How to Cope with an Injury

DSC01834 Didn’t see this coming! A ridiculous, slow motion, soft landing fall, but in such a way that popped my shoulder out. Weird. This happened on January 27th and here we are in May and I am still not 100%. What I am though is positive, whole, and a fighter. While my injury may not be as wicked as a horrendous car accident, a hemorrhage, or worse, I will still go ahead and shed some light on how to cope and live with an injury.

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1. Do Not Cry! Take it from an ICU nurse, I knew that once my patients started crying, they lost all control, panic set in, vital signs went crazy, they got short of breath, and they fainted, went into shock, or worse. Do no cry!  Instead get very mad. I am not saying become a flailing violet wacko, that will get you drugged, as in knocked out, no, just get mad. Repeat a phrase over and over, it could be a prayer, mantra, or cursing, but do it.  Also you need to concentrate on breathing. Just like we laugh at all those silly movies with women in labor, that is the breathing you want to do. A kind of hee hee haaaa, or any other rhythmic, steady breathing.  I was in pain, extreme ridiculous beyond me pain and cussing like a sailor and breathing like I was 10 cm dilated helped.  And so did praying. This piece of advice goes for painful physical therapy sessions as well. Ouch, those hurt!

PS- I still haven’t cried, because I know for me that if I do, I will lose all momentum to drive forward.

2.  Ask for and accept Help.  Two days after my fall, I was home, we needed groceries and my hair was starting to look a bit shifty.  I had not been cleared to drive, and I was completely unable to move my arm without going to my knees in pain.  Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I put out an email to my neighborhood book club for help. I got a huge response! People wanted to help. You need to tell them exactly what you need, put your pride aside, and let them help. A kind neighbor drove me to a hair salon for a wash and blow dry, then to the store to pick up groceries. I felt like a new person!  Because of the fall, a few home projects were delayed, but my parents came and with the help of the kids, did it all, while Ma stocked my freezer with meals. I am humbled and blessed. Ask for help.

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3.  Take care of your Appearance. When you are injured every little task is a huge task, like showering, shaving, hair and skin care, and well, everything. I was surprised at how exhausted I was.  Because taking care of ourselves is so difficult, it is the first thing to go. I noticed that my patients who gave up on their appearance had a lower self esteem which can delay healing or even sabotage it forever.  A person who feels pretty, even if it is a touch of lip gloss, having their hair combed, or for men a nice shave, goes a long way in how they perceive themselves.  As painful as it was, I still put on my makeup, got dressed, and did my hair. Well, I cheated on the hair. I went to Hair Cuttery twice per week for a wash and blow dry- it was important to my self esteem and healing to feel good about my appearance.

PS- The photo above, taken by my littlest one, was me all dressed for a Winter Ball, sling and all. Himself and I had fun camouflaging  the sling with a pretty shawl.  And yes, Himself had to help me many times with dressing and undressing. He didn’t mind. Wink.

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4.  Modify.  If you have read this site for a while now, you know that I am a CrossFit Trainer.  So my life revolves around fitness. Minus one limb, this made working out and coaching difficult.  So I put my thinking cap on, talked to other coaches, thought about how maybe an amputee trains, thought about my nursing days in rehab, and figured out some solid and safe ways to still train.  Here is one modification I made to back squatting. I am using a canvas strap to hold the barbell in place so that I could continue strengthening my legs. Talk with a trainer,  physical therapist, or occupational therapist about ways to modify your activities to keep moving and doing the things that you love.

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5. Eat Healthy Foods. We can chat body weight here, but I want the focus of healthy eating to be for healing and psychological reasons.  While we worry about putting on weight during this time of not being able to move, and yes it can and does happen to injured people, let’s eat healthy to fuel our body with healing nutrients. Our bodies are designed to fix themselves and to do that they need building blocks. During your recovery, eat plenty of protein, fruits and veg, and healthy oils, watch your portion sizes, and drink plenty of water. This is a time to avoid inflammatory foods like sugar and refined carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and pastries.  Heck, you are already inflamed, why add fuel to the fire? Another focus here is psychological. If you are eating foods that make you feel bloated, stuffed, sluggish, and fat, you will start feeling bad about yourself and your  body image.  You must always guard your body image while healing, because when it goes, you will give up, then the healing process crumbles.

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6. Concentrate on the things you can do.  Or should I call this one, take crazy eyed pictures of yourself.  This selfie photo was taken with my friend Tonya after an 8x 100m sprint workout, after the main workout. Ugh.    If I focused on the things I can’t do (pull ups, rope climb, snatch, over head squat, move furniture) I would cry, and that leads to giving up.  My legs work just fine, but I could improve my running, sprints, and pistols (one legged squats). Focus on something you can do, improve on it, make realistic goals, and go for it!  If your leg, foot, or knee is injured, talk with a trainer for creative ideas on how to stay fit. Or brainstorm with friends about trying a new hobby. Good things can come from an injury.

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7. Do things that make you happy. See the word “do” there, it is an action word. Happiness doesn’t just happen, you have to do it and be it. What makes you happy? Make a list and do it.  My chair in the office faces the front window over looking our front yard. I added that lantern, found on sale at Home Goods, and it makes me happy especially at night when I light the candles. It is relaxing to look at.  One small thing has brought me happiness.  Having a cup of coffee in a real cup makes me happy. Baking a cake without a recipe makes me happy. Spending time with family and friends makes me happy.  Choose to be happy. It is a choice you know.   

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8. Learn.  Learning broadens our mind and gives us a sense of purpose. It gives us positive focus while taking our mind off of the “I can’ts”. When we have a purpose and focus we feel valued, and when we feel valued, we have hope, and when we have hope, we have a reason to live.  I have spent time reading on things that interest me as well as diving into some new novels.  I have an interest in strength training, so I study and learn new things about lifting weights. What interests you? What would you like to learn? Take a class, read a book, or attend local lectures, it’s better than watching the boob tube.

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9. Help others. Helping others is one of the greatest ways to feel useful.  I can’t help others with moving or lifting things, but I can encourage, teach, handle small tasks, drive kids, cook for others, run errands, and share my wisdom.  The photo above is of my friend Marcus, fellow CrossFit Coach,  setting a PR in the deadlift. I did not lift it for him, but I can be there to encourage and cheer. It was fun to be a part of his success.  Because I have been studying more on weight training I am able to help the athletes at the gym by giving them more pointers which keeps them safe while lifting. I am able take video of them and can show them what they are doing wrong and together we can fix the problem. So while I am unable to do what they do, I am still very much a part of their success.  I feel valuable when I help others, and feeling valuable, helps me cope with being injured.

10. Never give up!  If you are at a point in your healing process where you have given up, get help. Plain and simple, get help.  This would be in the way of counseling, talking with someone to help you overcome your fears, failures, and low self esteem. Do not give up on yourself.  And if you are getting to the point of giving in and giving up, dig in harder and fight. Surround yourself with encouraging and positive people who will help you in that fight, ask them to help you.  In all the tips shared here today, the main ingredient is YOU.  Your attitude will decide your success. I know some people that never healed completely, but because of their positive attitude and acceptance, they are the most whole and healed people I know. They were broke, but not broken. So what’s it gonna be?  A fight or surrender? You decide.

Experience Life Magazine shared a good article about Facing Down an Injury.

If you have an injury or have been injured, please share some specific tips that helped you cope. Please share in the comments section. 

8 Comments

  1. Posted May 3, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

    I love your attitude – and your advice! Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    • Robin Sue
      Posted May 3, 2013 at 10:54 AM | Permalink

      Thanks Kristen, it’s not easy but it sure is better than the alternative:)

  2. Posted May 3, 2013 at 11:58 AM | Permalink

    Awesome awesome awesome post! I think all of these apply to ANY situation, really, even when not injured. *raising hand* I’m SOOOO guilty of wanting to blow off workouts, but my husband, thank goodness, it’s incredibly dedicated, so he helps me stay on track. This post, though, was a bit of a, “Hey! Pay attention, Kelly” kind of thing because it reminds me how important being consistent, DOING the work and always learning are. You’re such an inspiration! Thank you for this post (and all that you do).

    • Robin Sue
      Posted May 3, 2013 at 2:30 PM | Permalink

      Thank you so much Kelly! I have also learned that I really have taken for granted my abilities. It can slip away so quickly. I look at others and want to shout “Be happy with your working parts!”

  3. Natalie
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 6:32 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for this post Robin Sue. I’m facing another breast lumpectomy and my recovery from the last one (9 years ago) was really difficult. I think asking for help is the hardest for me. Your attitude and advice has blessed me so much–thank you.

    • Robin Sue
      Posted May 7, 2013 at 7:02 PM | Permalink

      The people who love you feel helpless when you are hurting, give them a task and they will feel like they are part of your healing. You will bless them by asking.

  4. Cheryl C
    Posted May 16, 2013 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

    I had a freak accident and fell and broke my radial head (elbow) March 9th which still hasn’t healed completely. I had surgery March 11th and now have 4 screws in my elbow. So I really related to this post and the one thing I keep telling everyone is: You don’t realize what you CAN’T do with one arm and you don’t realize what you CAN do with one arm. Really enjoyed you post!

    • Robin Sue
      Posted May 18, 2013 at 12:03 PM | Permalink

      It’s amazing what we learn about ourselves!

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