Today was a major milestone for my recovery. For the first time since the injury, I shoveled compost. It felt oddly good. I was so pleased that I took some pictures including the one up here and posted them on Facebook. One of my friends commented that he thought he was going to be reading a post about someone finding gold by digging in their garden and I responded that I found emotional gold.
Most of my recovery posts have focused on the physical aspects of my recovery. I talked about what happened and a little bit of my journey to recoveries. I haven’t really talked a lot about the emotional aspects of the journey , but I think it’s important so I’m gonna take a shot.
I will start with my emotions from the moment that I knew I was going to fall. Typically, when I tell people that I was convinced I was going to die they asked if I was scared. The truth is I really was never scared. I am not afraid of death. I am curious about it. But as far as I can tell I do not wish to die at this time.
When I realized that I was going to fall and that I had no way of stopping it the emotion I remember the most is being angry with myself. I was angry that I had messed up yet again and because I had screwed up other people were going to be disappointed I was going to be letting him down.
I really do not remember much of the fall itself. I remember very clearly the time when I knew I was going to fall and then the next thing I am really aware of is finding myself in the water. This was actually one of the scariest moments because I had not prepared myself. I had not taken a deep breath and was running low on air. I knew that if I breathed in while underwater I would die so I struggled really hard and got myself up to the surface. I got up to the surface take a deep breath and realized that I was going to live. I didn’t really at that moment feel particularly injured, and I was pretty hopeful that I had dodged a bullet and that I was going to be OK
I looked around and I saw that there was some rocks nearby so I climbed out onto the rocks and laid down to do an assessment of myself and my situation. The wilderness first aid training assessment that I was able to do myself indicated that I was basically OK so I thought maybe if I could rest for awhile I’d be able to get out. I guess at this point you could say my major emotion was denial. I was convinced that I was not hurt that I would be able to get myself out and that I was able to be OK.
Over the next hour or so I rested up some and I was able to get myself to my feet which was a bit of a struggle and I was able to walk essentially across the river to the other side where I could see the trail. Along the way I collapsed that was my first real indication that perhaps I was more hurt than I thought I was.
So I got myself back up got over to the other side and collapsed again. I could see the trail that would lead out of the ravine and I thought maybe I could climb my way up that trail. It took the next several hours for me to slowly convince myself that this was not the case and that I was not going to get out on my own. Even so my attitude at this point was pretty hopeful I was alive I had my SOS device with me and I knew that things were going to get better. Finally after about four or five hours I decided that I was not going to get out on my own and that I would need to contact the emergency service.
And really from the moment that I pressed the SOS button and got a response that told me that help was on the way I remained hopeful. I was kind of embarrassed that I screwed up again but my overriding emotion was that I was going to be OK and it was all gonna get fixed. I really pretty much had that emotion through my entire stay in the hospital. Once I got to the hospital and they told me that my injuries were much worse than we had initially thought I was disappointed but I remained hopeful and positive that everything was going to be OK. And through my stay at the hospital I would say I had reason for that level of optimism. After the operation they started giving me physical therapy I started getting up and walking even if it was only for a very small amount I could tell that everyday I was getting a little bit stronger. My first major disappointment was when I learned that they were transferring me to Windsor ’cause I knew that place was awful. The first night in Windsor was pure hell I remember thinking that I wanted to get back onto the rocks. I was in the middle bed in a three person room stuck between two people who were spilling into my site one of my roommates kept both a TV and video on his computer going at once all night long. And it was going loud. I complained and did get moved to a nicer room and that was OK. Really once I got into a double room with a really wonderful mate most of my emotions really had to do with my roommate he was a terminal cancer patient and was an extreme pain and needed to go into hospice and it ripped my heart out to see him suffering. The best thing about my stay at Windsor was the care I got from my physical therapist I did find myself getting stronger everyday walking more and and and really feeling OK at a certain point I don’t think I needed the Walker anymore and again I was feeling better and better every day.
Coming home was a tremendous relief. And from there I could feel myself again getting stronger getting better every day. Overall, I remained pretty upbeat about my situation. At every stage my caregivers and my physical therapists told me that I was ahead of schedule and coming along really really well. I had moved back to my bed upstairs and was making it up and down the stairs. I was still limited, but was doing more every day. The first point where I really got depressed was when we determined that my ankle was injured more than the initial assessment and that I would need surgery. At this point I knew I was going into a cast I knew I was going to have to move back to my bed downstairs and that I was not going to be able to get up and down to the kitchen and handle things and and and that was just that was depressing.
One of the things I say a lot is that “we are the stories that we tell ourselves”. My emotional journey since the injury indicates that this is mostly true. I believe that a large port of the reason for the progress in my recovery is that I have kept a positive app I have been very determined not to let this get me down and to keep moving forward. On the other hand experience teaches me that there’s only so far this will go um no matter how much I told myself that I was okay when I was down at the bottom of the ravine, I wasn’t.
The survivor aspect of my emotional journey came pretty naturally to me. I have always believed that no matter what happened I would find a way through. My daughter reminded me that being a “scraggly old man” means that you are a survivor, and heck yeah I’m a survivor.
But there’s another aspect to the emotional journey that I think is worth talking about and it is the part that I have to work harder on. I do recognize how incredibly lucky I was. I recognize that this incident could have gone much much worse I could have died I could have been paralyzed for life I could have in many ways been much much more injured than I was I am exceptionally lucky to be in the condition I am in. At the same time I still struggle with recognizing the things that are important and the things that aren’t. I would have thought before the accident that a near death experience such as this would clarify things for you would help me to understand what was important and what isn’t important. And yet I still find myself getting worked up over things that are just really not that important I still find it hard to let go of things that I should have let go get of and sometimes stress will get angry over things that are really unimportant.
I still have work to do but I know I’m getting better both physically and emotionally and I will keep doing the work.