By Claire Harris
One of the reasons I started this website was because I realised that my injury was having a huge impact on my life. While some people cope really well with their specific injury — from medical treatment to the day-to-day inconveniences — I was a bit amazed at how much I struggled.
Here are three big things that I needed to do to get through to where I am now:
Acknowledge grief and other strong emotions
There is no doubt that after the shock of the injury itself I tipped over into a grieving process. I grieved for my body being damaged, for my fiance as we had to cancel our holiday, for the future things I wanted to do but couldn’t.
There were many other strong emotions too: everything from anger, guilt, powerlessness, despair, fear… It was a long list.
This article How to Cope With the 5 Stages of Injury Grief, from Active.com, talks about the effects that injury can have on the psychology of runners and I found it very interesting. And this article in the Huffington Post by Megan Devine from Refuge in Grief was also great as it emphasises how differently everyone experiences grief. She notes that focusing on (or judging yourself by your progress through) the commonly known stages of grief might be very unhelpful!
What benefited me: having very supportive friends who helped me express my emotions; talking to a couple of mindset coaches; talking with other people who had suffered injuries; and being kind to myself; and helping myself accept the situation.
I cannot emphasise the last point enough. We are all affected differently and it is important that we are kind to ourselves when we are facing recovery.
Accept changes to my lifestyle
At the particular time of my injury, I was looking forward to a period of self discovery and setting up my own business or getting a new, exciting job. I was looking forward to going to the gym regularly, walking around my favourite local park, catching up with friends, going to Meetup events, getting away for weekends with my family and potentially taking an international trip.
I was not expecting that I wouldn’t be able to do these things. Let alone not be able to easily have a shower, prepare food, wash clothes, get out on to my balcony over the one step, get on and off our rather low couch, turn over in bed, wear thongs/flip flops…
Most things about my day to day changed because I was using two crutches to get around, couldn’t put any weight through my left leg, was in constant pain and was exhausted as I wasn’t sleeping well.
Learning to accept my new lifestyle was tough but a very wise friend of mine, Catalina Lopera, the Director of Events with Soul, offered some very sound advice:
Believe me I know it’s hard to accept your situation but it is not serving you to keep living in the past and wondering how things could have been different and to fight how you’re feeling.
You only have now. Accept your feelings now and the sooner you can accept when you’re feeling crap, the sooner that feeling will go away.
This was such great advice. It was difficult for me to accept my situation, and I still struggle sometimes when it just feels exhausting and I want to be pain-free, but by focusing on these tips, I feel a lot better.
Ask for help
This is a big one, I know. Independent people who are used to doing most things for themselves frequently struggle to ask for help. But sometimes you just need it!
And it’s important to remember that people want to help. Think about a time when you helped someone out; didn’t it feel good? So remember that, and ask for the help you need.
Here are some things I needed to ask for help with and would nab friends as they visited me:
- putting the bins out
- bringing in washing
- getting things out of the cupboard that I couldn’t reach
- shopping for groceries
- keeping me company and making me laugh.
Every single one of them said they were happy to help me.
What others have found difficult to cope with
In the Coping with Injury Survey (you can still contribute to it) the top aspects people nominated as most difficult to cope with were:
- changes to lifestyle
- physical limitations. (this of course plays into many other aspects like lifestyle, coping with emotions)
- emotions and psychology – two aspects that are interrelated.
What did you or do you need to cope with your injury? Please let me know by filling out the survey or contacting us.
One last thing
I recommend this fantastic webpage from reachout.com about building better coping skills – I wish I’d found this earlier!