Life Lessons (Re)Learned from Breaking My Wrist
A few weeks ago, I slipped on some ice and broke my wrist.
This was definitely a challenge I was not prepared for, and it took me a while to accept what had happened - and to mentally adjust to how thing were going to be for the next several weeks.
Not only did I have to learn to do everyday tasks with very limited use of my left arm, but I had also just been starting to make good progress in the gym (3 months after having double jaw surgery), and knowing I was facing a 6-8 week setback was disappointing to say the least.
(This was my wrist when I went to the ER. It was literally stuck in that position.)
At the same time, I felt like there had to be a lesson in here somewhere - some silver lining I could find to reframe how I was thinking about this whole process.
After a few weeks of processing everything, with wrist surgery behind me and starting physical therapy, I've had the chance to reflect and recognize the important life lessons that this has taught me.
(Or really, re-taught me. For the most part, these are concepts I'm very familiar with, but still need reminders from time to time!)
Progress is not linear
As much as we'd like to think that progress is a steady, upward climb to the end
result, it's...not. Usually it feels more like two steps forward, one step back, or like a
squiggly line that is headed in the right direction, but is also all over the place.
With my wrist, it might feel really good one moment, and really painful the next. I
might go from having pretty good range of motion to feeling really stuck within a
matter of hours.
No matter the end goal, progress is always a bit unpredictable, and setbacks are
going to happen. But when you're able to see those setbacks as part of the process
and keep moving forward, that's when you're really able to achieve long-term
2. The little things really do add up
Right after my wrist surgery, I was given physical therapy exercises to do.
Considering I could barely move my wrist, it seemed so pointless to do these little
movements - how could this possibly be helpful?
But those tiny actions were what ultimately helped me heal and make real
progress. The things that feel like nothing in the moment create true change over
Whether it's getting a few minutes of movement every day, drinking one extra glass
of water, or turning off the TV a little earlier at night, small steps are what create
huge progress in the long-run.
3. For those little things to add up, consistency is key
The little things are important, but even more important is consistency.
Doing my PT exercises once is not going to get me very far, but doing them even
once a day for a couple of weeks? That's where the real results happen.
This was a good reminder that it's not so much what you do *today* that matters,
but what you do consistently. What are the actions that you do every day that move
you closer to (or further from) your goals?
4. Progress takes time, but looking back it happens fast
When you're first starting out on a big project, or working towards a long-term goal,
the end result feels so far off.
Knowing that my wrist won't be fully healed and functional for a couple of months
feels like a lifetime to wait.
But I also know that a few months from now, looking back, it will feel like no time at
all. I'll hardly remember the day I went to the ER, or how my wrist felt the first few
days after surgery.
Time is going to pass one way or another, and I'd much rather look back and
realize how far I've come than look back and wish I would've started back
5. Being aware of (and prepared for) obstacles is super helpful
I was actually really glad I had just gone through my jaw surgery before this wrist
surgery, as I was already familiar with the healing and recovery process.
I knew what the inflammation and bruising and pain management would be like,
and so I didn't freak out when I could barely move my wrist during that first PT
I knew how much difference a week or two could make in terms of healing, and that
discomfort was normal and not something to be nervous about.
I was mentally prepared to handle the ups and downs of the recovery process, had
a good understanding of pain/inflammation and how much to push through, and
knew how helpful movement and recovery therapies would be.
Simply being aware of what could come up - and having a plan for moving forward -
made it so much easier to navigate the inevitable challenges.
The same holds true for any project or goal you're working towards: preparing
ahead of time for the obstacles that are likely to come your way, and developing a
plan for how to deal with them, greatly increases your ability to get through
whatever comes your way.
6. Having support is necessary
One of the greatest predictors of success in almost any situation is the amount of
support you have around you.
Whether that means having someone around to help you when you only have one
functioning arm, having a gym buddy that helps you get your workouts in, or having
a trusted coach to guide you towards your goals, some kind of social support is
a major factor in getting from where you are to where you want to be.
All of my friends, family, doctors, and various mental and physical therapists have
been invaluable to me throughout this process.
Going it alone does not make you tougher or somehow "better." Use your support
7. Thoughts are powerful
Your brain is an extremely powerful tool when it comes to healing, resilience, and
getting through hard things in general - and one I think is often underutilized.
I've talked before about how thoughts influence actions, but thoughts can
also influence how your body actually responds physiologically.
Focusing on thoughts that help you emphasize healing, tolerate pain or discomfort
(in the case of injury/surgery), and create positive action (rather than ruminating on
the past or avoiding reality) can do more than boost your mental
health - it can literally change how your body functions.
Even if it feels a bit forced or fake to think positively, or you don't totally believe
your own thoughts, it can still have an impact on your body and your overall
8. Everything is connected
This was yet another reminder that when it comes to the human body, nothing
happens in isolation.
While it may have seemed like I only injured my wrist, that fall (and the
subsequent compensation patterns that emerged from using one hand for several
weeks), affected my entire body.
And not only that, it affected my mood, energy, mental and emotional health,
sleep, stress level...you get the idea.
It can be easy to ignore or underestimate how much a physical issue can impact
*everything* in your body - or really, all aspects of your life.
It's all connected...
Whether you're dealing with an injury, other health challenges, or even just changes
to your daily routines and habits, it's important to consider all the areas that will be
The trickle down effects may not be totally obvious, but looking for and addressing
them will be enormously helpful when it comes to successful healing/change/
9. Humans are extremely resilient, and our bodies have incredible abilities to
It never ceases to amaze me how resilient our bodies are, and how much we as
humans are able to bounce back from - physically, mentally, and
I have to admit, when I first realized I had really injured my wrist, the
disappointment and regret hit me hard. I was replaying the whole scenario
over and over again in my mind, and thinking about the "what ifs" non-stop.
I couldn't believe this was happening only three month after my jaw surgery, and
just as I was beginning to feel fully recovered and back on track.
But as I adjusted to my new reality and got a plan for moving forward, I was once
again reminded of how amazing our bodies are at healing when given the
chance, and how resilient we can be when faced with adverse events (especially
I remember hearing a quote once that said something like "Humans can handle
almost anything for a short amount of time." Remembering that you and your body
have the ability to get through the hard times can help you endure, and even
emerge stronger than before.
10. It could be worse
I suppose this doesn't apply in every case, but for the most part, looking at
the bigger picture and considering how things could be worse can help bring a bit
of perspective to the situation.
When I was feeling most sorry for myself, contemplating how relatively *not* bad
my scenario was took a bit of the sting away and allowed me to stay positive.
Not only could my injury have been a lot more severe (I could've had a worse break,
I could've hit my head or injured more than my wrist, I could've been far from home
rather than right outside the door), but I also had someone to take me to the ER,
access to good health care, and the flexibility to take some time off for surgery,
recovery, PT appointments etc.
And on a grander scale, I knew six months from now I'd barely be thinking about
this - it likely isn't going to have long-term consequences for my life. It's a disruption
and a hassle, but it's not a major, life altering trauma.
While I think it's important not to minimize or dismiss negative emotions and
experiences, recognizing the not-so-bad side of things, or how it could be worse,
can be a surprisingly useful strategy for getting through challenging times.
Of course, if I could go back and stop myself from trying to take a walk that icy morning, I would! At the same time, I'm appreciating the opportunity to reflect on these life lessons that, while not new, may have been somewhat forgotten.
Even if I did have to learn (or relearn) them the hard way :)
Have you dealt with an injury or adverse life event? What lessons did you learn/relearn from that experience?
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