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  • Cassandra Shoneck, CPT

The POWER of positive thought post-surgery

If anyone ever tells you the hardest part of surgery is anything but the mental game - feel free to promptly inform them they are full of baloney. And you can tell them I said so. When I had friends tell me that the mental part of recovery was some of the hardest stuff they'd been through, I believed them of course, because I have awesome friends and I knew they weren't blowing smoke. But there's really no comparison to understanding how true that statement is without experiencing all of this first hand.


If you've had any sort of injury before, you know the basics. It's annoying. It's inconvenient. You can't do some of the stuff you really wish you could. Sometimes you have to ask for help. And sometimes even little things are pretty hard or impossible to do until you've healed. Take that, multiple it tenfold and you now have the level of "ugh" associated with an injury requiring surgery. (You can't do a LOT of the stuff. You have to ask for a LOT of help. EVERYthing is hard now..., etc.) Take that and amplify it again for a surgery required for the largest, thickest and strongest tendon in your body. With one of the relatively longest recovery times. When you are not only used to training hard 4-6 days a week yourself, but your job also 100% revolves around you being active and physically capable. And for good measure, your husband has to go out of town for work for two whole weeks just 9 days post-op. *sigh* Ladies and gentlemen...to say this experience has not been a practice in mental fortitude, character, patience, and humility, would be a gross misrepresentation of my recent reality.


So, now that I'm finally in a place where I feel I can start exploring and honestly sharing some of these feelings, I want to get them out, in all their messy glory, again - because I think reading this might help someone else someday. <3



Post-op, THIS is what's important: YOUR MIND. Where you let it go. Knowing what your triggers are. Clinging FIERCELY to every positive thing you can. No matter how small. Seriously.


I purposely did not read a single thing online about my injury, the surgery, or recovery. I didn't look at pictures. I didn't look up anyone else's stories. I didn't want the possibility of even the smallest negative influence before I got into a better head space. Because I know myself, and I knew if I saw any surgical pictures, or heard any stories, or even read too many details on the subject, I knew it would trigger the "unknowns" in my head and it would create a downward spiral. And I was only all about the up, up, up. Period.


(Side note: Simon did some basic research because he was my caretaker. And we did research the surgeon of course. Just didn't want you guys to think we were completely blind going into this process.) Sub-category of importance in your exercise in mind control: ACCEPTANCE. Omg this one was huge. You NEED to ACCEPT that things are not like how they were anymore. And you NEED to be okay with that. You need to make that happen ASAP and you need to do whatever it takes to get there.



Let's break it down... Backing up to my explanation of multiplying stuff to reach the level of suck that goes on post-surgery....let's flippity flop that around. Because that's EXACTLY what I did.


HAD to do.


I'm telling you, if I did not MAKE myself repeat ALL of the positive aspects of EVERYthing I was going through, I would not have made it. (I mean, ok, I'd still be alive. I still would have had to go through the surgery. And I'd still be going through the recovery right now. But the whole thing would have been a nightmare. And it doesn't have to be...) Every time I had a negative thought or something scary entered my brain, I immediately chased it away with its polar opposite...


For example:


**Busted the largest tendon in my body and now I am not going to be able to walk, let alone do god-knows what else?


Yup. That's ok - that tendon is strong because it was built to be strong, it will be again. And I built everything around it to be strong too. I'm going to remember that bodies are wonderful at HEALING! My body is an amazing creation! And it can do anything! And I'm going to be the best patient and re-hab client known to mankind so that I make everything stronger than ever by the time we're done. Take that!, negative thought.

**Achilles ruptures have some pretty seriously long recovery times?


Yup. No worries! Time will always pass no matter what we do. I can sulk about it. Or I can just go through it. The moments, days, weeks are going to keep moving either way. So what if I have some decent therapy ahead of me? Each day that passes is one more day of injury behind me and one more day closer to health again. That's all there is to it.

**My lifestyle just got thrown completely for a loop because I can't do 90% of the things I used to love to do on a daily basis, specifically, for work and in my training?


Yep. So now, I'm no longer thinking about my body fat percentage and training as an Olympic lifter and crossfitter. Now I'm fueling my body for healing. I'm making sure I eat as healthy as I can and researching additional supplements & vitamins that can facilitate the process. And I'm channeling my same gym intensity and focus into training my body to stay healthy during recovery. I'm being mindful of keeping imbalances to a minimum, and following doctor's current immobility orders to a T so my forward progress is the best I can do. And soon, because my energy's back up, and my pain and swelling is way down, I'll be training to have the sickest upper body I've ever had! Boom.

**Hubby's out of town super close following surgery date? True. But I told myself that nine days will be a long enough time, full of lots of little victories, so I'll be much more able to take care of myself and everything will be just fine. Also, this one was fairly easy to be positive about because I had so many wonderful people offer help, and bring food, and assist me at the house during this first week he's been gone. It was amazing. I am so blessed. Truly.


See? Easy peasy!


Regarding acceptance, let me clarify. At NO point in time was I like, "WOOHOO! I am so excited I have a ruptured Achilles! This is going to be SUCH a character-builder!"


Yeah. Not even once.


But after the first couple days of being scared and worrying (because nothing like this has ever happened to me before...) I realized right away and KNEW that if I didn't get a handle on my shit - no one was going to do it for me. I was the ONLY one with that power. I'm not saying you have to like what happened to you. Or be happy about it in any way. I'm saying it is ESSENTIAL that you get your mind right as soon as possible.



Full disclosure stuff - on more than one occasion since this happened, I've been alone with my thoughts and out of no where I'll just think...


"I wish this never happened"

or

"I wish I could just walk"


Think about it - those are two of the most defeating thoughts that can enter your brain when you're in the situation I'm in right now. Neither one is productive on any level. I HATE when one of those sneaks in.


The first one is a little easier for me - as soon as that one pops in, it's easy to throw a loud, strong "IT IS WHAT IT IS! You canNOT change what happened one iota! NOW is what you have control over - so don't waste your time with that regret crap! At ALL!" (Sometimes it's okay to yell at yourself when it's positive self-talk.) ;) The second one is a little trickier. It's a sneaky one. It usually comes into my head when I'm in pain. Or when a few frustrating things have happened in a row. Or I need to do something and I think, "oh, I'll just go do that real quick!" but then I realize it's not that easy anymore and it's going to take me at least 3x longer and is it really even worth it to have clean hair...?? So for those moments, I do allow myself the tiniest pity party sometimes. One of the first bad days I had, even before the surgery, I kept crying, like all day, on and off. My husband didn't say a word but just brought me a roll of TP and a bag for all the dirty tissues of tears and snot he knew I'd be continuing to produce. He gave me a kiss on the forehead, and just let me find my way. Because sometimes that's all you can do. Cry it out. And move on. Maybe eat a cookie. Sometimes that helps too. But then MOVE ON.


That's where the practice and repetition of positivity really comes in handy. Because in those moments, when it's hardest to find good stuff, you'll have a recording in your head of all those positives you've been thinking up, and you can just queue it up and play it on repeat until it sinks in. And you'll be back on track in no time.



So yeah, moral of the story, being savagely positive through this process has made an absolute world of difference for me so far. If you're going through something similar, think of it this way - you just messed up some serious stuff. Your body is tired and working on healing. You don't have time for anything to be dragging your mind down on top of that.


Work with what you can work with (aka: yo' noggin'). Your mindset is SO important and is still in your control, even if your body is not at the moment.


Be gentle with yourself.


Be patient.


Remember that this is a thing that happened to you, but it is not a thing that is going to define the totality of you, or break you. You ARE going to get through it. How easily depends on YOU and THAT depends on how positive you can train your brain to be.


Believe in yourself! You're stronger than you think. <3


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