So, you broke your foot 8 weeks before graduation – Now what?
For as long as I can remember, I have always considered myself to be indestructible. Growing up, my life was filled with hours upon hours playing in games and tournaments on the softball field or volleyball court. Whether I was diving into the dirt to get someone out at home plate as a catcher or throwing myself on the ground to make the best save as a setter, not once in either of my competitive athletic careers did I ever injure myself more severely than a mild scrape or bruise.
Fast forward to Spring Break in Cancun during my second semester as a senior graduating from JMU in less than 50 days, and I have found myself dealing with a broken right foot – a fracture of my fifth metatarsal to be exact. In general, broken bones are never fun to deal with, but they are even more challenging when it not only impacts your driving foot, but also happens during your college years given the nature of the active and busy lifestyle filled with a great deal of walking – whether it is to class, a bar, the grocery store, a friend’s house, or the gym. Clearly, Spring “Break” has a whole new meaning for me as a stare down at my broken foot lugging along a bulky, soft cast boot and scooting around Harrisonburg trying to maintain my “normal life.”
As you can probably understand, it is not the most ideal time for this incident to have occurred, but then again, when is it a good time to have a broken foot. However, the one thing that has kept me in a positive mindset as I continue my path of recovery is trying to look for the silver linings and lessons that I can take away from this difficult experience. My hope is that these tidbits of advice may help someone else dealing with a similar experience come out of it stronger, tougher, wiser, and most importantly, more appreciative of being able to live an active and full life.
1. We all need somebody to lean on sometimes.
When I first broke my foot, one of the hardest things for me to accept was not being able to do everything I used to do on my own. After living away from home and becoming pretty independent and self-reliant over the past four years, I felt very guilty having to rely on my roommates and close friends to help me with day-to-day tasks such as putting my scooter into a car, taking me to a store, getting me down the stairs, or carrying my hot coffee to the table so I don’t spill it on myself (which may or may not be coming from personal experience).
Without a doubt, if any of my friends were in a similar situation, I would be more than willing to do what I could to help and support them because that is what true friendship is all about. It is important to remember that the people in your circle care about you, and it is okay to lean on them during challenging times because we all need people to get us through the tough times.
2. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Learning that I could not put any weight on my right foot for 4-6 weeks seemed like an impossible task. I had no idea how I was going to be able to function on my own. Tasks like getting up the stairs and dressing myself were exhausting. In addition, I live a very athletic lifestyle and workout almost every day to improve my mental and physical health, which was also a tough adjustment to be forced to put that on hold.
After a few days of getting into a routine and learning how to get myself around by relying on my upper body and core, I figured out ways to use my physical strength to my advantage. I found a series of non-weight bearing exercise videos and meditations on YouTube and machines at the gym that I could use to continue to work out while staying seated, which really helped me stay focused and positive about my recovery. By taking a creative approach to working out and maintaining and improving my physical and mental strength, I learned that I am stronger and more resilient than I thought I was.
3. Find the fun in the not so fun
When I found out I had to use crutches and a scooter to move around, I was not happy about it. I could not see myself doing any of the fun things I used to do such as going on walks with my friends, shopping at the mall, and participating in all the awesome activities that JMU has to offer. I soon realized that I needed to make some minor adjustments to make the situation better and ensure my last few months at JMU were still fun and full of memories. I also had to put things into perspective and be thankful that this injury is just temporary and could have been much worse.
To focus on the fun, I figured out how to build a DIY cup holder with the help of some EMT friends so I could be hands-free while scooting around. My scooter became my resting chair whenever and wherever I needed it and even occasionally served as a purse rack for my friends. I learned that there are so many ways to find the fun in the not-so-fun situations and even the smallest changes can make the biggest impact on keeping yourself in a positive headspace with the right perspective.
4. There is a solution to every problem
This point is self-explanatory and can be applied to every aspect of life. When dealing with an injury, you will encounter obstacles every day as you are learning how to live your life in a different way. I found that the best way to tackle these challenges is to take a step back, try not to panic, and think outside the box, and you will find a solution. It may not always be the easiest or most enjoyable solution, but you will find a way to tackle your problem and persevere.
5. Patience, patience, and more patience
Patience has been the hardest part of this journey for me, especially with graduation on the horizon. I am really punching the clock to make sure I can walk and not scooter across the stage to receive my diploma at graduation. A stressed body never heals as fast as a relaxed body and brings along many other issues. During those frustrating moments when I am not able to see myself on the other side of my recovery or cannot imagine what it is like to live my “old” life, it is important to take a deep breath and remember that your body needs time to heal. While recovering, it helps to keep yourself busy and distracted and to put your attention into other meaningful things—whether it is your schoolwork, self-care, spending time with family and friends, or picking up a new hobby.
I hope that this blog post was helpful whether you are dealing with a broken bone like me or another life challenge. Please remember that you are not alone, you are stronger and more resilient than you think, and you will get through it.