How to Live With a Broken Leg or Ankle Without Losing Your Mind
About My Injury
Breaking one's leg or ankle (let's just say leg from now on, for simplicity's sake) isn't generally something that is expected. It is usually a sudden, unpredicted event that leaves one at a loss in terms of mobility, freedom, and possibly even in terms of work.
For me, I broke—quite suddenly and unexpectedly—three bones in my lower leg (see my scan, above). Which three bones I am not sure, but I required ten screws, a plate, and 3-4 months of rest/rehabilitation to bring me back to my normal state.
For many, a broken bone is the result of a sports injury, and my break was no exception. I was playing soccer with my brother and landed funny on my ankle. I heard a snap, and that was that.
Now, I am not going to go on and on about my story. However, I thought it would be useful to discuss the background of my injury because it is through my experience that I can try to help others who might be going through the same ting. What follows are my tips and advice on how you can live as best as you can during this time of your life.
Tip #1: Stay Active (Physically)
I chose to list staying active as the first tip because it is, in my opinion, one of the most important things to do while you are down and out. Staying active can come in many forms, and although I will give some tips on how to stay physically active, I am not going to limit my advice to just the corporeal. However, I will begin with the physical. If you are an athlete like myself, you probably hate the fact that you must be subjected to minimal movement and keeping your leg elevated and whatnot. Let me just say this, you are not alone. I thought I was going to go mad when my surgeon told me that I had to stay off of my leg for 6 weeks. However, I learned to cope physically by employing a couple of methods.
The Grip Master:
One thing that really helped me post-surgery, and in the following weeks, is this tiny product called Grip Master (a link is posted below). The was particularly helpful for me right after surgery when I found myself in a lot of pain; it gave me something to help take my mind off of the pain by directing my energy and concentration somewhere else (I squeezed the daylights out of the thing). The Grip Master also helped in the following weeks when i was not in much pain, but still subjected to rest and minimal movement. It gave me a way to build muscle in my hands and forearms without endangering my leg. It may sound silly that such a small thing can help, but, indeed, it lifts the spirits because you feel constructive, you feel like you are actually making some progress in an area. Grip Master
Crutch walking (assuming you can use crutches) is another good way to stay physically active. Most likely you will be told by your doctor to get up once every hour or two and walk around so that blood clots won't form. At first, this is quite a chore, because 1) crutch-walking is tiring, and 2) the last thing you will probably want to do post-surgery or post-a bad break is get up and walk around, but you should do it, if you can. As time goes by you will heal, and as you do I recommend getting up to walk around more and more. It will get you out of the chair or bed and moving your body, changing your scenery a bit.
Lift Weights (or Books):
The last bit of advice I can give in regards to the physical aspect of activity is to lift some weights (or anything for that matter) if you can. This was helpful for me because, once again, it gave me the sense, like with my use of the Grip Master, that I was making progress. I wouldn't recommend doing anything too drastic, just do many repetitions using a light to medium weighted object. For me, I did curls with my 1,200 page biography on Winston Churchill, and it worked great!
So, in summary, the above-mentioned tips for physical activity are just a few ideas. The best thing to do though is to be creative and resourceful. Think of new ways to stay active, talk to other people who have been in the same situation. This part of your life doesn't have to be a period of inactivity and depression, it can be great!
How did you break your leg or ankle?
Tip #2: Stay Active (Mentally)
Staying as physically active as possible while dealing with a broken leg is very important, though it is not the only aspect of your life that must be attended to during your time of recovery. It is just as important to stay mentally active, because, after all, it is the ability to cope mentally that will help you keep your sanity during this period of your life.
Learning something new is a crucial part of staying mentally active. When you learn something, not only are you stimulating your brain and causing it to work, but you are also accomplishing something. This is similar to what I mentioned above, in the staying physically active section. it doesn't matter what you learn, as long as it is something, because learning will give you that sense of accomplishment, the sense that you did something worth while even though you find yourself in an undesirable situation. For example, you could begin to learn a new language, or relearn an old one; you could browse through some of your past class notes, or you could even take a new class and learn something completely different. If taking a new class appeals to you, I would suggest looking to iTunes. On iTunes there are numerous lectures available for free; they are under the section within the iTunes store called iTunes U. You can learn anything from Russian History to Molecular Biology, and, once again, it is completely free!
If learning something new was never your strong suit or preferred pastime, then perhaps creating something will be more suited to you. Creating something gives the same sense of accomplishment as with the above mentioned ideas, but It also gives you the ability to use a different part of your brain. Creating something could mean anything, really, you can create in the traditional mediums by painting or drawing, you can create a new website, or you can even create a completely new way of thinking about something all together! There are no limits, this is life, it is meant to be lived, not suffered through.
The act of writing stems from the previous section, but It deserve its own space. Writing is a good way to express your thoughts and vent your anger. That expression can come in the form of a blog or just a personal journal. Writing is a good way to pinpoint your feelings (in general, but particularly in regards to your situation) and then express them in a manner that is both positive and effective. If you feel inclined to write, I would suggest that you, at the very least, keep a journal, writing in it as often as you feel necessary, and as often as powerful thoughts enter your mind. I would also suggest that you create a blog, or continue an old one that you have since neglected. Writing for yourself is a good pain reliever, but it is not a panacea (nothing will be) because it doesn't make you feel like you have a voice amongst others. I would suggest blogging, because feeling like you have a voice is important when you are going through a tough time. It makes you feel like you aren't living unnoticed.
The last way that I would suggest to stay mentally active is to read. Reading in general is a good way to stay mentally active because it provides the mind with material to process and learn about. Reading fiction in times of trial is particularly helpful, however. Fiction helps by giving the mind intellectual stimulation (hopefully) and by providing an escape. During this time of your life, I would suggest reading a book that both stimulates you intellectually, but is still able to hold your attention and take you on a journey of some sort. This book could come in the form of a classic such as, Journey to the Center of the Earth, or it can come in the form of something more contemporary such as, White Teeth by Zadie Smith; there are ample possibilities. It may be tempting to just sit and browse the internet all day, trust me, I know, though, I can assure you that it is both rewarding and alleviating to read.