Whole to Fractured - The Mental State

Special Note: This is my 100th post! Let's hear it for 100 more =) Thanks for reading & for your support!!

"Does having a broken bone slow you down at all?" My high school journalism teacher asked me. To this day I don't know what spurred her to ask me this; maybe it was because that time I had my head down, and was heading to my next class away from the rest of the crowd - taking care that my broken arm wouldn't be further jostled.

I have often re-visited the question my teacher asked me in my head, do I have a 'fractured' mentality? One that is more than just taking extra care, moving about with caution, and taking care to keep the cast dry in the shower? And if I do have a broken-bone mentality, how do I make that transition from being 'whole' and in my 'normal' state to one who is injured?
When a fracture has just happened I get very quiet. I stay away from the group and generally prefer to be left alone. In this state I definitely do have a 'broken-bone' mentality in that all my energy is focused on assessing the injury, stabilizing it, and 'getting used to' the feeling. A fresh fracture heats the surface of my skin and is sensitive to the movement my body makes with every breath that I take. Aside from the extraordinarily annoying distraction that comes with the pain and discomfort a broken bone brings, I think around this point I'm already trying to figure out how to "move on" from the fracture. I talk myself out of being totally succumbed by the pain and annoyance of the fracture:
It's just another fracture. Bones grow. Bones heal. This isn't going to be forever. Be calm. Ignore everyone else. Make sure no one touches the broken bone. Defend and protect it. 

I am only 40% listening to anyone who is not a doctor or a nurse when a fracture has just happened. Don't get me wrong, I always appreciate friends and family who are there with a comforting word or are trying to help - but my world suddenly becomes limited to the fracture and managing it the best way only I know how. There is an underlying fear in me that if I get distracted by other people talking to me I won't be paying attention to the broken limb. I won't be holding on to it the right way. I won't be paying attention to when my skin has stopped heating up. I won't notice when someone accidentally bumps into me. All of these slip-ups on my part can cause a lot of pain that I have somehow taught myself can be avoided. From this point on whatever pain can be avoided I will leap towards! If it means waiting for my orthopedic doctor to come back from his vacation before setting the bone again, I'll wait. In my 'broken bone' mentality I will only do things that I am most comfortable with, know the outcome of, and take no risks; this is pretty much 200% contrary to how I usually am.

After the broken bone has been stabilized and there is a cast over it I try my best to get right back into my usual routine. Of course there are things that will need to be adjusted. The way I transition from the toilet to my wheelchair. Or the way my family or friends carry me. The technique I use to open doors while in my wheelchair might need to be adjusted. The way I get dressed. There are a thousand things that need to be tweaked a bit but because I am old enough, have had the experiences, but most importantly have learned -- I usually do these things now without a second thought.
Aside from all of the day-to-day tasks my 'usual' routine has also consisted of school, work, hanging out with friends, volunteering, going out with friends, hanging out with friends, and did I mention hanging out with friends? Here's the biggest obstacle for me whenever I have a broken bone: FATIGUE. I sleep a lot when there is a fracture, and usually almost immediately after a cast is put on I am fast asleep. It's hard for me to accept that I am not able to do as much with my day. It's annoying to admit that I need to stop and rest. The toughest part of this part, for me, is when I am resting I realize that I am resting because I broke a bone. During these moments it's usually just me and the cast, and right then at that moment - Yes. I hate to admit it but yes, my life is slowed down a bit when I have a broken bone.

I s'pose the title of this entry is inaccurate. My mental state is never fractured and I wouldn't say that it is at all slower when I have a fracture. The lull moments are when I realize how fortunate I am, those are the times when I am teaching myself how to be stronger, when I am 'talking' to my body and telling it to heal quickly; these are the moments when I am learning how to roll with the punches and adapt quickly but cautiously. All of these are things that I carry with me long after the doctor has taken the cast off, I might not remember every fracture incident or every bone that I have ever broken - but I do remember the things each one has taught me and how each one has subtly shown me more of life than I am otherwise conscious of.

Mending a 'broken' mind:

  • Growing up in an environment that encouraged my abilities helped reinforce my coping abilities when I had a fracture as a child. Sure, my parents were a little extreme in that they always sent me to class after they splinted a broken bone themselves - this insanity actually had its benefits!
  • It's easy to slip into the "why me?" mentality. And the few times I have done this I have always been frustrated by the lack of answers, and also by the ultimate pointlessness of this thinking. I think that this is a normal process of thinking and one that each person has to figure out on their own, but for me the dead-ends that I always wound up in taught me to just stop asking the question 
  • This took me forever and years to recognize and it's actually something I recently have come to understand - but it's okay to cry! It's not a sign of being pathetic or weak, it actually helps get stress out when there's little else that you can otherwise physically do
  • What I wrote above is only true for me. Each person has a different way of reacting to injuries and different ways of dealing with your body. It's important to take time to understand how your body reacts to best know how to manage and deal with it! So even though I'm a huge proponent of getting back into the routine ASAP, I know that taking time to rehab and let your body & mind adjust is important to managing fractures
  • Surround yourself with people that you enjoy being with and do things for you! 

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3 Responses to Whole to Fractured - The Mental State

  1. Thank you for this post. I fractured the fifth metatarsal in my foot 2 weeks ago. This is the first bone that I have ever broken. I know this post is old, but it helped me. I'm not alone! :)

  2. Thank you! disabled, but not with OI, first broken bone, and exhausted! Really glad to hear from an expert!

  3. Just broke my arm and have slept like crazy! Thank you for sharing this post ~ I can only imagine this as a way of life ~ still, your sharing is appreciated and eloquently written. Thank you~~~


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