“Put this on and the doctor will be in the speak with you shortly,” says the red-headed, fifty-something nurse with a voice glazed with polite distance. I look at the bundle of cloth she’s holding out for me. “It has a hole for your head,” she continues, and I look up at her from the cloud of anxiety I stay permanently entrenched within when I have an injury and take a breath. “Do I keep my bra on? The thing is, the rib is right along the bra band, and I really don’t care what’s covered and what isn’t, so should I take that off too?” I say, and I say about eight words too many in that sentence, and she breaks out of her polite distance for a minute to look at me like I’m possibly a candidate for the university’s counseling services too and says “sure, that would be fine.” Out she goes. I look down again at the cloth. It’s a sheet with a hole in it. The hole is huge, and when I put on the sheet it slopes down my chest and one breast pokes its way merrily into the air. I adjust into a shape that resembles a deflated dog-surgery-aftercare cone and wait.
When the doctor knocks her way into the room, I launch into an explanation fueled by the constant-fear-turbo-charge that my anxiety around injury tends to give me. “So I was training–I’m a powerlifter, I train a lot, I’m in the gym a lot, I know I’m really small, but it’s my sport, I swear I’m actually pretty strong–and something happened to this rib over on my left side. I know it’s a rib because I messed up a higher rib on my left side a few years ago and the pain behavior with this is a lot like that–but I actually don’t get injured that often, I really haven’t had anything like this that much since I’ve been powerlifting–and it HAS been getting better, but it’s taking a while. So it’s right here and I just was wondering if you could maybe tell me what it might be, or if I somehow broke it, because I swear I actually do the stupidest things sometimes and I can totally see myself having broken this and not knowing it.” The doctor pokes me a little and tells me I haven’t broken the rib. She tells me I have costochondritis, which semi-literally means rib inflammation. And I tell her ok, well, I want to train, and she tells me ok, well, it’s going to hurt. And so that’s where I am right now, and it often hurts a lot, and it has stymied my ability to progress with getting stronger in my training for now. At this point, all I can do is hope to hold my strength. This is generally entails going in, training up to doing as little as I can do and still keeping all my lifts on par, and then leaving in so much pain that I honestly feel like crying for a while after the session. Awesome! I’m a goddamn wimp! I just admitted I have a strong inclination to cry over an injury, and now you can tell me I fit various gendered norms regarding women and emotionality and we can go get some beers and cry into them, except I won’t because I no longer drink.
So, as one might expect in training with an injury, I ended up working up to a deadlift PR attempt today. Actually, deadlift PRing under the corporeal conditions I currently occupy is not the most illogical thing to do, for various reasons that I’m not inclined to get all lifting-technical-jargon up in here to detail. I attempted–and made–300 pounds today, and this means that I have reached a goal I set for myself back when I began training for this sport in April. Cool. For now, I will take that. And I’ll cry into my fake beer while I’m at it.