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I hear you! I'm six weeks out from a spiral fibula fracture, and four weeks post-ORIF surgery. As of yesterday, I'm in a walking cast after six loooooooong weeks of non-weight bearing. Here's some things that would've helped me to hear:
First and foremost: I’m really, really sorry. Whether it’s the most horrific fracture or “just a sprain,” it’s HARD. You’ll feel so frustrated, depressed, tired and angry. You probably feel that way right now. You’ll replay the moment when you got injured over and over, and think of how you could’ve avoided it. Most people seem to injure their ankle doing the most mundane thing: they trip. I’ve thought SO MANY times about how if I had just moved that little thing when I saw it, I wouldn’t be in this mess.
So here’s my first piece of advice: if you’re a person who has been depressed in the past, it’s probably a REALLY GOOD idea to check in with your primary care doc or therapist. Even people with totally normal brain chemistry who have never been depressed in their lives get depressed when this happens. That’s OK and it’s normal — your life has totally changed for the worse without any warning. You feel out of control. Even the simplest things are so hard. If you’re an active person, you don’t have those endorphins or just the peace that comes from a nice long walk, or playing with your dog. You can’t do anything for yourself, you’re so dependent on other people, and you’re home bound for at least a few weeks. Everything in your life revolves around this stupid, stupid thing that nothing can fix except time and patience. That’s a recipe for even the most sane person to feel blue.
Here’s some things that helped me:
1. Keep perspective — think, “My injury is awful, but I will get better and walk again. A LOT of people don’t have that; they get hurt and don’t get to walk again.” Repeat as necessary, perhaps up to 80 times per day!
2. Celebrate the small victories. To someone else, they may seem small, but to you, they can be HUGE. This starts by just noticing them — “Today, my ankle does not hurt,” or “today, I made my bed by rolling around and pulling the covers.” When I was allowed to stand on my good foot and cast, I was SO EXCITED that I had to show everyone. I also made a list of the things I could do — standing at the mirror to put on makeup, or being able to scramble some eggs. If you can think of and write down just three things you're grateful for at the end of each day, that small act can really help.
3. Keep yourself busy with what you can do, and pick something you’ve always wanted to work on/read/etc. Call those old friends that you may have lost touch with and have them over just for coffee and a chat. Take up watercolors. Re-read Harry Potter. Learn to play the ukulele. Stay on this forum and support other people, or just read others’ stories. This is my first post here after a lot of lurking, and every time I read, I felt less alone.
How do I live my life??
This one is tough, especially for those of us who live alone. I spiral-fractured my fibula on June 30, then had surgery on July 12. For 5+ days after both these events, I could not live alone, and had to change my life so that someone else could take care of me — in this case, mostly my mom, but also my little sisters, friends, etc. To make it easier, I stayed with them, but do know that figuring out how to safely navigate a new space can take some time. A good way to figure out if you’re ready to take care of yourself is to see how long you can go without asking for help. And speaking of which ...
* You have to ask for help. You have to accept help when it’s offered. I HATE ASKING OTHER PEOPLE FOR HELP, and yet I had no choice. You will feel like the neediest baby when you’re asking for everything, even a drink of water. Just repeat to yourself: this is only for a few days. This is only for a few weeks. My friends and family love me and they want to help — if the shoe was on the other foot, I would be so happy to help them.
* You can do maaaaybe one thing per day. Going to the store is a thing. Visiting a friend is a thing. Until you have a really good handle on what your physical energy level is, go slow, and don't make big plans -- you'll often have to cancel, and that can feel so disappointing. Spoiler: your basic physical capacity is going to be WAY LESS than when you're not trying to move through the world in a new, exhausting way and your body is not trying to knit bones or skin back together. Rest and have patience with your body; it's doing something very hard and amazing and fighting to get you back to a place where you want to be!
1. A knee scooter is what kept me sane! Mine is named Scoots McGillicutty, and I love him so much. Get one with a basket, and keep the directions, because folding it and putting the brakes on aren’t intuitive. Do know that the standard ones (solid tires) really can’t go on anything rougher than a driveway. This is the single most important thing; if you can’t afford one/your insurance will not pay, check on Craigslist, post on Facebook, ask your orthopedist if they know of anyone who doesn’t need theirs anymore, sell a kidney. In short, GET A SCOOTER!
2. Crutch pads: you will still have to use your crutches sometimes. Amazon has great ones in many colors.
3. An orthopedic pillow: especially at first, you just have one job: elevate that damn ankle. I got a good, steady pillow that was specifically made for this on amazon and it felt so much sturdier than the piles of pillows I used before it arrived. The more you elevate and ice, the quicker, easier and less painful your recovery will be. Ice the back of your knee if you have a cast or splint; it cools the blood going to the area. I elevated for up to 20 hours a day, and my surgeon was amazed at how ahead of schedule my healing was.
4. An office chair with wheels and adjustable height: This is so great for things like cooking, tidying surfaces or heck, just sitting at the table with your family and not having to futz with crutches. I got one without arms, which i was able to sit down on from different angles more easily.
I feel like I have sooooo many more tips, but I’ve already written a novel! Ankle Problem folks who are totally on the other side, what did you do that made your life easiest?
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