the mental burden of injury

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.

mental burden

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.

mental burden
unsplash-logoAnthony 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.

mental burden
unsplash-logoAnthony 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.

I am linking up for Tuesday Topics with KookyRunner and Zenaida.

Please visit these lovely bloggers, plus check out some of the other blogs on the link-up, and don’t forget to share your own post, as well!

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 for other options) You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat online at

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33 Responses to the mental burden of injury

  1. Darlene S. Cardillo says:

    Well said.

    It is all true.

    I wish I could make you feel better.

    All I can say if that it won’t be forever. You look back. You will be stronger because of it. But you will never forget.

    • runswithpugs says:

      I will feel better and I’m just trying to stay forward focused. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that not even the most positive people feel sunshiney all the time and it’s ok to be discouraged and down.

      And I know I will never forget. I will never get the sound and feeling out of my head as long as I live.

  2. Jenn, you have done such a great service by writing it down and putting it out there. The reality is that most of us will be faced with an injury, and we need to know that we’re not alone in these feelings when it happens. You’ve made so much progress and will continue to heal. <3
    Beckett @ Birchwood Pie recently posted…Weekly Eats: Tofu ThoughtsMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      I just honestly wasn’t expecting to be hit with all this. I figured they would patch me up, I would do some stretches and life would go on mostly as before, but dragging a boot. Nope. I was super wrong about that. And I wasn’t ready.

  3. I can appreciate how tough it was to write all those words…but was it a little therapeutic? Just a tiny bit? Sometimes just getting the words out, in print, helps in moving forward. Sometimes. Could your surgeon (or PT?) refer you to a support group for something like this? It might give you a little reassurance to talk with others who are going through a similar experience…I bet there are others who may be feeling the same kind of anxiety and frustration. As cliche as it sounds, this is just a blip (though it may feel like an eternity at the moment)…and you’re going to be even stronger for the experience. Hugs to you… <3

    • runswithpugs says:

      Well, of course! This is why I blog: free therapy LOL!

      I am part of a support group online, and it’s helpful to a point. I’m a terrible internalizer and and introvert so this injury is bringing out all my worst habits and tendencies.I pride myself on my ability to rise up and overcome, but I’m also finding myself creeping back into my old hermit ways.

      My reasonable side understand it’s a blip, but in the thick of it, it’s hard to see to the other side, especially knowing there are no guarantees that things will be the same or close to it.

  4. Catrina says:

    So well put, Jenn. This reminds me of when I was injured for 10 months with Achilles tendonitis. It felt like in a dark tunnel. And I could still walk and move around…. I can’t even imagine how it’s like to become immobile and dependent.
    I wish you all the best on your road to recovery!
    Catrina recently posted…Running in Cape Town!My Profile

  5. Definitely true and real feelings that all injured people have. It’s especially difficult when you are used to be so active. If I could give you one piece of advice it would be to remember that it’s temporary for you. Focus on one small thing a day that you can do

    • runswithpugs says:

      My logical side knows (hopes) it’s temporary. There are no guarantees that things will go back to how they were, so I’m scared in advance of my follow up.

      That being said I am grateful that it’s not worse but I’m still terribly down about the situation.

  6. Wendy says:

    Pushing forward is all you can do, right? Like you, I’m a fiercely independent person. I went through a lot of these emotions when I was diagnosed with RA. I sat through my first appointment with the rheumatologist with tears streaming down my face. I kept thinking that it wasn’t fair! I take such good care of myself! I’m a runner! I’m a mom! I’m a nurse! I felt so fragile for the longest time! When I had my prolonged flare last spring, I had to go through this all over again. I couldn’t even run a mile. It’s so hard. I can honestly tell you that you will come out of this a stronger person. You’ll never take your health or mobility for granted again. Thinking of you… <3
    Wendy recently posted…How To Be a Good Social Media Steward: 14 Tips to Keep Your Interactions PositiveMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      Yup. It’s all we can do.

      And it’s not fair, for either one of us, or anyone who suffered from any kind of injury or illness. It just doesn’t seem right.

      You, however, have owned your RA and showed it who’s boss! I’m so proud of you and admire you and your progress so much. <3

  7. Kim G says:

    Sending you the biggest virtual hug ❤️
    Feeling like you have lost a sense of independence is a very hard pill to swallow. Just know that this too shall pass. I know it’s hard now but just keep looking forward and know that this whole experience is just going to make you stronger!

  8. Michelle D. says:

    Jenn, I so appreciate your honesty. I had major surgery a few years ago that also included a long recovery and I remember how much I struggled especially with the loss of independence and my “active” identity. I wish this could pass for you quicker – in the meantime, I’m sending you hugs.

  9. Thank you for being so open and honest. My mom is dealing with a similar situation, and I know the lack of independence is what is killing her the most. I’m so happy you have Mr. Pug Runner and little man to help you as much as possible. I’m sending good, healing vibes your way in hopes you can get back to normal soon.

    • runswithpugs says:

      Losing independence can absolutely crush a person. Especially when you’re a person sho struggles being able to ask for help. I’m lucky that we do have so much help available, but it’s really hard having to need it.

      Sending positive thoughts to your mom.

  10. Oh mama, I’m so sorry. 🙁 I’ve been injured before but not like this. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I want to give you some positive words of wisdom and encouragement but it seems like you just need to vent and let it all out. So I’m here for you to do that. Hugs to you. Hang in there.

    • runswithpugs says:

      I always take encouragement and words of wisdom as coming from a good place and appreciate them. It does feel good too vent. I hate to complain too much to Mr PugRunner or my friends because I don’t want them to get sick of me and I am in a fortunate place in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes I just want to whine and cry and throw things. I never do, but the urge is strong LOL.

  11. I can relate to all of this from last year when I was injured. The worst for me was asking others to take my kids places like their sports as my husband was working and I couldn’t drive for a few weeks. So frustrating. I want to say hang in their but being injured, that’s the last thing you want to hear. So, take care of yourself.

    • runswithpugs says:

      We are incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful village who has helped with rides, and that Mr PugRunner owns his own business and can work from pretty much anywhere, even from the car while kiddo is taking a lesson, if need be.

      I appreciate any and all encouragement. <3

  12. Coco says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you put this out there. Being in constant pain is rough (and I bet you are in pain, just able to ignore it once in a while.) I like Diane’s reminder that you won’t feel like this forever, but I know that’s not comforting right now. Keep in mind that your family and friends probably enjoy helping you out for a change. 😉

    • runswithpugs says:

      I don’t even know what to call it. Is that weird? I have a high pain threshold, so I don’t always qualify certain things as pain, but it’s not not pain either. I live in such fear that people are tired of me and my needs (not that I’m needy, per se), and I just hate to put anyone out, even Mr PugRunner.

  13. What you are going through is so tough. The pain, the fact that you have to rely on others and the loss of identity as a runner. I am so sorry that you are having to go through this. Sending big hugs and healing vibes!
    Sandra Laflamme recently posted…Best Tips for Washing your Running Gear.My Profile

  14. I know this has been so difficult, but you are doing great and making a lot of progress!! I am glad you have been able to share your story here.

  15. Shathiso says:

    I love how poignantly you have voiced this and how hard it must have been to put it all down. I’ve commented on your posts several times pre-injury and I think most of my comments have admired how busy you are and how much you get done during the week. I drew such strength from that. But even in this post that shows your vulnerability, I see your strength. And once all this is done and you are fully healed, you’ll find that you are even stronger than you ever thought you were. But I hear every word you’ve said, especially the part about being fiercely independent and how being without that now is so difficult. Wishing you all the best as you get through this. Sending lots of love from Botswana xx

    • runswithpugs says:

      Thank you for the support. I confess that I don’t feel very strong at all right now, and I appreciate the vote of confidence.

      I am really focused on that “fully healed” time and it’s just taking forever to get there. <3

  16. Oh man, I wish I could jump on a plane right now to hug you. I am so sorry for what happened and what you are going through. Sending you lots of hugs!!
    Zenaida Arroyo recently posted…Weekly Run Down: Almost 100% recovered and still no runningMy Profile

  17. Pingback: strategies for coping with injury | Runs With PugsRuns With Pugs

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