Starting all over again… again

It’s been almost one year since I ran my last race. It was just a 5k and I finished in under thirty minutes. That race was a “comeback” race, the first race I’d run in several months. I’d been struggling off and on for awhile, but felt like I had finally found the medication combination that was going to work for me. I was running regularly again and was starting to see my speed and endurance coming slowly back. It was a good race. I felt strong running it.

That spring and early summer, I continued training with an eye towards a half-marathon that I do every year. My runs got longer and faster. I was finally, with my symptoms mostly controlled and my body adjusted to the meds, able to train consistently again. In the back of my head, I was entertaining full marathon thoughts, as well. I’d had to wage comebacks before after minor running injuries, but this comeback was after a two-month break to deal with my psoriatic disease. I was afraid I wasn’t ever going to be able to get myself back into half-marathon shape, so the sub-30 5k and the ten-miler I did a few weeks later had me feeling good about my progress.

And then my dad died. My psoriatic disease was flaring and I was dealing with both skin and joint symptoms. I travelled home to be with him when he passed and stayed on for three weeks to help out my mom. I noticed in the photos from the wake that I looked downright awful, but then we were all grieving and that grief showed on all of our faces. When I went home, though, and resumed normal life, I noticed that everyone else returned to looking normal. I still looked like I’d been hit by a truck. I wasn’t able to run at all most days due to foot pain and just sheer exhaustion.

I’d been home for about three weeks or so when my husband had to leave for a business trip. He was out of town for a couple of months and it was during that time that I tried to get back out on the road again. I forced myself up and out the door three or four times a week, but I was stunned at how rapidly my speed and endurance had evaporated during a three-week break from running. It felt way harder than it should have and even short, relatively easy runs seemed to be taking more out of me than they should have. Thirty minutes of run/walk intervals would often require a three or four hour nap. I knew something wasn’t right.

It was during this time that I was diagnosed with lupus. I had the malar rash on my face, joint pain, extreme exhaustion, hair loss, a positive ANA test, and a positive dsDNA test. Yep, lupus. I had no idea the diagnosis was coming. I thought I was seeing my rheumatologist for a routine follow-up for psoriatic arthritis. I was floored.

Since then, I have not run much, if at all. I’m just too tired. And “tired” isn’t really even the right word to describe it. I call this thing I experience “soul-crushing exhaustion”. It’s awful. I was put on steriods, stopped two medications, started two other medications, and run ragged going to have my blood drawn for labs every ten minutes. Today, as I write this, most of my symptoms are starting to improve and I can tell the new medication is beginning to make a difference. But I just can’t shake the exhaustion. I have a brand new pair of running shoes just waiting for me to put some miles on them and I cannot seem to make myself put them on.

I don’t mind starting all over again. I do mind starting all over again, then again, then again, then again, then again. I never seem to get back to where I was. Each period of starting over moves me two steps forward, but each health crash takes me five steps back. I can’t seem to get back to Square 1. I don’t mind starting over from a solid, healthy position, but I do mind starting over at a deficit.

Today I am wondering if I even should consider starting all over again… again. I miss running. I miss feeling strong and powerful and invincible. But each failed attempt to regain lost ground leaves me feeling demoralized. I am wondering if maybe my running — or at least my racing — days are over.

I don’t want for one second to let either of my autoimmune diseases dictate such things to me, but I have to be realistic. I have psoriatic arthritis which affects my feet. I have lupus which affects every single part of me. I take drugs that add side effects to the mix. I can get good control over the symptoms for a good portion of the time, but these diseases are incurable and flares are unpredictable. Maybe it’s time to put running away in a box with other momentos from better times and try to figure out who I am now.