How to Stay Positive when Life (or a cliff) Brings You Down.
After the initial shock of my injury diminished, the long road to recovery ahead became more clear. And with that clarity came the facts that 1) I would not be going to the job I love for months, 2) I would not be able to walk for a minimum of 3 months, 3) my parents were moving in with me, and 4) I had absolutely zero control; my biggest fear in life. I am a control freak. And for my life, it works out great. I like it that way. My schedule is organized, everything on my shelves has its place, and it helps me be an awesome ICU nurse. So when I completely lost control of all of those, I kind of lost it for a bit. My roommate and mom chose the clothes I would wear every day, when and what I would eat, when I would get my bed bath and the fact that I couldn’t do it myself. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom by myself until months after my injury. My mom and roommate held my leg up through the bloating, nausea, vomiting, constipation, you name it. The friends I thought were close slowly began to stop checking in, and the world around me slowly started to cave in.
In the beginning, I was told I had 3 months non-weight bearing of the leg. I lived in a wheelchair inside and outside of the house. I had a walker but it was months before I had the endurance to use it. And my arm was in a cast, so I had to lay it on the arm rest of the walker while using the other hand to move it forward. I couldn’t even get to my bathroom from my living room using the walker. I had to use the wheelchair, and it was a two person job every time. I lived on the pull out couch in the living room for 6 weeks because I didn’t have the strength or pain endurance to use the walker on the carpet in my room, or get into my bed. Going out with friends was difficult but necessary for my emotional healing. But even during the times I finally got out, I couldn’t escape my situation. I couldn’t forget I was in a wheelchair. There was even a time I was sitting there at a party, and all my friends got in a selfie two feet in front of me. They didn’t even notice I wasn’t in it.
When I wasn’t crying of pain, the boredom of the situation made my mind replay the accident over and over again. How did it happen? Why did this happen to me? Was this meant to happen and what am I supposed to learn from this? I had numerous friends ask me why I didn’t ask to be on antidepressants. “Are you ok? Shouldn’t you be on something?” And this same question continued as I had multiple setbacks down the road. And while I’ve had the numerous complications, I deal on a daily basis with the constant stares, dumb questions, and hurtful comments people don’t realize they’re making.
These are a few of my favorites:
- “Oh is it your ACL?” No, I wish.
- “Is it permanent?” Really asshole, what if it was, what’s your response then? I feel terrible for the people who are actually permanently disabled. I’ll write about my lessons learned in that regard in another post.
- “Oh, are you the baby in a stroller?” Yes someone actually said this as my dad was pushing me in the wheelchair in a grocery store. Wtf kind of question is that and who actually goes out and says it??
- “Are you working?” Reeeeeally. I am a nightshift nurse that works 12 hour shifts. You obviously have no clue what nurses do for a living.
- “Can you drive?” Take two seconds and look down at what leg has the brace.
- “You should get one of those scooters!” Ok no, the area of my injury is the area where all the pressure rests on those things. Ouch.
- “Ugh, I wish I didn’t have to work” This one sucks. I would do anything to be able to go to that shift you’re dreading.
The list goes on but I digress. The point being, I had some mental instability for some time. Here’s how I’m getting through it without antidepressants.
1. When you have an injury where you literally feel like you should have died, you realize life is way too short to take any day for granted. And I want you to realize this even without a life-changing injury! When I was falling, I told myself I was going to die. The sky I faced as I fell headfirst wasn’t blue but it was white and bright. The euphoria your body feels beforehand is calming. I was relaxed and told myself this is the way it’s supposed to go. And as I look back on that moment almost every day, I am so happy that I opened my eyes afterwards to still be here. And with that realization you can’t really be sad in life.
2. Nothing in life is permanent. I lived every day telling myself one day I will walk normal again and go back to work. I still do today even though I feel like I never will. And this applies to all crises. When you’re at your low point in life and everything around you is terrible, just remember that the situation is not permanent and you will get through it. So far, you’ve gotten through 100% of your worst days.
3. I plan for the future. Although I’ve been living a pretty boring life lately, I’ve made a list of places I want to travel to in 2017 and career goals I want to achieve. I’m nowhere near any of them but keeping that list of resolutions in the back of my mind keeps me going and dreaming when I’m stuck on the couch. Setting small attainable goals you know you can achieve that day is also a way I improved my mood and felt like I accomplished something in the midst of chaos.
4. Sometimes in life, your situation will repeat itself until you learn the lesson. This one was a tough one for me, as I kept getting complications that kept me from walking over and over again. Like how am I not getting better, am I missing the lesson here? And I was. I was in such a rush to resume life before injury that I wasn’t accepting the present, and forgetting the lessons I learned from being disabled.
5. This accident was supposed to happen to me. I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason.
6. Find time to reflect. For me, this was constantly talking about my accident. Over and over again. I don’t know why but every time I do, I feel a sense of relief. And I’m like that with any struggle in life I deal with. Holding in what you’re dealing with helps no one. I also was able to meditate through adult coloring books. I always thought these were lame until I tried one out. The super intricate coloring you do completely zones your mind onto just that. I also started this blog to work on reflection.
7. Take your struggle day by day. Learning to live in the now is such a powerful revelation once you understand it. The book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle changed my life. He explains how complaining is always non acceptance of what is. Accept the now, forget the past and future, and be happy in the now. The condition of your mind shapes your future.
8. Stay busy! I know everyone says this and sometimes it’s really difficult! But distraction works. So if you can, get out of the house even if you have nothing to do. Drive and enjoy that you can. Walk, and enjoy that you can. Because some people would kill to just be able to use their two legs.
9. Lean on your friends! My friends and family have been the biggest factor in my emotional health following this accident. If you’re upset, call them! If they’re truly your friend they will find the time to talk to you, and reach out to you. I will always remember the friends that kept in touch with me throughout this long journey. It would make my day seeing that somebody texted me to check in. Please, if you know someone going through a rough time, talk to them. I know firsthand how much this makes a difference.
As I am still in the process of healing and recovery, I have learned the importance of positive affirmations, patience, and appreciation. And whatever struggle you encounter, I believe you can get through anything if you keep a smile on your face.