When it ends

I’ve been putting off this post for too long. I know this, you know this. So, lets just bite the bullet shall we?

Back in August, I had just recovered from my second bad concussion and I was more than ready to get back on the court. I hadn’t been to a real practice for a little over two weeks and we were playing a tournament up in Portland. I played a set in our game against Alabama State and I was rusty, but it felt amazing to be playing. In our last game for the weekend we were playing University of Portland and it was a big game. I went in late in the first set and was finally starting to feel like my normal self.

Then, the third set came. I was playing well, really well. I felt good, and looking around at my team I couldn’t wait to keep playing like this for the rest of my senior season. I went up for a tight hit and bam. I remember an immediate flash of pain, like something had suddenly snapped, and when I found myself on the ground I was clutching my knee, too scared to look. All I remember after that is my athletic trainer talking to me and being carried off the court by my coaches. Hidden behind the bleachers, my athletic trainer evaluated me and immediately told me I was going to have to get an x-ray. Let me just say, I used to not be a big crier, but in that moment I was in hysterics. I’d never been in that amount of pain, and clearly I had no idea how to handle it. On my way to the hospital with my parents, I knew it was bad. In my head all I could think of was how I was going to tell the team this was it. What a morbid thought to have, but that’s me, always preparing for the worst. The x-ray didn’t show anything, and so a few days later, as my team was in Texas for another pre-season tournament, I got an MRI and found out that I had completely torn my ACL. More like obliterated it. When my doctor walked into the room the first thing he said was that my MRI results were “amazing” and he’s never seen anything like it. And no, it wasn’t a good amazing.

But I already knew. I knew the night it happened, I knew when I was trying to stretch it two days after and I felt a disgusting snapping feeling again, I knew when I walked into the doctor’s office and one of the athletic trainers was waiting for me. I just knew.

I don’t think I realized before this how difficult it is to be positive to other people when you know something terrible has happened. I got a flurry of texts, and calls right after I got injured and I kept responding with the same thing, “Thank you for your thoughts! I’ll be back soon.” But I didn’t believe the words as I was saying them.

After I got my results back it was like everything hit at the same time. I was starting school and a few weeks into the term I had surgery. I was dating a guy I really liked at the time, and we ended up breaking up right around the time of my surgery (I’d like to say the injury had nothing to do with it, but it did). I had to take an incomplete for one of my classes because I couldn’t get around, and I had lost interest in school completely. This was of course, also, the time I was going to be applying to grad schools. My senior season of volleyball was ruined, and I was falling into a depression. Feelings that I hadn’t felt for months, maybe even years, came back. One night, I had so much anxiety about my leg and the future, I stayed up and cried silently for hours, struggling to breath. I wanted to give up. Luckily, I texted my athletic trainer in the midst of tears that I needed to see someone. Which I did a few days later (shoutout to my therapist for being a godsend the last few months).

I thought I was ready to be done with volleyball, but those few months after surgery I wasn’t certain. Everything felt so unfair. Why did this happen after working my ass off for the last year preparing for this season? Why now? I watched the video of the play close to a hundred times, and I couldn’t understand why that time created such a vastly different outcome than all the times prior. I remember hobbling into practice the day before I got my MRI results back, and I had to hobble out within the first three minutes because I could feel the tears start to well up. I sat outside the gym, in a little corner, and cried. When one of my coaches came outside she asked me what was the matter, and all I could manage to say was “I’m not ready for it to be over,” because I knew this was it.

If you aren’t an athlete, it’s hard to explain how much of your identity is strung to your sport. Before this point, my sole focus had been finishing the season, and then figuring out what I’m going to do with my life. Thanks to my torn ACL, that process sped up rather quickly. Every day felt more overwhelming than the next, until one day it got easier. It wasn’t something I noticed at first, but gradually, my leg stopped throbbing constantly. I could fall asleep without crying because of the pain. It’s like I woke up one day, and noticed I was starting to feel better. It was slow, but it was getting there.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, knowing you’ll never step foot on the court with some of your best friends again. Knowing even if you do play again, it won’t be the same, but I think I’m finally starting to realize it’s okay for everything to be different. Yes, I still have more eligibility, but I don’t want to use it. I want to leave Oregon State without a bitter taste in my mouth, and I know that if I went to play somewhere else, it wouldn’t be the same. What I had at Oregon State, can’t be re-created anywhere else. I loved this team, even if we fought or disagreed, these women are my family, and I’m content knowing my volleyball career will have ended in Corvallis. Somewhere along the last six months I accepted the fact that I’m more than an athlete. Volleyball is a sport I play, but it’s not who I am. I have so much more to offer than simply what I can do on the court.

My life isn’t going to end after I graduate in June; it’s just going to begin.

This injury has taken away things, but its also given me more than I thought was possible. Its given me empathy, strength, the power to push through moments when I was ready to give up, and hope. If you ask any of my friends, they wouldn’t define me as “optimistic” per say, but seeing the progress I’ve made over the last few months gave me hope for the future, in every facet.

There were so many moments I wanted to give up, and thought I would never be the same person. You know what, I probably won’t be the same person I was before this, but that’s okay. I’m finally doing things I’ve always wanted to do, plus I got cleared to run on my own last week (with my trusty brace of course)!

I wish I could put into words how thankful I am to my parents, roommates (live-in nurses), teammates, coaches, friends, athletic trainers, counselors, professors, and everyone else who reached out to me over the last six months. Even in the moments I felt alone, I knew there were people around who loved and supported me, and that is such a powerful feeling. So thank you. Thank you to everyone who reached out to me, and made me believe that it would get better, because it has, and it still will.