Setbacks and Mind Games During Injury Recovery (Athlete Journal 4)

Recovering from an injury is already challenging enough, but when you toss in all the psychological games our minds trip us out with, it’s that much worse.

About a month or so after my surgery to repair my fully ruptured Achilles tendon, I had a dream that sums up all the paranoid thoughts I’ve encountered on the road to recovery:

I’m driving my car up a hill in suburban Beaverton, Oregon with my right foot, the injured side, on the gas pedal. Without warning, my repaired Achilles tendon decides to detach and fall apart. Not a tear, snap, or rip – it just lets go of itself and I immediately lose control of my ability to press the gas pedal or brake. But of course, instead of gradually slowing down, my little Mazda3 decides to accelerate up the hill, proceed over the crest, and speed right into the building on the side of the road.

Recovering from an injury is already challenging enough on its own, but when you toss in all the psychological games our minds trip us out with, it’s that much worse. Although nothing this catastrophic has happened in real life, I’m still left with five thoughts that burrow themselves into my psyche on a weekly basis.

The Top 5 Paranoid Thoughts You Will Have During Recovery

5. You can’t do daily tasks ever again without risking injury.

Walking down stairs is still a challenge, and I anticipate that even after I’m physically ready to do so, I’ll still have to mental block of thinking this activity will destroy my Achilles with even the slightest misstep.

4. You’ll never be back to 100%.

Although it may be true that my repaired tendon won’t perform the same way as if it were never ruptured, it’s way too tempting to wallow in self-defeat and accept my injury as a permanent and unassailable obstacle, rather than the opportunity to adjust myself and my training.

3. You just broke it again!

At one point not long after surgery I was utterly convinced I had ruptured my tendon again while I was beginning to walk on it. How do you handle the intense and seemingly uncontrollable flood of dark emotion that comes along with that dread deep in your gut when you are convinced that your best attempts at recovery have only made your condition worse?

2. All the worst things ever in the world will happen now all at once.

You are going to lose your job, fall into deep depression, be miserable, and life will suck from now on forever. Believing this one doesn’t last very long, but it keeps popping up here and there. Just often enough to get you down if you let it.

1. Your injury will recur without warning and without reason

In theory, I know my tendon won’t simply detach itself for no reason, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking, “Uh oh, I’ve been sitting here eating dinner for ten minutes and haven’t felt any tweaks or twinges. It must have ripped apart again on its own!”

I don’t really have any wise counsel or advice for those of you dealing with injury at the moment. I’m hoping that knowing you’re not alone will be therapeutic enough for now until you can jump back in the game again.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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