In the weeks since my shoulder surgery I have been fortunate to have the support from friends, acquaintances and well-wishers. The questions asked follow similar themes. How do you feel? Much better, although the hardware is a nuisance. Are you able to workout? Thankfully, yes. Can you swim? Yes, I am even back at Masters. How is the scar? It looks amazing, my surgeon trained with a plastic surgeon in LA where ugly scars are forbidden. Do you need a doctor’s note to pass through security at the airport?
No clue, but if I undergo a full cavity search on my next trip I will be sure to get one. There has been one question left unasked, though, perhaps due to its taboo nature: How are you mentally? Physical wounds heal on a somewhat predictable time schedule. Mental wounds are more finicky, arising when least expected, usually during inopportune moments causing bewilderment and fear.
After the crash, I experienced the expected anger and disappointment. Those emotions were quickly supplanted by pain and the desire to diminish the pain. I focused on planning the surgery, having the surgery and then recovering from surgery which limited my waking time dwelling on the mental aspect of what had occurred. However, nightmares about the crash often jolted me awake in the wee hours of the morning reminding me that there were issues that needed reflection and resolution. Unfortunately, this moment occurred Thanksgiving evening. I ruptured, completely decompensating, crying uncontrollably and feeling depressed. The timing could not have been worse, ruining the holiday for my husband (who has been a Saint during this time). After this episode, I presumed the worst was over and mental healing was accomplished.
How wrong I was. Yesterday I was shocked to realize that my mental healing is not complete, not even close. It all came to pass during a bike ride. One of my favorite workouts of the week is the long ride; not a long ride on the trainer, but a long ride outside enjoying a beautiful day in the company of good friends. After many weeks of trainer workouts due to cold and snow, Boulder was treated to a spate of warm days enabling me to enjoy the great outdoors. The prospect of a 55 degree weekend day was thrilling and the haggling with riding buddies began on Thursday to determine a time and place to commence what would be my first “long” ride of the year. As the cast of characters on the ride grew so did my level of anxiety. When we set off in a group of nine I felt unsettled. As the pace quickened and we started passing riders on the road and even picked up a pack, my body tensed and my brain was overwhelmed with thoughts of falling, residual fear from my November crash. I could not relax, I wanted to turn back, I wanted to scream, I wanted to crawl off my bike, I couldn’t breath. Immersion therapy seemed like the best plan to overcome these fears quickly, so I continued on, thankful when I pulled up to my house intact.
There it is. The physical wounds are healing nicely. I have a lump on my shoulder where the hardware protrudes and I will not model strapless garments anytime soon. The deeper wounds, the ones that cannot be seen and cannot be fixed by medicine, will mend with continued patience and time and I now realize the process cannot be rushed.