Last week, I had some very good news.
I was discharged from the department of Trauma and Orthopedics of my local hospital following a nasty fall that caused the fracture of my right tibia bone back in September.
It’s great news actually.
After months, my bone has finally healed – it’s ‘knitted back together’, as they say.
But I didn’t leave the appointment feeling over the moon. I should have, but I didn’t.
The problem is that I don’t feel fully ‘healed’. It’s been 5 months from my fall (today) nearly 5 months from the surgery where a metal rod (technical, fancy term being ‘tibial intramedullary nail‘) and 4 screws were inserted in my leg.
I’m still in pain and therefore I have a limp, which I’m not happy about. It’s also starting to affect other parts of my body (my hips and my lower back, for example). I don’t fully get why it’s my foot that hurts and that prevents me from walking properly. There was never anything wrong with my foot. But I guess 3 and a half months of not walking have made it weaker.
Thankfully, after months of begging and being told I didn’t need physio, I have obtained a referral. Because I do need physio. Otherwise, I would have been able to fix the limp by myself with all the walking I do.
But I also have feelings and emotions…
And as a result of my fall, I now experience mild anxiety that I didn’t before.
I call it injury-induced anxiety.
You might have seen from my previous posts that I’ve been trying to introduce more mindfulness practice in my life, and amongst other resources, I’m using the Welzen mindfunless app to do so.
Through their coaching sessions on anxiety, I’m really able to ‘observe’ what’s going on with me and why.
I can tell you that I feel really uncomfortable in a crowd, especially when people are walking too close to me. I don’t feel very confident on my feet (my right foot especially), and I’m scared people might accidentally trip me over.
Oh, the stairs…
But the main issue is that I feel really tense and fearful on stairs.
I fell on the stairs, at home. My innocent-looking, soft and carpeted stairs. I look at the steps I have to climb up and down (over a bridge) to take my children to school and back, and they’re genuinely horrible. Dirty, muddy, wet, slippery and super-busy.
And there I experience this scary feeling of feeling scared.
I can feel it. Physically, I can feel it. I can feel the tension and the stress building up inside me. And my patience evaporating as a result.
Apparently our brain is programmed to prepare for the worst – it holds on to negative memories and thoughts a lot more easily than it does to positive ones. It’s because it’s wired towards survival and self-preservation.
As I climb those stairs 4 times a day, my brain recalls the moment of fear I experienced 5 months ago. When I fell, heard my bone crack and break, and had that sinking feeling in my heart. “***Insert swearword of your choice*** – I’ve just broken my leg!”
Every time I climb those stairs I’m allowing my brain to perceive a daily occurrence as a threatening event. It shouldn’t be.
Because of something (vaguely similar) that happened in the past and hopefully will never happen in the future, my body goes into fight or flight mode. It tenses up. And in this case, it’s ready to fight.
I can tackle this though.
My husband is a very rational, logical man. And he goes about life practicing a lot more mindfulness than he likes to think. Truth be told, he’s brilliant at it. When I’m feeling worried or fearful, it’s hard to hear him say that there is no point in worrying for something that hasn’t happened. I should accept it and move on.
It’s hard to hear sometimes. It just doesn’t feel like the easiest thing to do.
But he’s right.
This is exactly how mindfulness can help with anxieties. By helping me to observe my emotions, detach from them and live in the moment, I can keep the anxiety at bay. I can explore the underlying fear that’s causing the anxiety and learn to face it and accept it, so that my body can actually start to pay less attention to it.
So that my body doesn’t need to go into fight or flight mode. It can just focus on the task at hand instead, and pay a more positive, relaxed, calm attention to climbing those steps up and down safely. Maybe, just maybe, even focusing on how not to limp!
And to a certain extent, I’m already doing some good work in this space – I put some conscious effort into not letting the anxiety take over.
I count the steps.
Out loud for my little boy’s benefit, or in my head if it’s really busy.
That keeps me grounded to the present. A present where nothing terrible has happened to me.
It keeps the scary feeling of feeling scared away. Because at each step that I successfully take, nothing threatening or dangerous has actually happened to me.
At the end of the day, how many times have I climbed stairs successfully, at home or elsewhere? Why let that ONE event determine how I feel going forward?
I will beat this!
I just have to continue to do this.
‘Discharged’ doesn’t mean healed. My bone might be healed, and I’m extremely thankful and grateful for it. Really, extremely grateful, in a way that words cannot describe.
But I’ve got some more work to do to get myself where I want to be.
So with time on my side, a little more mindful practice and mindful walking, a bit of physio and counting steps, I will also fix the rest.
And hopefully, this scary feeling of feeling scared, in time, will go away.