When I broke my leg in November, I was prepared for pain and discomfort in recovery. After my surgery, I wrote a little bit about some side effects I found surprising, but thought things would just move along. I was not ready for the mental burden of this injury. There is an emotional toll that rocked me to my very core, and while I am doing my best to be positive, I find myself very much in my own head these days. It’s not the best place to be.
It Could Be Worse
I get this a lot. And I understand that people make the comment in an attempt to be sunshine-y and glass-half-full. I try to keep in my mind that statements like this come from a good place, and technically, it’s true (I am grateful for that), but for me, in this moment right now, things are not fabulous. There is solace in the fact that I am dealing with a temporary situation and am making (slow) progress, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am dealing with the ramifications of a huge, altering trauma.
Every night, when I lay down, I remember the sound of my bones breaking. When little man runs up and down the stairs, it sends spine-chilling jolts through my injured leg. Even though I no longer need pain medication, I’m critically uncomfortable much of the time and there’s really no bandaid for that. (I hesitate to use the word “pain”, but there are painful days and then days where I just can’t get away from the sensations, and there’s no consistency to either).
Loss of Independence
If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you would know that I am super independent. I am always on the move, and I pride myself on my self-sufficiency and ability to get things done. In a matter of seconds, I lost that independence and it’s demoralizing. Even though I’m more mobile than I was a month ago, I still can’t drive myself anywhere, and I should have supervision for showers and stairs. If I feel like a Starbucks, I have to ask someone for it. If I want to go to the store, someone has to take me. It’s like being a child again, and at 42, this stings more than a little bit.
Feeling Like An Inconvenience and Failure To Everyone
This one is hard to take, too. I hate the feeling that I am putting anyone out, even in my own family. Mr PugRunner has been at my beck and call for months, and even though marriage is all about “for better or worse”, this isn’t how I do things. The same applies to little man, my parents and friends. I am so limited in what I can do (again, because of the driving and the sheer exhaustion of planning) and I end up feeling like a failure of a person, wife, mother, and friend.Anthony Tran
Everything Takes Planning
Back before my accident, I just did things. I didn’t have to consider or plan or have a game plan, unless I wanted one. Now, I have to calculate EVERYTHING. It’s exhausting and a huge part of this mental burden I now shoulder. I was so tired the other day, I didn’t even want to drink because of the effort it would take to go to the bathroom. To go out, I have to consider things like stairs and crowds and parking. My brain is just overloaded with the logistics and contingencies of every single situation.
To this end, I find myself becoming a bit of a hermit because it’s just easier and less terrifying to stay home. We went to Chick-Fil-A last week, and I almost burst into tears from the stress: it was so crowded, people were so loud, and little kids were tearing around with no regard for my leg (not that they needed to be aware, but I was on high alert every second). This is my new normal for the time being and it’s so draining.
Loss of Identity
This one may be the hardest. My identity is very tied up in my active parenting and lifestyle. What do you do when that’s gone, even if temporarily? Discouraging is not the precise word for these feelings. I love being in the middle of the action, getting out on adventures and spending time doing things with my guys. Sitting on the sidelines is not my jam, and it guts me to miss out on all the fun.
Sleep Is Not Relief
Sleeping used to be a given escape. It was easy to just work my butt off all day, the close my eyes and get some Zs. Now, the dark is just another hurdle. When everyone is sleeping, that’s when my brain and anxiety kick it into overdrive. I feel EVERYTHING around my injury, and getting even remotely comfortable becomes impossible. I’m not a good sleeper at the best of times, so the added insomnia has been a huge part of the mental burden. On the plus side, Mr PugRunner just introduced me to the joys of melatonin, so things are getting little better.Anthony Tran
This was a hard piece to write. Vulnerability is something I don’t care to share very often, but I also think it’s important to know that long injuries (or even illnesses) come with a special kind of baggage. There are high highs and low lows and an overwhelming sense of defeat. It’s easy to feel swallowed whole by or lost in the situation. I can’t promise that it will get better, but I do believe in the power of hope. No matter what, I’m going to keep pushing forward, even on the down days.
Please stay tuned for my follow up on What To Do About The Mental Load of Injury in the next few days.
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Have you ever been devastated by a long term injury or illness?
Any tips on how you got through?
Please remember, you are not alone. If things feel like they are too much or you’re afraid you might hurt yourself or others, text HOME to 741741 in the U.S. (please refer to https://www.crisistextline.org/ for other options) You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat online at https://www.imalive.org/.