Patient Notes: Dichotomies
Breezy Johnson (Victor, ID) sustained an ACL tear in September that has sidelined her for the 2019 season. Throughout Johnson's road to recovery, she'll be sharing the ups and downs of rehabilitation here in a column of her own, entitled "Patient Notes," in hopes that you will follow along for the journey to learn how challenging it is both physically and mentally to return to snow at the elite level. Being an injured athlete can be challenging and lonely, and we're hoping that by writing this column, Johnson will be able to stay connected to the community and her sponsors.
Johnson kicked off her series with a poignant pre-surgery piece with Patient Notes: Volume 2, she brought you all the post-op nitty gritty, and with Patient Notes: Volume 3, she talked about ferocity and frustration. She's thankful for your support and invites you to follow along on her Instagram. All of the words below are Johnson's thoughts, straight from her journal to your computer screen.
Enjoy the journey,
Alpine Communications Manager
12/11/2018: 82 days post-Op, 99 days post injury
Perhaps this has been the hardest installment of this series to write. That is part of why it has taken me so long. It seems I have hit the middle stage of recovery: the in between part where I am both progressing and content and also anxious and depressed. It’s difficult to say how this could be, but as I write it I find it to be undeniably true. I have reached a point of juxtapositions, where I am both happy and unhappy, worried and calm, lost and moving toward an obvious goal. My mind is trying to make sense of these dichotomies, but like quicksand, that often just ensnares me further.
I feel good. That has been both a blessing and a curse as it did prior to surgery. My knee hardly causes me discomfort, perhaps less than some of my body’s other aches and pains. This is good - swelling and pain are never things that you want to deal with. But the relief from my body has frustrated my mind. I want to run. I want to jump. I can feel the lack of strength and I crave to banish it as soon as possible. And yet I cannot, bound as I am to a set of rules that I hardly understand and that seem to constantly tell me no. I also feel distinctly not good. My impatience and insatiability for progress is one part of this. The start of the World Cup speed tour is another part. A big part.
I thought I would be fine. I had watched previous recordings of Lake Louise and Garmisch. I watched, and even looked forward to, Levi and Killington. But watching your peers carry on without you is a whole different battle. Watching your races is something else. I didn’t watch Lake Louise live. I couldn’t. At the time I was in Beaver Creek watching the men and I quickly found watching the ladies to be more challenging than it ought to have been considering we were at a ski race. I heard the results. It stung to be sure.
I love my fellow competitors on the World Cup, but it is difficult to not feel like I could have, would have, beaten them. But when I watched the race a whole different problem occurred: I could practically feel my muscles trying to jump out of my skin and into my television screen. I physically itched to get back there. I watched Mikaela’s run in both Lake Louise and St. Moritz and it was as though I was skiing it. It was amazing for those blissful moments when I could forget that I was sitting on the couch and not rocketing off of jumps, feeling my stomach jump into my throat. And then I would come crashing back to reality, to reality that I was not in fact there, that her runs, her amazing runs, were not in fact my own. That I was at home and could not go get swiss chocolate afterwards, and I felt farther from my return to the White Circus than ever.
We ski racers are sprinters. A maximum of two minutes of pure adrenaline and we’re done. Injury perhaps is better designed for marathoners, an aerobic endeavor to be sure. Perhaps I’m just not built for a recovery that takes months; I’m more of a minute-to-minute gal. The amount of time I have taken on my recovery both reminds me of how far I have come, which I am grateful for, but also serves to tell me just how long the remainder will take. Even though I am hoping to get back on snow in a relatively short time frame, my time until I am back on a race course, until I truly get to live the feeling I saw Mikaela living in Lake Louise and St. Moritz, seems an ungodly amount of time still left ahead of me.
I wish I could write a happy-go-lucky post. I wish I could just feel that all is well because there are things that are going great and I am very excited about that. I’m moving into plyometrics and I had good strength test results, which are good signs. But I am always seeking to get better, I constantly want more, and I struggle with being content with what is. Somehow I get in front of this page and I suddenly write down my deepest struggles. I come here and my mind becomes strung between feeling as though I ought to be happy and fine and the reality which is that I feel conflicted and bitter sometimes but also pleased and fortunate. And I don’t know if that is likely to change in the near future. And I know now that “near future” is a very relative term.
Perhaps the only thing keeping these chaotic thoughts from swelling up and engulfing me whole has been the friends I have created, mostly in the PT room at the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah. Almost weekly, we all meet up for dinner to laugh and joke and both forget about our injuries and discuss them. We take pictures and hang out and my friends make me feel less alone. They distract me and comfort me and remind me that while we are not on the tour, our injuries are just a detour on our way back to the World Cup.