Overcoming not the physical, but the mental barriers of an injury

By: Morgan Schultz, Athletic Therapist

 

I woke up excited on the morning of my competition. I was preparing to run the Spartan Race with 3 of my old-time friends, and my family was on their way up to Red Deer to cheer us on. The sun was shining and all together it was looking like it was going to be a beautiful day. But that soon changed. And by soon, I mean within the blink of an eye.

About a kilometre into the race, on the third obstacle, I encountered some water. I stood on the bank looking into the water, analyzing where to take off and where to land on the other side. It was that very moment, that exact decision that ultimately led to the challenges in the months to follow. I jumped, landed wrong, heard a snap and then I was off to the emergency room.

Fast forward one surgery, three months on a knee scooter,  a second surgery and my rehabilitation process, I am now able to reflect on how my injury was never truly physically difficult, but instead mentally difficult.

In today’s blog, I am going to dive into the 3 P’s of mental barriers that I experienced and how I overcame them.

Pride.

I quickly became needy; that’s what it felt like, anyways. As though I had to rely on the people in my life to help me, even with the simplest tasks. Who honestly can’t carry their own coffee cup? Those were the sort of questions which repeatedly went through my mind. I felt helpless and it took me a long time before I realized that it was okay to need the help. It took me until I related my feelings to a patient of mine that I finally accepted this dependency. That patient also went through an injury, one much more serious than mine, that took his freedom away. So, whether needing help carrying your groceries because of a broken foot or needing help to learn how to walk again at the age of 65, I want to just remind everyone that it is okay. It’s okay to allow our pride to take a back seat and accept the help given to us.

Perseverance.

This is where I talk about the rehabilitation part of my injury. I always tell my athletes who I work with that an injury is an opportunity to come back even stronger than before. It was finally a time in my life for me to actually practice what I preached. If it wasn’t for me wanting to maintain my rapport with my clients and athletes, I wouldn’t have pushed myself to get back to an active lifestyle as quickly as I did. I believe that everyone has at least one person in their life who embodies a quality that inspires others. It was that exact reason that motivated me to have a strong recovery. I wanted to relay this message of action to my patients that they are the decision makers and have autonomy over their injury recovery.

Patience.

I learned the meaning of “patience is a virtue” immediately after my injury. I quickly required a capacity to have to tolerate the delay or troubling nature of tasks without getting angry and upset. In saying that, there were definitely days I got mad. For example… walking. I was not allowed to put weight on my foot for three months. I got mad every single time I needed to get from point A to point B. In order to get through this frustration, I simply had to trust the process. Trust my surgeon and his orders. Trust that everything happens for a reason and trust that perhaps, in a way, this was just meant to slow me down.

It’s important to remember that regardless of what kind of hardship you are going through, my case being a physical injury, you are allowed to feel any emotion that comes along with it. This is because trauma is not unique, but instead unique as to how the individual perceives it.