Being Sane: 6 Ways to Cope With Injuries

A repost from my previous blog, written on 3/21/2017:

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If you’re like me, then participation in sports was a very normal part of growing up. Like with many of us sports-loving/active kids, injuries also became a normal part my playing. For me, it started off with something small, like twisting my ankle playing soccer at age 4. But over the years, the wear and tear of being a multi-sport athlete (and a female athlete, at that) has taken its toll on my body as I sit here writing with ongoing lower back pain and my second torn ACL. Many who have torn their ACL will tell you that the biggest fear of the injury is tearing it again, and now that fear has become my reality. So while I still love my main games of basketball and ultimate frisbee, I hate the injuries I’ve ensued playing them!

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In my experience, injuries often take more of a toll on you emotionally than they do physically, especially ones that require long-term recovery rehabilitation. Since this isn’t my first rodeo, I’ve found various pathways to resilience throughout the recovery processes of these sometimes discouraging injuries. And while some of you may have experienced or are currently experiencing injuries on varying scales, I will be writing through my *torn ACL/partial meniscus tear* lens as I’m getting surgery this week! Here are some tips to help you deal with the injury period:

  1. Find the silver lining
    • I’m a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason. While challenging, remaining positive and finding new perspectives on your situation can remind you to be grateful that you still have it better than a lot of people in this world. Take this time as an opportunity to give your body a break, to heal your body with nutritious foods, and to plan for your comeback. Figure out how to fill a different role for your team, even if you can’t physically contribute on the field/court. Take on a new project you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for. Rather than thinking “why did this happen to me?” try to think “what opportunities has this opened up for me?” IMG_6162
  2. Cry it out when you need to
    • Some days, it’ll just be really hard. It can be difficult seeing the amazing people you’ve surrounded yourself with succeeding and doing incredible things, but not being fully able to achieve all of your own accomplishments when so much physical energy and mental space is put into your injury every day. Admittedly, I feel vulnerable not being able to reach my fullest potential and set goals that require the mobility of my legs. It’s frustrating to hear the doctors say recovery could be a 9-month process, and realizing all the things that I’m physically limited to because of that. Re-explaining your injury over and over again to those who didn’t know is exhausting. The reality is that some recoveries take much longer than you hope for. It sucks, and it can be overwhelming on some days more than others. Letting it out doesn’t make you weak, and it doesn’t make you “too emotional”. Feeling sad, angry, and frustrated about it only makes you human. This is normal, this is part of the process, and you’re valid for what you’re feeling on those bad days.
  3. Rely on your community
    • Let your friends and family take care of you. Let go of any pride you might have; people love and care for your success & well-being, so let them support you in your hour of need. Personally, I hate the idea of having to rely on other people, especially for day to day tasks. I love my independence and I love being a support system for others, but I’ve had to accept that I’m allowed to ask for that same care from my loved ones. Let people drive you to do errands, let people bring you meals, let people assist you to class. Those people wouldn’t offer their services of care if they didn’t want to.
  4. Work on the muscles you can
    • Although you should be careful and listen to the instructions of your doctor/PT, find other ways to exercise. It can be easy to fall into a slump and maybe feel some depression when you can’t stick to your normal workout routine, but now is your time to be creative. For example: Since my injury is knee related, I’ve starting doing more upper body and core strengthening (peep the one-legged plank). I’ve also attempted swimming, an exercise I was never particularly good at but knew was very low impact on the body. So, push yourself out of your comfort zone, within your physical limitations of course!IMG_6864
    • Further, take this time to exercise your mind. I cannot encourage this more. Not only by listening to some great podcasts or picking up a book, but through mindfulness. With mindfulness exercises, I’ve found more compassion, patience, and self love. The benefits and healing power of meditation can be powerful if you give yourself the persistent time, space, and effort it takes to find presence. I personally like my app headspace, and calm, those are easy places to start with step-by-step and guided meditations. “When you own your breath, no one can steal your peace”IMG_4220
  5. Delve into your artistic side
    • If your injury allows, pick up an instrument you’ve always wanted to learn. Find some yummy recipes to make, even if you never cook for yourself. Learn a language you’ve always wanted to become fluent in. Buy yourself some paint or pencils, go to a pottery place or pick up an art class. I’ve *personally* always wanted to go to one of those paint-while-sipping-wine classes. Challenge yourself to hone in on your creative energy, you never know what hidden talents you might unveil. You artistic side can be very therapeutic!
  6. Take your time
    • With all of this being said, don’t push yourself too hard to get back to your normal workout routine or your sports too soon. You might be anxious to make things normal again, but the last thing you want is to not heal properly and have to start over from square one (believe me, I’ve witnessed people do this first hand!), OR develop even more problems down the line. Take your PT or at-home exercises seriously, listen to your body and to your doctor. No matter how quickly or how slowly it might take for you to heal, you’ll thank yourself for gaining your strength back the right way!

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My Relationship With Food: Binge Eating

A repost from my old blog, written on 3/07/2017:

Dear Body Week

This week is “Dear Body Week” at my school, and various events will be held on campus to promote daily body positivity. This theme is partially based off of a project that came to us last year called “Dear World”, which (according to their website) aims to reveal stories of hope, struggle, and of brighter days by sharing photos of people who are willing to participate. Given these themes, I felt like this was an opportune moment to share my experience with my own body image struggles and this beautiful project.

My Food Anxiety

At the beginning of my sophomore year in college, I developed an anxiety with food as a result of creating unrealistic fitness goals for myself. Weight loss had always been fairly difficult for me because I’m a slow burner, I grew up in the south where butter is its own food group, and I lacked knowledge around nutrition. But working with a trainer the summer prior to my sophomore year of college was a true milestone for me.

My first year of college did not go at all how I expected it to, and for the first time in my life, I experienced what true depression really felt like. It was to a point where I would wake crying every single day, and I didn’t know how to stop it. Fitness training helped me find some answers; it made me feel empowered and resilient by my own physical and emotional strength. While I was always somewhat self-conscious about being the “bigger” girl in my friend group growing up, my real incentive for those workouts was to challenge myself. I wanted to see how far I could push my mind and body, and to discover if I had any true limits. It was a distraction from the sadness I was holding inside, and an outlet for it. In just 8 weeks, both my physical and emotional transformation was something I never believed I could achieve. I was SO proud of myself for pulling myself out of this rut through something that I thought was so healthy.

Gaining it All Back… And Then Some

When I transferred to my new college that fall, I was placed into an entirely new environment full of amazing food, lots of drinking, and little sleep. Naturally, I started to gain the weight back. At this point, I was hyperfocused on the scale, because it’s all I knew to “track my progress”. After the first 5 pounds, I had thoughts like okay this is normal, drinking again does this. You’re experiencing New Orleans and all you can eat dining hall food, it’s fine.

Then, after the next 5-8 pounds, I started feeling truly ashamed about myself and about my body. I would say things to myself like You worked so hard to lose weight and build muscle, how are you letting all of that slip away? You can do better and SHOULD do better! Little did I realize that I was not really using those words as motivation to get healthy, but as a punishment that started driving me back down into a dark place again.

Amongst other consequences, that negative self-talk and lack of control turned into emotional eating habits. I would buy food for myself when I wasn’t even hungry, I’d make myself workout even if my body was hurting. I didn’t know why I couldn’t control these things after a whole summer of successful weight loss. I felt myself spiraling out of control and ended up gaining 20 pounds that year.

The Beginning of Healing

After some hard months, I finally recognized that the way I was eating was problem that was interfering with my life. I knew it wasn’t normal, because these behaviors and thought patterns about eating weren’t ones I’d always had. I started getting scared about what emotional eating meant for me. I didn’t know how I was going to achieve my fitness goals while also handling anxiety around food and weight gain. Was it even possible? I had to come to realization that these behaviors were attempts to maintain control over my life to compensate for the little control I had in other areas in my life. I still held onto sadness, anger, and trauma from my past that I’d never fully dealt with.

This confrontation with myself is when the healing really began. I started seeing a therapist, who unfortunately didn’t know much about binge-eating. So while she helped me with some of my anxiety, I had to do a lot of research on my own. I began by simply replacing those negative thoughts with ones that forced me to be honest like Why are you really reaching for food? What do you actually need right now? Why do you really want to lose weight? Is this goal realistic right now? How does your body feel? Can you accept your body for where it is in this moment?

While I attribute much of my healing and progress to the support of some amazing friends, the true key to my recovery came from within myself. In addition to having more mindful thinking habits, I had to actively work on loving myself.

My Journey to Self-Love

When deciding on what aspect of my life I wanted to show on my body for my Dear World photo, I thought about some of the positive quotes I’d read during this continuous journey of self love. One of those sayings consisted of a few simple words that truly changed my perspective on how I now navigate through life:

                      Sometimes it’s okay if the only thing  you did today was breathe.

In other words, waking up alive each day is not promised; it’s a gift and a privilege. It’s so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day routines, to go about our days on auto-pilot instead of truly living our experiences. To focus on things like how we look rather than how we feel. We forget to be thankful that we had the chance to do life all over again that day.

Within the darkness of my own self punishment and sadness, I had forgotten to also remember all of the beautiful light that shed pure joy on my life. As I mentioned a year ago in my original Dear World post on FaceBook, Buddha said, “You, yourself, more than anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

So this week, I ask you to remember that whatever struggles you might be facing, whatever pain you’re dealing with inside, and wherever you’re at in the process of achieving your goals in life: Take it one day at a time, and one step at a time. Trust yourself to make your being whole. Be grateful and recognize your existence and of everything beautiful around you. Be forgiving of and kind to yourself.

You don’t have to accomplish all of your goals and overcome all of your obstacles in one day; Some days, all you need is to take a moment for yourself, find presence, and simply breathe.