Well. It’s been a long 7 months (almost 8 now). Nothing – and I do mean nothing – has gone as expected or planned. I’m not where I’m supposed to be at this point in time. I guess what happens, happens for a reason…I just have trouble accepting that.
So, in January I shipped off to Basic, expecting to be at the post for you know, the standard 9 weeks give or take a few days. Buuuut…stuff happened. I’m going to give the short story here. At one point I was going to write the long story, but that was months ago and probably would have been over several posts, and now I’m just over it.
Basic started like I guess it always does, with both my mind and body in shock, confused and wondering – when I had time to think about anything other than getting from point A to point B as fast as possible and HOW MUCH LONGER we’re going to be in the front lean and rest – why the hell did I volunteer for this? I learned very quickly that my recruiter lied about a lot of things, not the least of which was how obsessed the army is with running. Or just PT in general. I was really, really out of shape, and so came in for a LOT of razzing (to put it nicely) from the drill sergeants. It sucked, but no more than Basic is supposed to.
We were almost to the end of Red Phase (the first and in a lot of ways the hardest phase, at least mentally…you get treated the worst and get the fewest privileges) when we went and did the rappelling tower. It was supposed to be done in Week 0, but the weather was absolutely horrible (we did our PT eval with it 9 or 10 degrees and the gas chamber with it like 4) so it kept getting cancelled. This is the fun part of Basic, getting to do all this crazy stuff that normal people never do. We made our own harness for the tower – which while I can’t remember how to do it now, was pretty cool. Also extraordinarily painful to wear. I was very glad I was female. 😛 I made it through the practice 10 foot wall with no issues (my few times on an indoor rock wall came in handy), then moved on to wait in line for forever and a day at the real wall. While we were waiting we went on a practice ground jump. Just a rope that you grabbed and swung over a little puddle, basically.
Not going to discuss how I could not seem to summon the coordination necessary to swing across the puddle without dragging my feet through the mud. Nope. But I tried, multiple times. I was going to get across without getting wet, damn it! Well, the last time, I did…but as I landed, my right knee twisted inward and I heard a loud pop, accompanied by more pain than I’d ever felt up to that point in my life. A couple people from my platoon ran over and helped me up. I thought maybe I’d sprained my knee. I hobbled back over to the line. The drill sergeant of course didn’t give a damn – pain is meant to be worked through! You’re just looking for an excuse! You won’t graduate if you don’t finish this wall! Stop faking it! Yeah, okay, whatever. Lots of deep breaths. We pulled up my pant leg and my knee was already swelling. Every few steps I took it would do this weird buckling thing. But, I could kind of sort of walk if I walked slow. So I – very, very slowly and awkwardly – climbed the tower. Every time I put weight on my knee I would hear/feel another pop. When I finally got to the top, I laid down and cried like a baby. I had made it, but I still had to get down! Weirdly enough, I remember seeing the drill sergeants up there eating Little Ceasar’s pizza and I was irritated because I wanted some. There were a couple guys from my platoon up there waiting their turn too, and they helped me pull it together enough to suck it up and rappel down. The pain just kept getting worse and worse. It felt like it took FOREVER to get down the wall but they told me later I went down a lot faster than most people. Haha. Then we had to march back (half a mile? a mile? I don’t even know). Which was a complete joke by that point. Someone took my pack, and I “marched” between two guys from my platoon. Every time my knee gave out (which felt like every other step), if I fell forward I grabbed the pack on the guy in front of me and if I fell down the guy behind me grabbed me by my camelbak and pulled me back up. So embarrassing. I was in so much pain, but I still overall felt horrible for needing help and not being able to keep up with everyone else.
And they still thought I was faking, so I waited till the next morning to go to sick call (No ER for you! you’re not bleeding, and you’re not dying, right? Right.), where I was rushed off to the hospital – by this point my knee was almost the size of a basketball, I hadn’t slept, and I was still in excruciating pain. MRI done, shots of some painkiller, that ohsosweetly knocked me out for about 6 hours. Then they sent me off to quarters. Little did I know I wouldn’t be going back to my training battery, ever.
The MRI showed a complete ACL tear. It looked like a rope that someone had jerked on and snapped. Which explained a lot. That also meant surgery, and longs months of physical therapy before I could even think about going back to training. But, since I wasn’t finished Basic, that also meant I had to stay in the “BCT environment” while I had surgery and recovered. No contact with the outside world (except mail), no visits, lots of drill sergeants and formations…all the sucky stuff of Basic without any of the fun (or just distracting) stuff.
I’m going to stop here because I’m already tired of talking about it. The bottom line is I’ve made it through 7 months of that hellhole, and they gave me 4 weeks of leave to come home and finish recovering (now that I’ve finished physical therapy) before going back to Basic. My physical therapist says it’s one of the fastest ACL recoveries he’s seen. I’ve learned a lot, not just about the army but about myself. I’ve made some amazing friends and met some amazing people. I have more respect for my drill sergeants than anyone else I’ve ever worked for or under, even though if you watched you would think they treat us like crap. I’ve had some really dark days, days where I wanted nothing so badly as to just quit. Just to be done. But I couldn’t do it. I don’t even know why, really, other than that this is what I’ve wanted for so long that I just couldn’t let it go, no matter how bad it sucked.
I have to restart Basic. Yep, from day 0. Shark attack, bag drag, the whole 9 yards. Not looking forward to it, but whatever. It only lasts a few days. And after 7 months of limbo, 9 weeks of training and progress doesn’t sound that horrible. I’m in a lot better shape physically and mentally than when I came to BCT in January. Like a hundred times better. Sure running still sucks, especially since my knee is kind of still messed up. But I can do it, and I’m going to finish this time.
It doesn’t get easier, you get stronger.
I said that to myself almost every day for the past months. Because if I could just get through that day, I would be stronger. Just for having made it. And it’s true. Now if I can just remember that when I’m in Basic I’ll be good. 😉 I’m still really frustrated that I’m so far behind. I feel like I should be a pro at hurry up and wait by now, but it still just grates on me. I hate waiting, and I REALLY hate being stuck in limbo, which is all this entire time has been. So I’m not sure my patience has actually been improved any, I’ve just proved to myself that I can wait, even when I don’t want to.