Dealing with injuries and physical pain has been one of my biggest struggles last year. I went through a quite long recovery after a bad motorbike accident. Some of its consequences are still bothering me today. During the long recovery process, I learned a lot about myself, about pain, about gratefullness, about pain, about boredom, about pain and about patience (did I mention pain?) 🙂
I’m quite sure that this scenario
can also fit to other people,
so I hope that sharing my experience
can be useful.
So here are my 8 hacks for dealing with injuries and get back on your feet as soon as possible. Plus: some tips are injury related, but others are applicable to sickness in general.
WHILE BEING COMPLETELY SMASHED
On overcoming intense pain
1. Constant contact with a caring human
When the adrenaline rush was over and paramedics were trying to scoop me from the ground I felt the most excruciating pain I ever felt. (Now I’m like “giving birth!? Not even scared!”). What I found helpful straight away was constant contact with a caring human. Before my family arrived, I was clutching to a stranger’s hand (a very nice drunkard that happened to stroll by) and it helped a lot. After a shock, don’t be afraid to ask for a hand of compassion. It really makes a difference.
2. Controlled breathing
Another thing that helped me was breathing. Like yoga breathing or fitness breathing. Big breaths-in inflating you stomach, big breaths-out deflating your stomach. Focusing on breathing will help coping with pain, but especially coping with the panic rush that goes with it.
These two hacks are not magic, I would lie if I tell you that I didn’t scream, but when painkillers are not an option, those are the only things that lightly help.
I’ve been on a strong painkiller cocktail for a week and then on Oxy (a morphine derivate) for more than a month. This is slippery. But if you’re recovering and you’re supposed to get better every day, the key is to identify your pain threshold and work from there. I could bear a full day pills-free, but around 6/7 pm I stared to freak out. So I had my morphine and tried to resist for the night and the day to come (taking some paracetamol can help to fill the gaps). My tip here is:
3. Identify your pain threshold and work from it
Day after day, the 7pm pill became the 8pm, and then the 9pm and finally the middle-of-the-night-pill if I really couldn’t cope. Of course it’s less straight forward than it sounds, but staying focused on decreasing helps. Every story is different and implies some back and forward, just be sure that you follow your doctor’s suggestions and eventually ask the help of a responsible other.
AFTER SECOND SURGERY IN 2015
AFTER THIRD SURGERY IN 2017
On re-learning how to walk
This is the toughest phase, but also the most rewarding. When you’ve given two working legs for granted for 27 years, learning to live with just one is no joke. Simple things like getting out of the bed, going to the toilet, having a shower (sort of) become giant challenges. My tips here are:
4. Take your time, find your strategies and if you can, do it alone
I could tell from my father terrified face that all he wanted to do was to lift me up from the bed to the wheelchair, then from wheelchair to wherever and then back to bed. This might sound cute but it’s actually the worst way to recover from an injury. If the people that are caring for you are scared, just ask them to supervise you. But take all the time and caution you need and do it yourself. At the beginning it took me at least 5 minutes just to get out bed. All my focus was on dragging my injured leg over the bedside, one centimetre at a time. Not lifting it with my hands, not pushing it with the other leg, just dragging it on its own. The Kill Bill way, if you know what I mean. In this case the toughest way is the fastest to recovery.
On rethinking time
Having to stay in bed, or in the proximate vicinity of it, for almost two months straight is one of the worse nightmare for a sportive person. It was personally driving me madder than the pain and the struggle of not walking. My tips here are:
5. Find a solid routine
Having a routine is functional to adapt to a new, slow, life. Repetitiveness helps. Don’t avoid or quicken your chores, you have all the time of your life, just embrace them and your new pace. First thing in the morning, I would do my physio exercises for almost an hour. It was very painful at first, but that’s the only real way out disability and to actually appreciate tini tiny improvements! And if you’re a sport addict like me, it will almost feel like working out. Washing yourself without taking a shower it’s another great challenge that requires plenty of micro-movements and a lot of time! Doing it slowly will A- prevent that you fall like a sack of potatoes and re-injure yourself and B- ensure that you are as clean as possible (top tip: use a sponge) 😉
6. Keep yourself occupied with music, books, movies and even a bit of work
Reading books and watching movies or series can become boring after a while, but using this time to enrich your culture is actually a great opportunity. Being a freelance I also kept working. Not too much though, just enough not to get bored.
7. Invite plenty of friends and family over
A big injury can be an excuse to reconnect with loved ones that we don’t meet so often because of our busy schedule.
8. Do some yoga and/or meditate
When nothing else works and you feel like suffocating, yoga and meditation can help. On YouTube you’ll find plenty of videos of guided meditation or wheelchair yoga. As hippy as it can sound: it helps to calm you down.