in life I want to plan, I started to make lists. I began with a list of everything I’ve always wanted to do that I could still do if my foot never healed: kayaking, biking, travel, climbing. I listed classes I’d wanted to take but never had enough time: master naturalist, LNT master educator, wilderness first responder, native plant certificates. I read job postings that sounded exciting and meaningful. Things that were different but still used my skills. Things that I wanted to learn to do. Steph encouraged me to work on my resume. Now, ‘After the PCT’ is not a big black hole of nothingness. I wasn’t just a hiker after all, there was so much more to my life. The world is my home, not just the PCT or any trail for that matter. Wherever I go, that can be home if I want. I’d just lost sight.
|Seeing the possibility of balance.|
Oh yeah, about the pain in my foot.
When I talked to my hiking mentor, she told me that thing I felt in my foot might be a "pop" that can be the foot readjusting after being immobile for so long. So it all clicked- this has been part of the (very long) healing process.
This was confirmed by the physical therapists- he did not think I needed to go back into the boot or that I had re-injured my foot. He recommended I rest a few more days, and then try hiking again. When I got back on the trail for a short dayhike, an amazing thing happened- I didn't feel any pain. On the next few dayhikes, the twinges and nerves were gone. It still feels weak, there is a loss in flexibility, and there is muscle-soreness after only a few miles, but I also felt some of this in my non-injured foot.
Basically, that "pop" I felt that sent me into a depressive spiral was really something that just needed to happen to set everything back in place again. Phew!!! I feel like I’m on the slow road back to recovery once again.
|Resting the feet on a dayhike.|