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Observations on the Healing Process

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
What a long strange trip it's been!

Like any other trip, the travels along the road to the recovery can be a learning process. While encounters with other travellers on the same route may inspire and enlighten, it's sometimes interesting to step outside yourself, and observe both your physical and psychological changes as the healing process evolves.

The first thing that comes to mind, is a sense of empathy with the lack of physicality that, unfortunately much of our population experiences. Just as physical activity creates its own momentum, so does the sedentary life. In the early post -op stages, the couch becomes a cocoon of comfort.The idea of any sort of movement is frightening when faced with a new feeling of fragility.

Then there's the pain. Having started in the fitness industry in my teens, I am unaccustomned to the pain and discomfort that much of the population feels on a daily basis. While not excrutiating, there is an ongoing slight pain that is so constant that it almost seems normal. Since opening up my studio in Frisco, I rarely work with students whp are completely out of shape. However, in NYC and Boston, this was sometimes the norm.

My empathy increased on my first visit to the Physical Terrorist. Good Heavens! Now I have to do more physical activity, and it's going to hurt even more? NO!!!!! Psychologically, it's a viscious emotional cycle. Not only are you afraid of the pain, but the idea of engaging in any sort of exercise, something that you used to love to the point of addiction, has now become distasteful. Now I understand how my couch potato students used to feel!

It's interesting to watch how the physical therapy process evolves. In the early stages, one is like a young infant. People who come in are usually pretty quiet. They rely on the therapist for every move they make, and have a fear of stepping outside of any boundaries.

As the healing evolves, you become more like an older infant. You begin to experiment with your limits. The therapist tells you to balance on the trampoline for 30 seconds. You toss a ball as you do this. She puts you on the treadmill, you raise the incline. You start to come earlier so that you can spend more time on the bike. You become talkative.

I have been fortunate, in all my years in the industry, to have had very few injuries. Many years ago, I factured my tibial plateau in a car accident. I've had a few sprained ankles, and, last fall, a minor MCL strain. As I worked on rehabing those injuries, everything felt "right."

ACLs are different. Others have concurred with me on this. While academically, the therapy makes sense, intuitively, at least at the begining, things feel really wrong. Gym rats need to forgo their perceptions of acceptable pain. Sometimes, you are going to feel pain in your joint, not your muscle. In the gym that may be a signal to stop. Not so in PT.

If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone who goes through this, it would be to tell you to avoid defining yourself by your injury. People with MS and other dieases already know this. The newly injured have to work harder to avoid it. How you choose to transcend this destructive thinking is your own choice. My way, as usual, has been highly unconventional. I am preparing to audition for a role that I am pretty sure I will not get, since it requires greater acting skills than I currently have. That's not the point. It matters not if I am cast. The preparation is a form of therapy. For the audition, I have to prepare two monolgues. In the hours that I work on these pieces, I am no longer someone with an ACL tear, I am the French Lieutenant's Woman, or whoever else I choose to portray.

Miraculously, within these hours, I am in no pain, and I begin to walk like a normal person.

If I have received on ingredient for lemonade from this lemon that life has handed me, it is the apriori understanding of an injury that till now, I have studied and written about, but never experienced.

Hopefully, this stream of consciousness post is not too boring.

post #2 of 9
You sound depressed L.M. Listen honey, it's one of those time heals all wounds thing. I've gone through it. Never ever having a serious injury till a ski fall five years ago, tearing all the major muscles and ligaments off my right shoulder. Missing five months of work without any back up income and no compensation. But hey, that's the chance we take when we strap on those skis. I've survived another ski season without injury. Only fell three times all year. Lucky me.

I know what you've gone through and your thoughts now must be similar to mine when I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel was still long. Cheer up. Like my t-shirt says, got my doggie on it, "Life is good"
post #3 of 9
As for "the french leiutenant's woman" I hated that movie.But good luck anyhow, "Break a leg"
post #4 of 9
Thanks LM.

Wish I could say I'm walking normally. My friends tell me I am getting better but sometimes it sure doesn't feel like it.

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Lars! OT, the book was better than the movie, and anyway, I'm not auditioning for that, just using the monlogue as an audition piece. But please don't say "break a leg." I know it's a theatrical tradition, but people said that to me on my first performance. Somehow, it turned into a jinx!:

D-chan, I understand the weird walk all too well. You may want to think about taking feldenkrais or some other movement technique. My guess is that you are now capable of walking normally, but your muscles have meorized the injured walk. It may just be a question of muscle re-education.
post #6 of 9
I have done some movement training. It still doesn't feel right. I'm sure it's muscle memory. Like I said, even my therapist friends tell me my limp is almost gone but it just doesn't feel like it yet.

post #7 of 9
I recently had a collision with a snowboarder. Hurt my knee, shoulder and ribs (cartilage and cracked ribs) The knee and shoulder are healing rapidly, but the ribs are another story. The pain is pretty intense (especially if you cough or sneeze) and dealing with it wears you down. I had a decent day yesterday and I can't believe how much better I felt mentally and energy wise. I had skied and played lots of sports for years so injury and pain are nothing new. I like to ski aggressively, but am getting tired of the down time from injuries. The last three seasons have ended with knee injury, torn up shoulder and now the ribs.
post #8 of 9
Injury is a depressing thing. Less so when you are aware of the link between injury and depression. Don't let it get you down. Exercise the parts of your body that you can. I developed a devastating right hook when my foot was in a cast.
post #9 of 9
Originally Posted by Lisamarie
What a long strange trip it's been!

... the couch becomes a cocoon of comfort.The idea of any sort of movement is frightening when faced with a new feeling of fragility.

That is so weird, you just hit that on the head.

I am so used to NOT sitting down, NOT watching tv, NOT taking naps, in general, not sitting around in bed or on the couch. Now, I'm literally afraid of leaving them. I suppose my comfort zones will expand as the pain and weakness goes away. In retrospect, even the bathroom was a scary place to go just 5 days ago, now, no problem.

Its like dchan is talking about muscle memory. Your brain will accept it into its new perspective only after the body has mastered it anew.

I'm trying to remember something that was this hard to learn (relearn as in walking). Everything that comes to mind seems easy, riding a bike, how to do a squat and a deadlift with good form, cueing a 32 count phrase , feeling comfortable carving a pair of skis. (well, still working on that last one, hahaha) This injury-based fear is more akin to being a baby: learning to stand up, take a little step, say more than, "ow, ow, ow".

It IS helpful to be able to let out feelings of inadequecies either here, or with other supportive people. There are a lot of different therapies out there that I'm finding useful. Finding something that you can feel independent at such as memorizing a monologue, discovering that you CAN carry several magazines and your water bottle to the other room just by using a backpack(!), believing that it is now your new important job to turn off the lights when all the slackers in your house forget to do it themselves, these are the things that are helpful to me. Physical therapy is easy to get down on, and it really did make me cry yesterday, that was all real, but I'm goin' back tomorrow, and I'll cry again, but I know it gets better with time, and that they do have the patient's full recovery as their objective. Sympathy, no, and I don't want that, but empathy, they've got that in their hearts.

The finest self-therapy I've found so far is plugging in my headphones to my fine little IPod Shuffle and listening to all my tunes with a new ear. This has lifted my mood immensely! Thank god...:

Ok, I've gone on enough. Am I getting any good at that stream of consciousness thing yet?

Until the next thought hits me like a ton of bricks and illuminates my world,

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