Well, it’s happened again.
This past Wednesday I was skiing some of the Front Range’s finest powder, thigh-deep powder, which consequently was enough to hide a small tree. My left ski went left. I kept going straight.
The thing that has always been the most frustrating to me about an injury is: how quickly it happens. One second you’re having a grand ol’ time climbing, skiing, running, what-have-you … and the next moment your prospects don’t include anything further than your couch.
For me, that has always meant the mental component of an injury ends up being ‘the crux’. There simply is not enough time for your brain to catch up to where your body has suddenly taken you. It’s like hitting a cement barrier at 60 miles per hour. *THWUMP*. If you’re not ready for it, your mind can play some pretty mean tricks on you.
At the ripe age of 23, I’ve had the pleasure of enduring and conquering two leg surgeries for a broken fibula (climbing-related) and now I’m embarking on my next injury recovery journey (this time it’s skiing related … and the other leg, so there’s that). I’m hoping sharing my beta for getting through an injury can help prepare you for your worst-case-day.
Skiing Eldora’s Salto Glades was way too fun … up until the moment it wasn’t. (Photo: Kenny D)
1. Eat right. Drink water. Get enough sleep. Think good thoughts.
I learned this one the hard way. Post-surgery numero uno for my broken leg, the inability to move my body led me to stop feeding it. I was struggling with being so out of control of my fate that I let my former eating disorder mentality seep in. Exercise-deprivation = food-restriction, right? Wrong. My lack of proper body care led to my surgical recovery suffering. I had two post-op infections that required chemical cauterization.
But if you don’t want to take my advice, that’s okay. I already took my own advice and you can argue with the results instead. Leg surgery numero dos: I had the benefit of knowing it was coming – this time I was going to be prepared. One back-breaking trip to Costco later, I was equipped with endless frozen fruits and protein powders (for smoothies), fresh vegetables (for steaming and stir-frys), and a larger-than-life bag of quinoa (for, you know, quinoa things). I drank inordinate amounts of water, compressed, iced, elevated, slept more than 9 hours a night and …
The results speak for themselves. These photos were taken 1 week apart – heal, body, heal!
2. Accept help. Ask for help. Don’t feel bad for either.
This has always been a hard one for me. As a fiercely independent person (read: stubborn), I’ve always had trouble asking for and receiving help. Being injured is a game-changer though. You have to leave your normal social dynamics behind – let’s face it, someone just might have to help you shower. It’s embarrassing, it sucks, you feel forever indebted, and there is no alternative.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret. For the people who love you, you’re doing them a favor by graciously accepting any and all charity. This is great opportunity to grow your relationships. While you’re just sitting on the couch, call your grandma and thank her for the sympathy card.
3. Take on a new hobby. Occupy your mind.
A person can only watch so much Netflix before their brain begins to rot (insert some obscure scientific journal reference here).
Make a list of some hobbies you’ve been wanting to try: maybe it’s taking a pottery class, breaking out your old knitting needles, or brushing up on your knot-tying skills. Raid your local library for some books you have always been meaning to read. Download some business, science, or political podcasts. Subscribe to some educational YouTube channels. Just find a way to keep your mind active and learning!
I took my post-op downtime to teach myself watercolor painting. As you can tell, it didn’t necessarily help to get my mind off of climbing…
4. Prepare yourself for some PTSD afterward.
Oh boy. Now THIS topic is one that’s hard to come to grips with. I broke my leg bouldering … believe it or not, that makes bouldering a bit hard your first time back. THAT’S OKAY. You get to take as long as you want! Even when your body is healed, you still have to go about healing your mind too. Don’t bite off more than you can chew to force yourself to ‘get over it’.
Here: I’m giving you a free pass. You get to make the excuses, you’ve earned them. Make them as long as you want. Shout them! “I didn’t go for that move at the top of the wall … I got scared … I broke myself one time doing that”.
Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for that. Maybe we should all wear signs around our necks or something: ‘slow, but sure mind-healing in progress – please butt out of my beta, I’m doing the best I can’.
I hope I can encourage you to bolster yourself. Take your mental health seriously – if you notice any of these tendencies: depression, eating disorders, withdrawal from support system, fear – talk to someone! Find someone who can sympathize or just flat call you out. Just don’t discount healing your mind, your body depends on it.
In the end, to me, injuries have always been a welcome crucible. You have a chance to really test yourself physically and mentally. You have an opportunity to come back stronger and with a heightened sense of gratitude for simple things. Happy healing!