If you’ve been following along here or on instagram, you might know my last 12 months have been tough. You can read my backstory about shattering my leg here. I celebrated (with champagne!) at my one year mark last week, and I had 11 plates and 2 screws removed a few days ago. It was a big week and a humungous milestone!
Right now I’m feeling happier (and lighter!) than I have in the last year, and really hopeful that this 3rd surgery will allow me to return to an active and pain-free lifestyle. The hardware was moving out of my bones. Most recently I had huge lumps of swelling appearing in different places around my knee and shin. My body was rejecting the metal a year later! One screw had moved 7mm out toward my skin and was rubbing on a tendon and ligament. Excruciating. So you might understand why I was the happiest person in the hospital to be undergoing surgery last Friday. Out damn hardware, out!I have been feeling little glimmers of my true self coming back in recent months–the Sarah I was before all this happened. And it’s EXCITING. It’s the greatest feeling, to think–I will be myself again, I will defeat this obstacle. I will get back to pushing myself in the gym, to my dear sweet loving yoga practice, to running around town, to dancing at weddings. I will not live in constant fear of injury. I will be full of joy and confidence again.
I’ve been laying in bed recovering from this last surgery for several days, so I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the last year. It’s been a powerful year of growth–I feel lucky that I can share with you what I’ve learned so far. Maybe these lessons will help, inspire or motivate someone out there going through something hard.
One year POst injury: 15 things I’ve learned…for life!
1) Having family close-by is everything. Don’t know how I would have survived without their love and support. I love my family more than anything. Going through an accident where I felt completely helpless and dependent has made me realize even more so how important it is to pick the right family going forward–the family I surround myself with beyond my blood family.
2) Trim the unsustainable fat in your life. Do this now before the unsustainable things blow up in your face. I’m talking business and life systems. If something needs you on it 100% of the time in order to function properly and not blow up or create havoc–it is unsustainable. Fix it, right now, before you are in a state where you can’t fix it, and it creates an even greater lump of business or life stress.
3) Have a 6+ month emergency fund. OK, people, this is an important one. I’d even suggest a 1 year emergency fund. Why not protect yourself? Aim for 6 months to a year of all monthly living expenses saved up and set aside. Currently growing mine now, I’m actually obsessing over it. Every dollar I can put in that fund allows me to rest a little easier–if something unforeseen comes up again, I have myself financially covered for a little while. I’ve learned this is waaaaaay more important than any vacation I want to take, or any shoes I want to buy. After this extra crazy experience, I’d vote to put some extra extra in that fund for any unforeseen expenses that might pop up outside your normal living expenses….Like $100 (each way) Uber rides to your new best friend the orthopedic doctor up in Westchester. (Ouch!)
4) Don’t skimp on health insurance. Go cheap on some things…. but don’t go cheap on health insurance. (Or any insurance for that matter.) I’m so glad I had the insurance that I did–if I didn’t, I would have been left with nearly a quarter of a million dollars in medical bills. Did ya hear that?! $250,000. Carrying this lesson over to all areas in my life–don’t skimp on the really important things that protect your health, safety and finances. ps. You are freaking nuts if you are walking around uninsured.
5) There is no time for unhealthy relationships in this beautiful life. Going through a stressful life event is hard enough as it is. The minute someone starts abusing your love, kindness, intelligence, confidence, joy and makes you doubt yourself, let them go. You do not need to be fixed. You are perfect the way you are. If someone abuses you once, they will continue to abuse you. They will start small and the abuse will grow. Let them go the very first instance you recognize this negative treatment. It will not change, even though they say it will. It will not get better, until you take control and remove them from your life. Stop making excuses and say goodbye.
6) Share what you are going through. The good, bad, ugly–get it out of your mind and body. In a world where we all rely on technology to stay connected, it can get pretty isolating, especially while you are going through something hard. If you don’t have anyone in your life you can open up to, find a therapist to talk to frequently. Sharing my progress both here on the blog and on social media has been remarkably therapeutic. The outpouring of encouragement and love really lifted me up during those scary and seemingly helpless early days of injury.
7) Take care of yourself. No matter what you’re going through, keep doing things that make you feel good, pampered, happy, healthy. Even if whatever you’re going through is all consuming, make time to take a long bath, get a manicure, go to a yoga class, see a friend, visit that new musuem, watch your Netflix show. If you don’t make time for yourself, no one will. I don’t care who yells at you for getting that over-priced fresh-pressed green juice during a life crisis–if it makes you feel better, DRINK IT DOWN. Take care of yourself emotionally–allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. If you are feeling it–it’s not wrong. Go with it. Most importantly, go easy and be gentle with yourself.
8) This is a chapter, not your book. Whatever is happening right now, it can’t last forever. When you are in the thick of it, and time is going so slowly, it’s easy to think this is the place you will be stuck forever. Something will eventually change. No storm lasts forever. Hold on to the thought: this is just one chapter. (Thanks to my sister Melissa for repeating this one to me for a year!)
9) Ask for help. I’m awful at this. But getting better. Sometimes we have no choice but to ask for help. It’s humbling, but everyone at some point needs help. Put aside your ego and ask for as much help as you need.
10) Double your stash. Keep two of daily necessities. Two toothpastes, two Greek yogurts containers, two peanut butters, two bags of dog food. When the first runs out, get a second in place again. This way you are never in that stressful place of “everything is so hard right now AND I have no coffee for tomorrow morning!” My sister Toby taught me this. It really does help immensely with the minutiae of life.
11) Go paperless. Wherever you can, cut down on clutter to keep your environment more peaceful and organized. I’m extremely affected by my surroundings, so when I see piles of paperwork everywhere, it makes me feel disorganized and anxious. Separate piles into different folders, like “to do,” “pending,” and “complete”. Take care of mail the day it comes in–so piles don’t form. Set up auto-pays where you can, so you don’t miss bills because you are consumed by an all encompassing life event. If you are knocked off your saddle for a little while, set up an auto-email response saying you may take a little while longer than usual to respond, so personal or business contacts know there is something going on and you aren’t ignoring their communication.
12) Keep a video diary. I did this in the beginning days of my injury. They can be hard to look back on–some I have deleted, they were so tough to watch again. The endless amounts of anxiety cannot stay pent up in your body–it isn’t healthy. For me, recording videos was easier than journaling. It was somewhere to dump my feelings when I needed to get them out.
13) Celebrate progress. Recognize when things are starting to get better! And celebrate! I mean, call your friends and break out the champagne. I don’t care how small of an accomplishment or milestone you’ve hit. Celebrate each and every step. This is your journey, and you need to embrace every little step of it.
14) Help someone else. Take your newfound levels of compassion and perspective from going through something tough, and reach out to someone who needs a boost. Volunteer somewhere. Donate your time and resources. Helping others in need will put whatever you are going through into perspective.
15) Make plans. You have to look forward to something. Anticipation is one of the greatest things in life! If you don’t have anything to look forward to, it can make you feel that much more stuck in your tough situation. Last spring, summer and fall I was not mobile in the slightest, but I knew as soon as I could get on an airplane, I was going to LA to see my sister. The anticipation of that adventure helped motivate me to keep pressing through my recovery. This spring, I’m more mobile, and making some bigger plans for summer adventures (details coming soon!). Life is meant to be lived–not feared. Make sure you are looking forward to something every day…make plans for yourself, no matter how big or small they might be.
I can’t count how many times I’ve said to myself, “I just want to fast forward through this.” When I’m feeling this way, I try to remember, there is no growth without struggle. There is no such thing as a strong person with an easy past. Whatever challenge you are going through right now, it is preparing you for something big and beautiful down the road.