Walking Wounded
walking crutches
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Walking Wounded

Summary:

I’m going back to therapy. I’m not even a little embarrassed about that, because seeking help with my mental health is as normal and automatic as going to PT for my ankle, or going to get my teeth cleaned, or going to a yoga class.

Image taken by author, June 8, 2023, while waiting for surgeon’s assessment.

On February 28, 2023, I slipped on the ice and fell while walking my three dogs. I broke my right tibia and fibula, as well as dislocating my ankle. The dogs were fine.

Laying on the ground, I looked down at my foot and noticed it was pointing the wrong direction. My stomach lurched and I started screaming for help. Two of my neighbors heard me and came running.

Daisy, my 5-yr-old collie, was delighted to meet new people. Princess, my 9-yr-old collie, was very concerned about me and not happy about strangers touching me. Tiki, my 17-yr-old Corgi X Chihuahua, was judgy. This was not the walk she had been promised, and she was most unimpressed by the drama of it all.

I was only a few doors away from my house, so after calling the ambulance, my neighbor took the dogs and Tiki’s doggy stroller back home. My other neighbor found a sleeping bag and tucked me up because I was getting cold laying on the ice and snow. They waited with me until my husband and daughter arrived. Then they waited some more until the ambulance arrived, helping to lift me onto the gurney. They were my angels of mercy, and as soon as I am able, I am inviting them over for dinner.

I had surgery the next day, March 1, to repair the complex fractures with metal plates and screws. Today, June 8, I am finally able to walk without wearing my air cast.

I’ve learned a few things about being injured:

  • People manage their expectations of you when they see you in a wheelchair, wearing a cast, or shuffling slowly along with the aid of a walker. They are quick to hold doors open, offer you their chair, and even get another chair to prop your leg on.
  • Church ladies bring casseroles and offer to clean the house.
  • Friends and family lend a hand with dog-walking.
  • There is usually someone available to act as my personal chauffeur.
  • Recovering from an injury that requires surgery takes a long time.
  • Immobility makes me cranky.

I made good use of all my down time – I finished my book. The Ninth Child will be released in July, and my leg will be healed enough for me to dance at my launch party! You can order your copy here.

I did a lot of thinking during those weeks. I thought about injuries that are visible because of bandages and casts and scars. I also thought about injuries that are invisible because of emotional trauma. I have a few of those injuries, too.

I look fine on the outside. I keep doing the work. I’ve been to therapy. I did six months of neurofeedback brain training to treat my depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicide ideation, and it worked. I lead a mental health ministry at my church now.

I’m fine. Except…

The combination of writing my mental health memoir while being stuck in bed with a bum leg was the perfect storm that allowed my fresh visible wound to somehow awaken some old invisible wounds. Trauma responses that I thought I had conquered popped up again out of nowhere. That was unexpected.

“But isn’t writing your story therapeutic?”, I was recently asked.

Yes, it is. Know what else is therapeutic? Physical therapy.

The exercises designed to help me regain strength and range of motion are very therapeutic, and they hurt like hell. But I do it, with the help of my physical therapist, because it helps my ankle heal.

While digging around in old trauma is painful at times, it also facilitates healing when done responsibly with the help of a trained professional. So I’m going back to therapy. I’m not even a little embarrassed about that, because seeking help with my mental health is as normal as going to PT for my ankle, or going to get my teeth cleaned, or going to a yoga class.

Next time you see someone walking wounded, you will probably hold a door, offer them a chair, and maybe even ask if you can bring them a casserole.

Next time you notice someone with sadness in their eyes, or their head hanging low, or withdrawing from friends, family or activities, it might be a sign of an invisible injury. They are walking wounded too.

Maybe ask if they are ok. Be a safe person for them to talk to over a cup of coffee. If you are a person of faith, maybe you feel comfortable offering to pray with them. If they need mental health resources, encourage them to take those next steps toward counselling, or make an appointment with their doctor, or whatever else they might need.

And, if that someone with sadness in their eyes is you, it’s OK to ask for help, because we are all walking wounded, to some degree.

team player near goal net
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