Practicing Self-Care After a Traumatic Injury

Recently, I was walking my daughter’s adorable dog Raleigh when I saw two other cute dogs with their owner approaching on the path. All three dogs barked excitedly and jumped joyfully. Raleigh accidentally bumped my legs and I fell down hard on the pavement.

Instantly, I knew I was seriously injured. The man with the two dogs quickly called 911, paramedics came, and later that night I had surgery to repair my crushed right femur. After a couple days in the hospital, I went to a rehab/nursing center for three weeks until I could safely handle myself at home.

Self-care practices were important during my recovery following surgery.

After a serious bout of anxiety and depression a few years back, I developed a wellness plan and began practicing self-care more intentionally. While I was in the rehab center, I ramped up self-care because I was concerned that my mood might slip while I was recovering.

Here’s what I did to take care of myself while recovering:

Connection – I didn’t feel very social, but I knew it was important not to isolate myself. I reached out to family, friends, staff, and fellow patients. I made a new friend while in the rehab center and we continue to check in. People offered support — and I welcomed it. It wasn’t the time to go it alone.

Nutrition – Food is fuel for the body which is especially important during recovery. The rehab center food was actually pretty good. The portions were controlled although I could order as much variety as I wanted. It was important to eat enough healthy food, but not too much. I allowed myself some treats.

Sleep – I used white noise on my laptop to mask sounds from staff and other patients. I also minimized screen time in the evenings. The body naturally heals better when rested.

Mindfulness – It is difficult to be in pain with limited mobility. For a time, it was my new reality. I saw a side of life in the rehab center that was frightening at times. People were recovering from cancer, strokes, accidents, and other serious ailments. I needed to breathe deeply and stay in the moment in order to handle my pain plus the pain I saw others experiencing.

Nature – I didn’t get out of the rehab center much, but I did spend some time outside most days. I also sat by the one window that opened on the floor I was on. Boy, did the fresh air feel good. Once home I went outside more. Nature is restorative.

Exercise – In addition to physical and occupational therapy, I exercised to boost myself physically and mentally. In the rehab center, I initially wheeled myself around as much as possible. Later, I was able to get around first with a walker and then with a cane.

Gratitude – Although I felt miserable at times, I was still thankful for a kindness, a cute card, a tasty snack, or a thoughtful text message. My situation although unpleasant could have been worse. Being thankful helped.

Medication – Several times, I had to advocate for myself to receive my anti-anxiety medication on time. This was both surprising and alarming. I kept a log of when I received pain meds. There were times that the staff didn’t remember. Folks who are working 12-hour shifts and trying to respond to four call lights at once aren’t infallible.

Also, a few other things that worked for me:

● I tried to look presentable and be pleasant.
● I cried when I needed to cry.
● I read a lot and listened to music.
● I drank plenty of water.
● I avoided ruminating on the negatives.

The self-care and wellness practices I learned while living with a mental health diagnosis definitely came in handy after my injury!

My mood has been good and in time I hope to be completely healed.

Contributed by Jean Spahr- Dedicated NAMI ADCO Volunteer

Practicing Self-Care After a Traumatic Injury