10 Things I Learned From Severing My Big Toe Tendon

Note: Originally published 8/6/2018 on my old website.

When I dropped a knife on my foot in early July, I immediately knew it was bad.

I knew it would take a long time to heal, but when I got the news from the podiatrist that it severed my big toe tendon (extensor hallucis longus) and required surgery, I did what any normal person would do: I cried. Like a baby.

Being immobile is close to my worst nightmare – I rely on my body, like most people, to complete the most basic of tasks, but I also use it for my job and to do the most enjoyable activities to me: Walking and hiking with my dog, exercising, and exploring new places.

I learned pretty quickly some huge lessons about all those hidden truths that I took for granted:

1. The Americans with Disabilities Act is so, so important. I am fortunate enough to have a temporary disability, but I am incredibly grateful for the handicap parking spaces, ramps, and automatic doors that have made my life so much easier. Yes, people take advantage of the system. Yes, as a business owner it can be a headache to make modifications. But the good that has come with these laws has far outweighed the bad.

2. As my friend Heather pointed out, asking people to help me is giving them the gift of feeling helpful. It took me many days to really “get” it, but witnessing first hand all the people – strangers, friends and family – jump in with a smile made me actually believe that people like helping out. I still feel very uncomfortable every time I realize I can’t do something, but it’s getting less scary to ask.

3. I am facing (daily) the body-shame demons of my past. Fear of weight gain, wanting to diet, wanting to control what, how much, and when I eat feels so tempting when everything feels out of control. It took me a long time to decide to post the photo for this blog. My inner critic was screaming at me for having stomach rolls, rather than pointing out how much fun I had that day at Lake Tahoe, using my nephew’s floatie for my cast. The difference now versus the past? I’m not acting on it. I’m noticing those thoughts, letting them come and go, and continuing to infuse self-compassion and self-care into my everyday life.

4. Practicing what I preach has been a fun challenge. I’ve trained many clients through serious injuries and impairments, changing up their normal workout program with creative modifications so they can continue to work out. Now that I’m on the receiving end, it’s really gratifying to feel how I was 100% right – continuing to workout, even in a much lower than normal capacity is hugely beneficial physically, mentally, and emotionally during an injury. With the right attitude and mindset, it’s totally possible to strike the right balance between the extremes of no movement and pushing yourself too hard.

5. Humor is the best way through it. Martin and I are constantly making knife jokes, and he likes to call me “Wheelie” and “Speedy” as I zip around on my knee scooter. Laughter helps put all this into perspective.

6. Comfort is king. Similar to asking for help, it’s really hard for me to justify spending time and money on comfort. I usually just power through it. This time, I decided to purchase padding for my knee scooter, pads for my crutches, and a handy plastic cover for the cast while I’m taking a bath. Now that I’m forced to take a bath rather than shower, I’ve even started using all the bath bombs and salts I’ve collected over the years, waiting for a “special occasion.” This seems pretty special, right?

7. Whoever invented the knee scooter is a genius. That thing has been such an important part of being able to get around!

8. My boyfriend, Martin, is so amazing. I mean, I knew this before, but when you go through a tough time, it really does test your relationship. He’s helped me every step of the way and HASN’T COMPLAINED ONCE. We had 2 vacations planned and instead of cancelling them, he took the reigns and figured out how to make it work. He is level headed, calm, compassionate, helpful, funny, and tireless. He shows me what a man and a partner should be.

9. It’s exhausting to do the most basic things – going to the bathroom, bathing, getting dressed, making coffee – I’m way more tired now than when I used to train several clients, do a workout, and walk Ruzka for a couple hours. I sort of conceptually understood this, but experiencing it has given me a whole new level of empathy for people with both short and long-term disabilities. This is draining and any technology, tools, and resources we can provide them to make the daily tasks of life easier so they can focus on thriving is beneficial to our whole society.

10. Conversations with strangers are interesting – I get at least one person a day approaching me about their own horrible injury story and giving me words of encouragement. Sometimes, yes, it’s annoying and I don’t want to talk because I hate having to think about it all day. But most of the time, I appreciate the human connection that comes out of pain. Silver lining, right?

Thanks for reading – what have you learned from your previous injuries?