Finding the middle ground
We can tend towards extremes. But sometimes we can proceed by taking the middle ground.
“She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.”
Pretty much sums up my feelings towards going to the doctor these days.
While I have not suffered to the extent of the lady described here, I often think of this biblical story from Mark 5:26 when I reflect on my experiences with running injuries over the past decade. (Ten years of running- wow that went quick!)
In fact, I made a secret goal this year to see if I could go the whole of 2023 without seeing a medical professional.
I made it until May.
There’s some pain you can’t ignore. I can cope with mild to moderate. And I can handle familiar aches.
But on Sunday, as I set out for the last really long run of my already disrupted marathon preparations, I felt an intense and strange sensation on the top of my foot.
The pain approached agony as I got back, well short of the distance I’d planned to run.
The pain settled into a dull ache for the rest of the day, but I felt my marathon hopes slipping away.
I often settle in this place for some time… the place of uncertain waiting, which goes like this:
Something unpleasant happens. I try to endure it. I overthink it. I research it on the internet… then wish I hadn’t. I hope it will go away. It doesn’t. I think about getting help…. I think about it some more. Repeat.
I would have done the same again this time, but as it happened, a short interaction with my brother-in-law later that day caused me to be more proactive.
I must have been looking pensive, because my GP brother-in-law said, “You look pensive Tom.” I told him about my foot.
He had a look at it, gave me the hopeful news that he thought it was unlikely to be a stress fracture and recommended I see a physiotherapist.
His parting, “let me know how it goes,” was the prompt I needed to decide my secret goal of avoiding medical help was ridiculous.
There turned out to be one free slot the next day at my closest physio at a time I could make. That settled it.
But it didn’t stop me having serious doubts about the good it would do.
Previous injuries have led me to all sorts of places. Physios, sports doctors, chiropractors, x-rays, MRIs… some of them I traveled a long way to get to, in the hope I’d find someone who could help.
I admit there have been one or two positive experiences, but they stand out as the exception. The lasting impression I’ve come away with is that these are the sorts of places where you spend a lot of money for people to: tell you to see someone else, tell you that they don’t know how to help, or to question your chosen sport and suggest you stop running altogether. (Perhaps this is sound advice, but also a bit like telling someone with stomach pain to stop eating I feel).
Going in this time, I prayed four things: that they wouldn’t just tell me to get a scan, that they would be able to diagnose my issue based on what I told them, that it wouldn’t take too long, and that the cost would be less than the one that was advertised.
I somehow found the place, and a short time later a young-looking guy walked out. Young enough for me to be surprised that he was a physio. I’ve learnt not to judge by appearances though. The number of times people have told me how young I look…
What proceeded was good questioning, thorough examination and clear directions.
One of the things he told me to avoid with my condition was extreme dorsiflexion, or flexing my ankle as far as it would go towards my shin.
I tend towards extremes. My philosophy on life used to be, ‘all or nothing.’
I think it must be human nature too, because I see it everywhere. We’re either one or the other. We divide black and white with our opinions.
But I’m learning that there’s often a middle ground. With my injury, I was initially thinking in terms of: to run or not to run.
This physio suggested the middle ground. To run less.
Sometimes we encounter a situation and think, ‘this is bad! I need to stop and get out of here right now!’ Where it might be that we can proceed, just with caution.
I thanked the young physio, and as I walked to the counter to pay, I decided that this was one of the most positive medical experiences of my life.
I was charged the standard consultation fee rather than at the more expensive initial consultation rate. Probably because he was so time-efficient.
Efficient, but not rushed. Rushing is never good.
He asked that I come back next week to check on my progress. Hmmm… I nodded slowly.
Let’s not go to extremes, I thought as I walked out. I went once, and it went well. Let’s just leave it at that.
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