The instant my ankle fractured in a million pieces from a bike accident, I knew many of my favorite activities would be stripped out of my life.
I braced myself for the worst, and yet while driving to the ER, hoped I was wrong, maybe this was a severe sprain and with a wrap and some ice, I would be back on my feet by the weekend?
After x-rays, the doctor brought me the devastating news. I would need surgery the next morning. Plus a lot of hardware- plates and screws- to clean up the mess and repair the damage and give my bone the best chance to heal.
He reassured me the day would come when I would be able to run, walk, and bike again. But the recovery process would take patience and months of physical therapy.
My stubborn spirit came in handy and I knew I would find a way to make it through this unwelcomed turn of events.
Immobility for four months, until at least early Spring, felt like I was staring down a very long tunnel with no light at the end.
With my passion for running, biking, and being outside and engaged in my community as much as possible I knew I would need to devise a plan to face my new reality with some smidgen of hope and optimism.
Within a week, I noticed I had both intentionally and out of pure survival, started cultivating regular practices and rhythms throughout my day to make these dramatic changes more bearable.
One of the most beneficial ways to make it through the unknown or seemingly impassable seasons of life is to enlist a set of new tools- your own little secrets to keep you sane and help you feel grounded when life is trying to break you in a million pieces.
Here are some of mine I’ve employed over the last 2 months:
The Silly Secrets to My Sanity:
1. Hot bath every morning
At first, I missed my convenient showers, but with a cast and no mobility, I was basically forced into taking baths (in my kids’ tub!). Now, 2 months in, I think it’s safe to say I look forward to starting my days with a relaxing, meditative bath while my curious 4-year-old stares at me of course.
2. Apply makeup
Every day, without fail, I take five minutes for my simple makeup routine even though I’m not leaving the house.
With a dab of blush, a swipe of mascara and eye shadow, and some lipstick I am reminded to hold my head high, step into my power even though I can’t walk, and meet myself with compassion every day.
3. Fresh-out-of-the-dryer pajamas every night
Before you laugh at me, you must try it for yourself. Wrapping up in warm, soft pajamas before bed is one of life’s little luxuries. Once I caught onto this routine, I never stopped.
4. British Baking Show episodes
Every night I look forward to this hour together with my husband and kiddos. I cannot wait to snuggle under my blanket on the couch, my body collapsing into a heap next to my husband. It’s my reward for navigating another weird and exhausting day. There is something so therapeutic about watching people bake the most elaborate creations all while embracing mistakes and challenging themselves.
5. Raised toilet seat with handles
A lifesaver, literally. When you’re hopping around with one good leg, the toilet becomes a death trap, especially in the night. I channeled my inner granny and felt no shame in placing this concoction over our toilet.
If you know me, you know I’m not afraid to sweat. It’s how I work out toxins of every sort- mental and physical. Sweating connects me with my body, ignites my creativity, and boosts my mood instantly. I’ve made sure to creatively incorporate exercise all throughout my days at home.
7. Pillows and blankets
What can I say, I’m a needy child at heart. Pillows and blankets nestled around my body make me feel safe, cozy, and held, which is what I need to feel in this season. And a hot cup of ginger tumeric tea.
The Serious Secrets to My Sanity:
1. Cleansing cries
I’ll be completely honest with you. I cried every night for about a month. Then every other night or so for another month. Like clockwork, the tears would cascade down my cheeks, sometimes heavy sobs. Then after a few minutes, I wiped my eyes and the snot, and whispered to myself- things won’t always be this way.
2. Celebrate the small improvements
I make it a point to notice (and tell someone) my progress, no matter how insignificant it feels. This act keeps me from dwelling in the past and thinking about how things might have been had I never fell or bought the damn bike in the first place.
3. Background music
I wrote about the mysterious effects of music on my mood and included some of my go-to playlists here.
4. Ask for help
It took a while, but I finally stopped apologizing to my kids and husband when I asked them to help me do literally EVERYTHING.
Get me my face soap upstairs.
Put this in the fridge.
Bring me the pan, the chair, the towel, my underwear.
Put my clothes in the washing machine.
It brought us closer together as a family and we are coming through this time with a newfound appreciation for one another.
5. Immerse myself in thought-provoking books, poetry, and podcasts.
I made my own curriculum and consider this time a big retreat of sorts where I can study and learn whatever piques my interest. (I share many of my favorites in my Substack every week.)
6. Write every day
There is never a day I don’t write at least a few lines- sometimes for my blog, sometimes for my own eyes. This is how I process pain and confusion, encourage others, and make sense out of this nuanced adventure called life. It’s even been proven, people who write heal faster.
7. There’s no lesson
The accident happened and it wasn’t my fault or the Universe trying to teach me some important lesson. Resisting these unhelpful beliefs keeps me from trying to extract meaning from this time and instead focus on being present to my healing, and give myself permission to just be.
I wonder if you can take any of these survival strategies for yourself? Which one can you most relate to right now?
I hope you know you are not alone. Life is hard and we’re all doing the best we can.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need a companion or some encouragement along the way!