8 Things I Learned When I Snapped My Wrist
Originally published at www.amillionhappythoughts.com
It was 3AM and I was wide awake.
I had been tossing and turning for the past three hours, but I still couldn’t fall asleep.
I was recovering from a broken wrist after crashing my motorbike. I hadn’t slept through the night in weeks because I couldn’t find a position that didn’t cause a searing pain to shoot through my arm.
I wasn’t thrilled about it, but it certainly gave me ample time to reflect on my break. And I do love a good reflection.
This experience has been challenging and painful. But it is from the most challenging and painful times that the greatest lessons emerge.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- You truly do not know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
It turns out there’s more to that catchy chorus than parking lots and paradise. Often, we take things for granted. And it’s only after we’ve lost them that we realize truly how valuable they are.
This became painfully obvious (literally) when I lost ability of my entire right arm and hand.
Do you know what’s easy to do?
Plugging in your phone, washing your hands, putting on pants, unscrewing a water bottle, taking money out of your wallet, and squeezing toothpaste onto your toothbrush.
Do you know what’s easy to do when you can only use your non-dominant hand?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
I never realized how much I relied on my wrist until I couldn’t use it. It was really frustrating struggling through every menial task, but it made me incredibly grateful that I normally have the ability to use both hands.
2. It’s okay to ask for help.
When I first got to the hospital, the nurse told me I needed to shower before my surgery.
My body didn’t have the strength to keep my broken wrist elevated and my mind didn’t have the strength to suffer through the pain of standing with it dangling at my side.
She must have read the look of panic on my face, because she nodded and walked away.
I thought she was going to let me skip the cleaning.
Instead, she returned with a tub of hot water, and, after slowly undressing me, wiped down my entire body while I stayed in bed.
At first, I was mortified. In addition to the incredible intimacy shared with this stranger, I was forced to surrender my independence.
I like to think that I’m strong and capable. Allowing the nurse to bathe me shattered both of those beliefs.
But the truth was — I couldn’t have done it without her.
And that’s okay.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable, and it’s important to remind yourself that you don’t have to do everything alone.
You don’t have to struggle for five minutes trying to open a bag of almonds (like I did). Let go of your ego and ask for help. It is absolutely okay.
3. There is always room for gratitude.
In addition to the kind nurse that carefully washed my body for me, there were a million things to be grateful for.
But in the mix of pain, discomfort, and frustration, it wasn’t always easy to remember that. There were times that I was so upset about everything that I just wanted to give up.
But even in those times, I knew that I had a long list of things to be grateful for.
I was fortunate enough to have access to good healthcare, to have my family around to help me recover, to have a working left hand, to have medicine that offered pain relief, to have podcasts and audiobooks to listen to when I couldn’t do anything else. The more I thought about it, the longer the list was.
Even in the most painful times, I was still alive. And that in itself was more than enough to be grateful for.
4. What does not kill you makes you stronger.
Last year, I read a book about Stoicism and loved it. One Stoic principle is to inflict discomforts upon oneself. On purpose.
No, Stoics are not crazy. And, no, they’re not masochistic.
Think about discomfort as a vaccine.
By exposing yourself to a little bit of it now, you will build immunity that will protect you from it later.
Or, put another way, what does not kill you makes you stronger.
After my accident, I learned this firsthand (no pun intended!).
My tolerance for pain has definitely skyrocketed. I’ve learned to become a ninja with my left hand. I’ve become a stronger meditator because it’s harder to quiet your mind while enduring physical pain.
And, on top of all of that, I’ve been able to convert every challenge into a valuable life lesson.
Strength, leveled up.
5. You can accomplish anything if you take small, steady steps in the right direction.
When I first broke my wrist, I couldn’t move my hand at all. I needed my left hand to physically push my right elbow up in order to raise my arm in the air. I was convinced I would never regain control of my arm, wrist, or fingers.
But I was determined.
Every day, I stared at my fingers for hours and tried to bend them. I couldn’t do it.
It’s a strange feeling to watch your own body struggle to do things that used to happen effortlessly.
Despite the lack of progress, I continued practicing. And on the third day, I was able to push my fingers down to a 90 degree angle.
The celebration was short because I quickly moved on to my next challenge: making a fist.
The first day out of surgery, I couldn’t imagine making a fist. But after weeks of slow and steady practice, I was able to master it.
And this is how it works for anything.
Big goals are simply a compilation of many little goals.
Every book starts with a few sentences. Every addiction is broken one day at a time. Every diet begins with one healthy meal.
We can do anything if we’re willing to slowly chip away at progress. But you have to start somewhere.
6. Pain is inevitable, but suffering isn’t.
The first few days after I broke my wrist, I spent the majority of my time lying in bed. At first, it was because I was stuck in the hospital, but even after I got home, I didn’t make any effort to get out.
I was in a lot of pain and thought that it wasn’t worth my energy to mobilize. So instead, I stayed in bed and felt sorry for myself.
However, I soon realized that I didn’t need to let the pain control my life.
Pain was there whether I was lying in bed or whether I was enjoying a good meal with people I love. There was no reason for me to deprive myself of the things in my life that brought me joy simply because I had some pain in my arm.
There will always be some sort of pain, whether that’s a broken heart or a broken wrist or anything in between.
But there will also always be beauty.
Don’t let the former keep you from enjoying the latter.
7. The human body is freaking amazing.
Less than three weeks ago, there was a bone in my arm that was completely snapped. Now, I’m almost back to my complete range of motion.
That is unbelievable! It’s magic!
A lot of that credit goes to modern medicine and my doctor, but my body did a lot of the healing too.
It healed all of my cuts and bruises. It regained strength in all of its muscles. And the other parts continued working perfectly while doing so.
This experience has made me so thankful for my body and all of the amazing things it can do. In addition to healing itself, it can digest food, filter toxins, and carry me wherever I want to go.
And I think that is amazing.
8. Life is an unbelievably precious gift.
Before this accident, I thought I was invincible. But there’s something about driving full speed into a brick wall that makes you evaluate your mortality.
I walked away from this accident with a broken wrist, but if things went just slightly differently, I wouldn’t have walked away at all.
This isn’t exclusive to motorbike accidents. All it takes is one false move and I could be dead.
Life is an amazing gift, but it’s also fragile. Nothing is guaranteed.
So we need to take care of ourselves and take nothing for granted. Because life is extremely precious, and it could be gone before you know it.
Nobody’s life is perfect. Bad things are inevitably going to happen. But we always have a choice to let them defeat us, or let them teach us.
So if you’re going through a tough time, don’t worry! Look for lessons and you’ll emerge stronger and wiser.
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