My Routine Physical that Ended in Surgery

by | Feb 15, 2020 | Inner Work | 9 comments

In an irony you almost have to appreciate, I broke my knee inside the hospital a few days ago.

I’m pretty freshly out of surgery right now, which is giving me plenty of time to sit in stillness, read, reflect, write, and hopefully use the time in a positive manner.

Look for plenty of calls the next couple of weeks!

What Happened

I’ve been really lucky health wise in terms of having no major injuries, and have been a bit of a yoga addict with a clean diet. I hadn’t had a routine physical in many years, never feeling like I needed one, and decided it would be responsible to finally do so now that I’m getting older. I received a flu shot for the first time, then blood was drawn for some tests.

Feeling glad that all seemed to be smooth, quick, and over with, I stood up after the bloodwork, picked up my bag, and shortly after hit the floor, fracturing the bone in my knee a few steps outside the Doctor’s office door.

Apparently this is called a vasovagal reaction, and if you ever have bloodwork done, sit and relax for a few minutes, even if you feel fine during the process! It can hit you some moments afterward. If you feel it, LIE down (not sit) because blood needs to get back to your head.

I guess you’re going to fall and break something, a hospital is the best place for it, as someone came to my aid within moments, and everyone I needed to see was in the same building.

Life is unpredictable, and at times almost cruelly ironic. I walked into a hospital, just to check that everything was fine (it was,) and left a few hours later on crutches and a broken kneecap, scheduled for surgery, with an adventure in the rain to my apartment via this new way of walking.

Even though I’m off my feet for a while, and am out of commission with my full-time job as a bass playing musician, this of course is quite minor compared to countless events that take place daily. How many people leave the house for something simple, only to be met with a far more debilitating or tragic outcome? Or have something far worse completely imposed upon them, sometimes in their very own homes?

Dealing In the Moment

I am always very grateful that I have been exposed to various tools and good teachers of inner work over the years when something jarring happens. It allows for perspective to enter, to handle emotions that come up in the moment, and to adopt a “do what needs to be done to move forward” mindset and clarity.

It’s very easy in these moments to freak out and allow our minds to bring us into an absolute horror show. Let the thought of never walking again, “I can’t bend my leg, what does this mean?!” — “is my career over?” – “how long until I can play again?” — “how much is this going to cost me” (I still don’t know) begin to grab too much of your attention, and they will easily snowball down some very dark pathways.

It’s invaluable to be able to direct the mental and emotional energy towards the task at hand, and there are always plenty of tasks at hand. Sometimes that task is just the smallest movement of your body. Stay present. Get into this wheel chair, deep breaths, EFT and calm the system down, process the shock a bit.

Ok, phone calls – whom do I need to notify, who am I working with this week that I’m gonna have to help get a sub musician for, feeling out the crutches, figuring out what to do with the car, planning the next steps, being advised that without surgery I could walk like a polio survivor for the rest of my life (I am close with one and know what they deal with, no thanks) and feeling everything in me say yes, do it ASAP.

These are heightened moments of life-as-meditation, and I always find that the benefits of practice can really show themselves here. On that line of thinking:

Presence When it “Counts”

Part of why it is so valuable to practice things like meditation, body awareness, appreciation and such during ‘normal’ everyday life, is that those muscles can kick in automatically and be effective when they are needed most.

In some ways, intense moments end up feeling like the big game that your “drills” were practice for.

Some things that kicked in during the experience:

Be grateful someone is here helping me. Appreciate that I’m conscious, I can still move my hands, I didn’t fall on my head.

Notice that in each moment, faced directly, there is still a centered peaceful awareness, even with pain, fear and uncertainty present in the body and mind. Be kind to the people I am interacting with.

Notice there are people around me dealing with much worse, and notice the increased empathy I have as I can no longer take some very basic movements for granted.

Notice how incredibly quickly a thought can spiral you into a particular direction, observe where they are going and redirect when needed.

Begin focusing on what healing is going to feel like, what will the experience be of being able to walk, do yoga, play bass, even better than before, feel like?

A First

This is my first time having an injury like this, my first surgery, and a few other firsts. There are so many different things it brings up, and several of them will be worth their own deeper exploration.

I’ll probably address many of them as separate posts, as I certainly have the time!

This will serve as an organizing outline to myself, and hopefully provide some useful ideas and discussion for anyone faced with sudden life-changing events or injuries. Please feel free to add others in the comments, as well as anything you’d like to see more expansion or a process on.

Different Aspects to Work With

Replaying

When a split second moment essentially changes your life for a while (and for many individuals, a moment that changes things forever,) it’s not uncommon for it to keep replaying in your mind.

That “if only” voice, often with an energy behind it as though continuing to re-create the scenario in your mind will create a legitimate do-over.

Rather than trying to stop this by force, which is an approach that basically never works for anything inner-related, try stepping into this very consciously. Extract whatever is coming up from each moment of the replay, including the desire to replay itself, and work with the various thoughts, fears, aversions, and other emotions that present themselves.

Blaming of self

“Why didn’t I do something differently?” Do you speak to yourself this way when something happens?

Even when things happen out of nowhere, even in the worst case when you truly are a victim of someone’s outright aggression against you, many of us have a voice that speaks in this tone.

I am the type that would very easily turn everything into ongoing self-blame.

“Why did you get a physical in the first place? Why did you bother, you felt fine?” is not exactly the most sensible argument, but it did make an attempt to hook me.

For now, I’d just recommend that you don’t try to approach these with too much logic – meaning, don’t expect the blame to shut itself off simply because you present a logical answer. You can by all means try it, and if it works for you, fantastic!

From my experiences at least, there is something more emotional underneath, or a desire to want to think everything could be controlled, and working on that level proved far more productive.

Blaming of Others

This seems to be a natural impulse to pop up, and then it is a matter of how much one engages with it.

Of course, there are instances where there really is someone at fault, and it may require speaking up or taking action to be acknowledged. This can happen from a place of equanimity as far your internal sate.

I am referring more to that mental-emotional process that ramps up in us that starts lashing out at others, and working with that as it comes up.

Fear Around Money and Cost

This one popped up for me pretty quickly. We’ve all heard stories. It can be scary what these life-moments can end up costing, for some people, just from being in what they call the wrong place at the wrong time.

I still don’t know what it’s going to be for my particular situation here, but for now, I’ve found the general practices of presence and dealing with each moment have greatly diminished the fear and foreshadowing nature of this voice.

If there is some information to gather, advice to ask, make those phone calls, check what you can, without allowing it to go down those emotional or internet rabbit holes. Now that I’ve put out there what I can, I’ll find out what happens when I find out, and when I do, that will be the time to make the next move.

As I mentioned, many if not all of these could have their own discussion, and this could get quite long, so I will simply list the others for now. I’m always curious to hear your thoughts or insights on any of these, what you would like to discuss first, or anything else.

Fear and Anxiety Around Not Being Able to Work

Fear of Declining Health, or Other Ramifications of injury

With fears in particular, I suggest noticing how much you step into the horrible future story your mind is presenting to you and start believing it to be real. Some of those tapes may play, but ground yourself, breathe and be present to this moment and see them as passing thoughts. Do not start believing them as something you need to ‘prepare’ for, which is going to engage everything down that direction.

Things that do need genuine preparation or adjustment for, if they are real and present, can have a certain calmness or at least groundedness to them that is very different than mind fears.

Disturbed by the Memory of the Incident

Physical Trauma in the Body from Impact or Injury

Physical Trauma in the Body from Surgery – even if unconscious

Disturbed by Any of the Repairs – In my case for example, wires in the knee, staples on the incision.

Visualizing the Healing. Seeing the Body as Healed.

Feeling the Feeling of Being Even Better than Before.

This is quite a lot for now, but without getting too deeply into them, I find it very useful and productive to see these as elements I can easily look at, and work through in my own way with guided awareness meditation, EFT tapping.

I feel I have already gleaned some valuable insights and growth from this, and intend to use this experience to come out of it better than I was before.

To those of you who are dealing with injuries, chronic pain or other similar experiences, I have a massively increased level of respect and empathy for you!

Also, with all of this extra time, and an inability to earn from my primary profession, I am discounting private sessions pretty steeply for a couple of weeks.

Click Here if you are interested. Thanks!

 

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Sean

2 weeks ago, I got judo slammed on the side of my head during a sparring session, completely out of my control. Got a concussion out of that, headaches, body’s sleep cycle changed, slurring my words, having trouble focusing and doing any mentally intensive work for the 1st few days (even now, but better). Being an engineering student involved with ambitious projects and wanting to do well in my future career certainly doesn’t go well with having a brain trauma that impacts my cognitive function. My mind has defintely been fired up to a whole new level especially with the… Read more »

Ewa

In 2018 totally unexpected health problem happened to me. I have been studying Vedanta and Vedic knowledge for many years, and since 2005, when I got a retirement (truly speaking very early, the earliest as the Polish Law then allowed. It looked like a miracle, because I wanted this very much in order to be free and to have time for what I was interested in) – so since 2005 I have been living every year from March to September in my country and from October to March in India. For more than for 20 years I have been translating… Read more »

Stephen

Ewa
I loved reading your story and Evan I hope you heal well.
Steve

Marie

Wishing you all the best in your recovery and thank you for sharing these profound insights!

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