Dealing with injuries: 8 hacks for surviving long recovery without going mad

Dealing with injuries: 8 hacks for surviving long recovery without going mad

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.

dealing with injuries
DOING GREAT-ISH
dealing with injuries
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.

On drugs

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.

dealing with injuries
AFTER SECOND SURGERY IN 2015
dealing with injuries
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.

13 things I learned from breaking a leg (and a wrist)

13 things I learned from breaking a leg (and a wrist)

injury life lessons
C’MON IT’S NOT SO BAD!
injury life lessons
WELL, IT ACTUALLY IS.

 

In November 2015 I had a bad road accident. Nothing really special, a random guy didn’t give me way, which resulted in a crash. The problem was that he was driving a car while I was on a Vespa. They say that when you risk your life you see it flashing before your eyes. That was not my case. When I realized what was going on, I clearly remember thinking “Fuck, this is gonna hurt real bad.” And it did. The impact was so violent that his car stopped working, my beloved Vespa was destroyed (R.I.P.) and I laid on the tarmac with a broken femur and a broken wrist. Which by the way it’s not too bad if you consider that I didn’t hit my head nor my back and I didn’t have any internal damage.

They say that when you risk your life
you see it flashing before your eyes.
That was not my case.
When I realized what was going on
I clearly remember thinking
“Fuck, this is gonna hurt real bad.”
And it did.

Nonetheless, I’m a hyperactive, multitasking freelance and a sportive girl, so when I discovered that it would took me AT LEAST six months to get back to normal, my world collapsed. I stayed one week in hospital, where I got a plaster cast for my wrist and underwent a couple of surgeries for my leg. Fun fact: when a broken leg has been immobilized for more that 7 days, it doesn’t move anymore. Your joints become stiff and you lose muscular mass by the minute. What followed was a month and a half of laying in my parent’s living room (I used to live alone at the time so it was impossible for me to go back to my place), 3 months of physiotherapy and crutches, a decent amount of painkillers and a strong motivation to get back on my feet asap. Here are some of the injury life lessons that I learned (the hard way) during my journey.

injury life lessons
FINDING CREATIVE WAYS TO FILL MY DAYS
injury life lessons
WHILE TRYING TO BE FUNNY

1. Life is unpredictable

You can think you’ve figured it out. You can think you have a clear priority list on your mind. Guess what: it is never true. Everything can change in a second. The time that it takes to check your phone while driving, not seeing a scooter coming your way for example.

2. Believing in yourself is key

Your body is stronger than you might think. And your mind is even stronger. What seems unbearable and impossible to overcome today will become possible by tomorrow. Just take baby steps and set yourself mini-goals. If you think “I have to get back to walking!” you will be disappointed day after day, but if you start with “I bet I can bend my knee a little bit more today” you’ll be surprised by daily improvement.

3. Plaster casts suck

Wearing a plaster cast will make your arm stink as hell and will turn all your arm hair into black giant monsters (true story).

4. Being fit is the best starting point for recovery

Your body really is a temple, and taking good care of it pays back a lot in this kind of situations. Three days of absolute stillness are enough to lose 70% of your leg muscles. Being a fit girl made my recovery easier and faster that it would have been for an overweight, or just not fit, person.

5. Mastering the art of crutching around

There’s actually a technique to use crutches. When you become a pro you can climb and go down the stairs no worries, threaten enemies with them, earn the best seat on public transport and generally bragging around like a you’re a war hero most of the time.

6. Boredom kills more than pain

Having a couple of weeks off work can be relaxing even if you’re sick. But staying at home for almost two months straight it’s not fun. Nonetheless, using this massive amount of “free time” to enrich your musical, literary and movie culture is a wonderful opportunity.

injury life lessons
ROCKIN AROUND WITH MA NU WALKER
injury life lessons
MOOD AFTER GETTING RID OF THE PLASTER CAST

7. Being a good patient and eating your food pays

Hospital food can be hard to swallow, but if you don’t eat it your organs will start to fuck up as well, so eat your damn food and don’t complain.

8. Loved ones are everything

My parents took me back home and took care of me for more than a month, even if I was super cranky most of the time. Friends will visit almost every day. Long distance friends will reach out through nice messages. Suffering from a severe injury is actually an alternative way to remember how many people care about you.

9. Drugs are wonderful but no, you’re not going to trip

Ketamine is really used in hospitals, except it will knock you down on a complete other lever compared to your average Special K. Contramal makes you sick. Oxy is the sweetest thing in the world but oh-boy it’s addictive.

10. Saying “I love you” to people means a lot

Going through a bad accident makes you reflect on how vulnerable we are. Life is short. It can even be shorter than you think. Don’t waste your time, tell your family and friends that you love them, make sure they know it.

11. Do your heparin by yourself

Heparin injections burn like crazy, but if you learn how to do them yourself, it will hurt less. Fun fact: there’s a “good side” and a “bad side” of the belly. Choose wisely where to point.

12. Always focus on the bright side of things

Even when I felt miserable and some of the people around me will go “OMG, such an unlucky accident!” I’ve always, alway replied that I considered myself super lucky. It could have been oh-so-worse. I’m glad it wasn’t and I’m glad to have had the chance to take in all the lessons that I’ve learned on this journey. And no, some of those lessons cannot be learned the easy way.

13. Being grateful

The biggest lesson I learned, the one that includes all of the above is to be grateful. Grateful for being alive. Grateful for not having permanent damages. Grateful for living in a country where hospital care is good and free of charge. Grateful for smiling doctors and caring nurses. Grateful for all the loved ones that were there when I needed them for real. Grateful for waking up from my bed on two steady feet every. single. morning. Grateful for being able to run, swim, surf, hike and do whatever I want to do with my body.

On splitting up, fear, and solo travelling as a woman

On splitting up, fear, and solo travelling as a woman

woman solo traveller

I often make this metaphor: for me splitting with my long-time partner has been like losing a leg. Suddenly I stumbled at every step. Loosing him didn’t just meant to lose the man I loved, the engine of my adventurous life and the closest person I had, but it also meant losing his family, which I considered as close as my kin, our loving dog and the future that I thought was expecting me. I was heartbroken and terrified, but the leg was gone anyway, and I had to relearn how to walk, even if crippled.

Splitting was like losing a leg,
I had to relearn how to walk,
even if crippled

 

Truth is, you never know how much you depend on a person until they’re gone. I always considered myself an independent girl and a badass traveller. But when he was gone, I realised that he was the badass traveller and I was mostly following him. He was always the one to push me further into adventures. It was his idea to cross the Australian desert on a 4WD, or to travel three months through Asia overland. It was him that convinced me to trek in the middle of the jungle to meet local tribes in Burma, or to ride motorbikes for days across Indonesia. He was the one who teach me how to surf and encouraged me to dive. All the coolest things I ever done, I did because of him.
When I realized that, I was struck with fear. How will I keep doing things I love if he’s not there to hold my hand, play it cool and fix problems?

 

I always considered myself a bad ass traveller.
But when he was gone,
I realised I was mostly following him

 

woman solo traveller

Well, instead of not doing things because I was scared, I chose to learn from our years together and to become the brave one. I made it a point to choose adventure, to travel alone and to play it cool when shit happens (like when I was stranded by a typhoon in the Philippines on my way back home, without electricity nor internet and a blocked credit card).

 

I choose to learn from our path
and to became the brave one

 

I went for my first solo trip, and then for another. It was something that I always wanted to do but I never found the courage for. I chose a destination that I always wanted to visit but never had because he didn’t like it, and just went. I spent 10 days hiking on Norway fjords, meeting wonderful people. It was great. I then took a second solo trip, this time lifting the bar higher. I went to bustling Philippines, a place that I also always wanted to visit but that was definitely out of my comfort zone as a woman solo traveller, and it turned out to be the best holiday ever.

Fun fact: when me and my partner split ways, we took very different life paths. Now I’m the one who’s doing adventurous stuff and kept travelling, and he’s the one working day and night! Isn’t that ironic!?

 

woman solo traveller

It took me quite a while to untangle all the things that loss and failure teach me, and I’m still in the process. That’s why I feel a bit overwhelmed when people underestimate my separation, or that took theirs in a lighter way. Of course It’s impossible to generalize, but I think that it’s how you react to situations and how you choose to deal with your feelings that makes a huge difference. You can choose to avoid pain and walk away as quickly as you can. Or you can choose to start from desperation and to grow from it.

It is the journey that you make
to get back on your feet
that changes you.
Make it count.

 

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