• Cassandra Shoneck, CPT

A pretty big blow...and flipping that mental switch

Hey y'all! So I ruptured my Achilles tendon. Boom. There it is. And I've decided to share my experience - physically, mentally, emotionally - because I believe sharing my ups and downs through this could really potentially help someone else going through their own stuff right now. If you're that potential someone - read on, Reader.

The gist of it is this: there have been several times over the last couple years where I have been going through something less than pleasant. And at those times, I would always seem to stumble across a story shared by a friend or family member, sometimes a total stranger, which would bring some light or new perspective to my struggle. Bravely and willingly sharing their grappling and triumph through those various life hurdles helped me through some of my own pretty serious stuff and made my struggles of the time that much more manageable. And that means a lot. I think that's pretty huge, to be able to help another human in that way. And I think we need more of that stuff.

I personally always hesitate to open up too much on social media for a few basic reasons.

A: I think I'm pretty private by nature. I also don't like or understand what seems to be a general compulsion to "overshare" anymore. (Seeing someone's dirty laundry aired out on FB or wherever simply makes me cringe for them. Alternatively though, seeing someone share a trial with dignity and truth, always strikes me as strong, and brave, and feels, to me, as though it is a step toward healing.)

B: I have a hard time sharing my own "tough stuff" sometimes because I hate appearing weak or vulnerable. (I'm sure many can relate to this "fear"...) BUT - I'm trying to re-teach myself that it is HUMAN to have lows in one's life and it is showing one's humanity, not weakness, to admit and open up about them. I personally find it discouraging to see people who constantly define their lives by only the "tip of the iceberg" shiny happy stuff. Life is beautiful - and sometimes hard. Life is amazing - and sometimes shitty. Life is an adventure - and sometimes it's okay to ask for help when you're overwhelmed by it. I find that seeing both the ups AND downs from my friends or those I admire, makes me feel more personally grounded as a human, knowing I'm not alone, and I really respect that honesty.

And C: more generally, I don't use social media for as much personal stuff as some people do. My privacy settings are usually set to more "exposure" for business purposes and my actual "friends list" is not all Friends. So I keep most stuff close to my vest.

That said, I am going to share my current story because I have been on a struggle bus these last couple weeks, and if I can help anyone move through something similar more easily, that means more to me than any of my ABC reasons above. <3

If you made it this far let me pop in this disclaimer here: please know, that I know, in the grand scheme of things, this is not that intense. However, another part of this "share and tell" I'm working on here is that I am trying to learn to stop comparing my struggle to others'. Just because I deem something I'm going through as "not as important" compared to what I know someone else is going through - it doesn't make my hurt, or challenge, or pain, or emotional toll any less valid. (That goes for you too!) It's still real. It's still definitely valid. I think a lot of people wrestle with that mindset. And I think we should be easier on ourselves.

Anyway, yeah. I ruptured my Achilles. I did it "rebounding" on a box jump during a workout. So there's an additional element to my struggle - I felt like a complete @$$ after it happened. I tell members and clients ALL the time - STEP down, NO rebounding. Yet there I was - doing it when I shouldn't have and knew better. You want to talk about perfect scenario for beating yourself up over something...

Not only was I not practicing what I preach as a trainer, but I just screwed myself out of my livelihood for the near foreseeable future. My lifestyle and job DEPENDS on my being able to physically function and teach and move and perform.

We (as a family) of course had to cancel multiple plans of things I was really looking forward to.

Every time I saw someone running or walking or doing anything "fitnessy", my impulse was to look away and I felt, alone...? Alienated? It was an odd mental response for me. So much of my life is defined by physical activity, I didn't know how to feel about anything at first!

It sounds all so friggin' dramatic now as I type it out and read it back. But I'm telling you - the mind is a powerful thing. And that first week I had some serious internal struggles.

So yeah, I'm beating myself up, screwing up plans, and trying to wrap my head around what might be my new "normal". All the while, in the back of my mind, I'm also completely hung up on how I've let my clients down, my members down, my boss down, and worst of all - I've placed a huge burden on my husband across the board because my stupidity has just landed me on the couch, as an unproductive member of our partnership.

The first couple days after it happened, I was a ball of emotion and this above-referenced self-doubt and negative self-talk. I couldn't get myself out of the cycle of reliving the actual "snap" in my brain - like actually replaying how it felt and what happened - it was so weird. Like a bad movie. And that was creeping me out and making things worse. I couldn't shake it. I also kept reluctantly letting my mind drift forward to my now-altered future thinking about how difficult things were going to be and how many things were going to have to take a back burner or change or be completely forgotten. (Mind you all of this was before the consult with the orthopedic surgeon. So my brain was running a little wild with "what ifs".)

And I was pissed. God, I was so angry with myself. I was also reeeeeally really bummed, and harsh to me, and sad, and scared. I was scared. Yeah, that was a big one. I've never injured myself like this. I broke a collar bone when I was like, 8, but they just sling you and send you on your way. I barely even remember it. I had no idea what to expect and not knowing anything was straight up freaking me out.

Ok. So enough of that. Enough. In the spirit of being vulnerable and totally honest, I needed to put those very raw, very real feelings out there and share them with you. Because I know I'm not the only one to have ever felt that way after an injury. Which also means I know I'm not going to be the last either. And if you're going through your own thing right now and you're at that "beat yourself up" stage - know that it's going to pass. It will. But YOU have to take control of it.

Another weird thing that was going on during all this was how I felt physically. Looking back and trying to reflect, I'm going to chalk it up to my body just going haywire. I'm assuming my stress hormone levels were probably pretty topped off. Everything was probably inflamed. The physical toll of my emotional negativity was not helping anything either, of course.

There were days where my entire body ached. Like I had the flu or something (but I didn't). I was nauseated. And my skin hurt. And I had headaches. And every little thing was SO hard to do. Just dressing, going to the bathroom, sitting up, etc. Little things would set me off. I basically wear leggings 24/7, what am I going to be able to wear with a BOOT or a CAST?? I cried all day for at least a few of those early days post-injury. (Ask my poor, long-suffering husband...the man was a saint.)

BUT!! Here's where we turn this freight train of hot mess around. Interspersed through all that crap, I started realizing there was ALWAYS something I could be positive about. Always. Which is where my "taking control" part comes in, as mentioned above.

I started looking for and latching on to each and every little positive thing. ANY thing that was a "check" in my positives column, I would just focus on that intensely. If a negative thought crept in, I'd replace it with a good one.

I was grateful that the actual injury happened when my friends and husband were around so I could get to Urgent Care right away.

It was lucky that my husband was in-town and working from home that week (which is not normal) so he could get me through while we waited to get in to a specialist.

I had so many people call and check on me - that was huge.

I was grateful to have an amazing network of people to reach out to so that I was able to find and borrow both the scooter and boot I needed that our insurance didn't cover.

I was happy it was my left leg, not right, so I could still drive.

It was cool that it happened now instead of dead of winter, so my recovery wouldn't consist of too much traipsing through Michigan's snow and sleet and sludge on crutches.

Anything. And everything.

Honestly, this list can (and did) go on forever because...well, because I made sure it did. I fiercely flipped the switch in my brain so I had something to be thankful for everyday. All through the day. And I'd tell my hubs about these things (verbalizing), and I'd update my friends with them (sharing and making it more real). It helped IMMENSELY.

(Oh, and I stayed OFF of "the Google" and WebMD, etc. thank you very much, until after meeting with the actual doctor. No sense in getting hyped up for something that's nothing, or hopes up for something that wasn't possible. So I just kept it completely neutral.)

I cannot miss saying again, by the way, in the midst of all this, I had so many incredible people reach out to me to let me know their experiences with their own past injuries. I never realized I had so many in my circle who have gone through similar things. And these were people I looked up to as athletes or trainers, etc.! That was huge for me! If these awesome, bad@$$ people I know, who come in and kill it in the gym on a regular basis, could be where they are now post-surgery, there is no reason I can't do the same! That gave me such hope. Truly. Which is another reason why I had to share my story here. I would've had a lot harder time coming out of my mental shit storm if it weren't for them sharing their stories. Thank you. (Yeah, you.) ;)

So, yeah. I changed my whole mindset. It didn't matter what exactly the future held in specifics anymore because I didn't have 100% control over that. And I just had to accept that. What I DID have control over was my outlook - check - and how well I followed doctors instructions - checkcheck.

And really, that's about it. For everything else I just thought, "it is what it is!". And in that second week post-injury, one week pre-surgery, I started looking forward to each new thing. I looked forward to surgery because it meant one of the biggest "unknowns" was going to be out of the way and behind me. We didn't know exactly what the doctor would find once he opened up my leg because we didn't bother with an MRI. But, I knew after talking with the doctor, and my hubby and friends who had been through similar things, surgery was the only option for me. So I thought, "Ok! Let's do it!" That's one more step forward!

This is like, baby, baby stage of this story, I know. But I'm already in such a better place. Seriously, we, as human beings, are capable of FAR more than we ever think we are. Or give ourselves credit for. And probably, actually most certainly more capable than we'll ever know!

But for me, for now, I KNOW I am capable of this. And I'm not stupid. This stuff happens. It doesn't mean my body quit on me. It happens to professional athletes for craps sake - people who get paid to be in super awesome condition. It doesn't make me less of a person. Or worse at my job. In fact - that's another positive - I know this whole experience will make me better equipped as a trainer and stronger as a person in general.

It's all good. I'm going to be an absolute model patient. Let my body heal. Take my time. And I'm gonna SLAY at PT as soon as I get out of this cast!! Slowly. Slay slowly. Of course. :)


Cassandra Shoneck, CPT

Cassandra Shoneck Health & Fitness, LLC

Certified Personal Trainer, NASM

USAW L2 Advanced Sports Performance Coach

Pn1, Precision Nutrition Coach CrossFit L1 Trainer

CrossFit Kids Trainer

p: 248.635.0188



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