Crossfit, Pain & Depression

For many of us tech folk, our hobbies usually revolve around our day to day work. For example, at my past several jobs, my work was building websites. Then, in my spare time, I'd build websites. Doesn't sound like much of a break, does it?

About 2 years ago, I found CrossFit. It was exactly what I needed in so many ways. Of course, there was the health aspect of it, but just as importantly it became a hobby that forced me to unplug, learn new skills and put in the time and effort to become proficient in those skills. CrossFit is exactly what I needed and came along at exactly the time I needed it.

Fast forward about a year, and for nobody's fault but my own, I ended up hurting my back. Being self-employed and not having access to insurance, I wasn't able to dig deep enough to find the root of the issue, but could only work on managing the symptoms. Which in my case was Sciatica.

During the time when I wasn't able to workout, I started to realize how depressed I was becoming by not having CrossFit as my outlet. Not only had it become my hobby away from work, but I also really enjoyed the social aspect of it. I have made a large number of friends at the gym, and not going on a regular basis really hurt. Even if I did go just to hang out, it wasn't the same as going through the pain of the workouts along side my friends. It sounds weird, but there's a special comradery in the shared pain of a tough workout. And I was seriously missing it.

Luckily for me, I had taken the Crossfit L1 training course, and the owner of our gym was letting me coach the class on Sunday mornings. While it still wasn't getting a workout in, it was at least satisfying me in so much that I was at least involved. Plus, it also helped that I was able to pay close attention to what other CrossFitters were doing, and I could provide assistance where needed and at the same time I was able to figure out elements of my own CrossFit skills that needed improvement.

And yet depression was still there lingering in the back of my mind.

After a handful of weeks, the Sciatica settled down and I was able to start working out again. The pain never fully went away, but was gone enough that I felt comfortable working out. I had a new job and was waiting for my new insurance to kick in so that I could get to the root of the issue and not just settle on dealing with the symptoms. I had located a new primary care physician and scheduled an appointment for the day after my insurance kicked it. All seemed right in the world.

Not so fast.

The week prior to my new insurance and that first Dr's appointment, I did something to aggravate the Sciatica in a big way. It wasn't just back a little bit, it was back in full force. I had a couple pain pills left over from the first go-round, so I tried using those in the evening to try and get some restful sleep. But that was no use. So after 4 days of complete agony, the insurance kicked in and I couldn't even wait the extra day to make it to my Dr appointment. I got up Monday morning and headed directly to urgent care. I got a shot, three x-rays, and prescriptions for pain, anxiety and some antibiotics. While I was definitely feeling a bit better, I certainly wasn't out of the woods.

The depression was also back in full force. But knowing that I was likely not going to be able to workout for several weeks, I reached out to our gym owner and asked if I could coach 2 additional classes each week. He agreed and it immediately helped subside the depression. It's definitely not gone, but it's most certainly not as strong as it was when I first realized it would be a while before I would be back to working out.

I went to my other doctor appointment the following day. While I would have loved to have walked out the door with the things he promised me, I'll have to settle for the fact that they'll be arriving in the mail in 7-10 days. Because really, they are exactly what I was hoping to get out of the visit:

  1. A prescription for an MRI
  2. A prescription to see a pain management specialist
  3. A prescription to see a back surgeon on the off chance I need surgery

For the record, I'll be doing everything in my power to avoid surgery, bu having the referral to at least speak to one if I need it is a HUGE step and makes me very happy!

The Doctor's final words to me prior to leaving the office, “No heavy lifting until we sort out what's going on.” Dang it. It's like he knows me already.

Some not so good news

The following day I received a call from the urgent care doctor. They had reviewed my x-rays and it shows a mild case of osteoarthritis in my lower back. This isn't the end of the world and it's probably something that can be taken care of at the same time that we take care of whatever issues get discovered from the MRI. But still, not awesome news.

So now I wait.

It's been about a week and my stalking the mailman each day hasn't resulted in any of the referrals that I'm seeking. But I expect them any day now. Even though I know I'm most likely still weeks away from getting any actionable information, I'm excited that the process has officially begun.

My biggest trick now is going to be focusing my energy on another non-technical hobby to keep myself occupied until the time were I'm able to dive back into CorsFit with everything I've got! I'm currently looking for woodworking classes in the Vegas/Henderson area (hey, Matt Danner!). I don't know exactly where I'll put all the woodworking equipment, but we don't need to keep our cars in the garage. Right, honey?

Depression is a bitch. When you feel it coming on, talk to somebody. For me, I find it helpful to write about it. While I certainly don't want to bore you with it, I find it cathartic. We all process in different ways. Make sure you find the way that's best for you and take action.


  1. vinny ohare on May 19, 2016 at 1:28 am

    Sucks about your back but at least you are on the path to find out whats wrong. If you ever need to talk you know where to find me.

    • John on May 19, 2016 at 1:37 am

      Thank you, Vinny. I sincerely appreciate that. I hope to be posting good news in the next couple weeks.

  2. Allison on May 19, 2016 at 5:54 am

    It sounds like a frustrating process. Here’s to hoping your diligence in seeking out all the potential treatment options brings you relief. Also, a really good reminder for me to stay connected to the habits + practices that stave off depression.

    • John on May 19, 2016 at 9:48 am

      Yeah, the frustration level comes and goes, but mostly it’s there in the back of my mind just gnawing at me. Just knowing things are moving in the right direction has been a big help for my mental state. It’s not perfect, that’s for sure. But it’s better than it was.

      Piece by piece.

  3. Jason Murphy on May 19, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Writing as an outlet is a good thing, and I applaud you. For me, I never realize how much so until usually a few days later. There is always a little bit of instant gratification when you hit the publish button. But what isn’t as easily realized is that you cleared some of the buffer in that hard drive in your head and can use that to tackle other shit.

    Sucks about your back bro. But I hear ya. Knowing things are in progress is a relief in and of itself. I hope you get what you need in the mail today!

    • John on May 19, 2016 at 9:53 am

      Hey,w Jason. So great to hear from you. I totally know what you mean about the instant gratification. There is that great rush when you push the publish button, but an even bigger rush over the next couple days when you get to talk through some of the points that have been bothering you. Be that in the comments here on the blog, or more importantly, when friends reach out just to see how you’re feeling. It really does make a big difference, and clearing out that clutter from the brain feels so damn good.

      Now that I’ve got the writing back in order (hey, I’m 3 full days in!), it’s time to start thinking about a new weekly Podcast. That’s been on my mind quite bit lately, too. Of course.

      • Jason Murphy on May 20, 2016 at 7:30 am

        Stay on that horse! Looking forward to your next post. Netvibes, as I’ve championed before, is my new/old google reader. They have a “reader” mode which means I’m actually reading every feed & post I care about, not what Facebook deems is important to me.

        I’m half-way blogging again too. Soon it will be more frequent. I’m still in a transition stage. I’m thinking of registering a trademark so I can get in on Automattic’s sunrise period for a .blog tld.

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