Let’s talk about the scary feeling of feeling scared

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.

injury-induced anxiety

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.

But, physically…

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.

With mindfulness.

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!

During my recovery, when I was on crutches, and things were much worse, I found ways to stay positive‘stay sane’ and not lose sight of the bigger picture.

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.

12 Comments

  1. 5th February 2017 / 10:30 am

    Being someone who spends much of her time worrying about things that will almost certainly never happen, I can relate very much to your feelings here. You have been through something really terrible and it’s only natural that that makes you feel worried. I’m really glad you’ve found something that is helping you to get through that though. Sending much love. Thank you so much for linking this post up to #PostsFromTheHeart I’m sure it will help others going through similar difficulties.
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    • Sara
      Author
      5th February 2017 / 11:19 pm

      Thank you for your kind words Victoria 🙂 Yes, I do hope that others will find it helpful. Things like this unfortunately happen all the time, but there isn’t much support out there.

  2. 5th February 2017 / 9:06 pm

    That’s terrifying. You’d never imagine you could have such a serious injury at home.
    Mindfulness is great. I haven’t used it for anything like this, but I can totally see how it would help. #Blogstravaganza

    • Sara
      Author
      5th February 2017 / 11:16 pm

      I know – it was just a bit unlucky 🙁 Thank you for your kind words – it’s really encouraging to know that someone else agrees that mindfulness can really help! 🙂

    • Sara
      Author
      7th February 2017 / 3:02 pm

      Thank you Helen. I hurt myself badly (bad luck) in a very safe environment, so if I let my imagination run wild in less safer environments I feel terrified!

  3. 6th February 2017 / 2:46 pm

    What an awful accident to happen, I’m so glad you’re on the mend but also sorry to here there are still problems. My husband is amazing at mindfulness too – even if he doesn’t believe it! Thanks so much for linking up to #Blogstravaganza xx

    • Sara
      Author
      7th February 2017 / 3:04 pm

      He he – he rolls his eyes when I tell him about mindfulness! But he doesn’t know he’s already great at it! And he doesn’t even know it!

  4. Kayleigh
    14th August 2018 / 9:28 am

    Hi Sara,

    I’m so glad to have found your blog. Sorry to hear what happened to you.

    I broke my wrist 3 months ago on holiday in Poland, I slipped onto the stone floor when getting out of the shower. I broke my wrist badly in two places and needed an operation to fit a metal plate, which I had to have in Poland as the doctors wouldn’t let me fly home due to the severity of the break. It was a very traumatic and terrifying experience, and almost 3 months on although my wrist is healing well physically, I’ve struggling with anxiety for the last few weeks. I’m not even sure why, it’s just a general feeling of dread, knotted stomach, and feeling that I’m not quite ‘me’. I’m going to try mindfulness, and have been working through some anxiety workbooks, but reading your post has made me feel I’m not alone – so thank you.

    I hope you are now feeling a lot better, and your anxiety is under control.

    Sending love,

    Kayleigh x

    • Sara
      Author
      14th August 2018 / 4:47 pm

      Hi Kayleigh, so sorry to hear about what happened to you – it must have been so worrying that it happened in a foreign country for you. Did you have language barriers as well? I think anxiety is completely normal, but equally, we shouldn’t brush it under the carpet. People who haven’t been through the same (or a similar) experience may not understand how you feel, and you may feel the need to hide it. Have a look on Facebook and see if you can find a group of people who had a similar surgery to yours. I have, and it’s a brilliant place for us to ‘hang out’. We live all over the world and our stories are so different and yet so alike! It’s massively comforting to know that other people have or are going through similar experiences and feeling some of the same things. I hope your anxiety improves over time – if it doesn’t, don’t hesitate to speak to your GP to see if you can get to the root cause and work with that. Good luck with your healing journey and thank you for your kind words! x

  5. Manoj Pant
    15th August 2018 / 2:50 pm

    Hi Sara,
    I sprained my right foot 4 month ago.After 1 km hill running my both legs got numb and right foot got twisted.Now after 4 month I can run 50 meters, climb stairs comfortably but on flat surfaces my legs are going stiff and rigid.Whlie walking on crowded road I am walking tighty (because of fear) & my Injured foot going of lifting.This walking style resulting extra pressure on my heels and calf muscles.While teaching in classroom my legs are going tight like a tree.I am out of my job from 3 months and totally scard. I developed bad style of walking.I am Limping.My rigid joints are clicking.After internet search I am also reading about MS, perkinson ,stroke etc etc…My all neurological & vascular tests are normal but googling symptoms I can’t sleep sometimes.What can I do now? How can I walk freely on flat and crowded road? Please help me..!!!

    • Sara
      Author
      17th August 2018 / 12:08 pm

      Hi Manoj, I’m really sorry to hear about your sprain and your struggles on flat surfaces and during teaching. I am not a medical professional, so my advice would be to speak to your doctor. You may need a physiotherapist to assess your foot, so they can help you walk in the best possible way and hopefully get rid of the pain and discomfort you’re still experiencing. Good luck with it all!

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