When I was a little kid, I was a gymnast. I started gymnastics when I was about 5, and I completely loved it. I'm still hard pressed to find something more fun than having the power within yourself to twist and rotate and contort your body all around and make it do whatever acrobatics you wish for it to do. Floor was my favorite, because I loved flipping upside down and bouncing myself all over the place. Second favorite was beam, because I liked the height and the challenge, then vault for the fun of bouncing off the springboard, then bars. (Bars were kind of scary- I never mastered whipping myself through the air quite right, I was a little bit scared on bars.) I was only a gymnast for 5 years or so, though, because I was diagnosed with developing early onset arthritis.
My grandmother had severe osteoarthritis, and my parents were understandably freaked out by my doctor's diagnosis. At that point, I'd already sprained/strained my wrists several times (I told you, I loved floor, and that doesn't come without a price) but the biggest problem was my ankles. Between the two ankles, I must have had over a dozen sprains/strains- I'd grown out of ankle braces, learned how to wrap my own ankle like a champ by age 8 or 9, and even had a couple of really weird but effective electric treatments on my ankle to repair an injured tendon. But I loved my gymnastics. It wasn't until I hurt myself twice in a row in quick succession and lost faith in my coaches (because one of them dropped me and almost split my head open) that I was ready to quit, and I was required by my dad to finish out the season (because in our family, we finish what we start, period.) And when I left, to be honest, I missed it. I wound up coaching later, and that gave me the opportunity to relearn some tricks and play around, but I noticed the difference in my ankles even when I did something simple like a roundoff or easy dismount from the lower bars. And holy cow, did those ankles hurt at the ripe old age of 18.
And they still hurt. They just sometimes give out on me for a minute or two when I'm working out on or a run, or even just jogging after my niece and playing. This post was prompted because my running up and down stairs multiple times today (in sneakers) has prompted my ankle to have a couple of veins show up in garish blue and green, and be warm and sore to the touch. But the thing is, I don't regret it. I love what I used to be able to do and that I had the chance to do it, and I am so grateful that even with this recurring injury that just will not go away, I have functional ankles that allow me to walk almost every single day and carry me through life (for now). Have I done permanent damage? Well, maybe a little here and there. But it was totally worth it for the feeling of soaring around and feeling the power of my body, and I love these old beat up ankles for taking me on my daily journeys.