Looking Back at 2017: Learning About Strength

It’s really easy to lose hope when all you’re focusing on is what you can’t do.

“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but actually you’ve been planted.” —Christine Caine

This quote showed up in my LinkedIn newsfeed recently and it really struck a chord with me. I’ve been debating whether or not to talk about this, but after an encouraging meeting with my manager I’ve decided to share. As I’m writing this, I’m still amazed that 9 months ago just typing this much would have been impossible.

I was in a car accident on January 20, 2017 that totaled my car and sent me right to the hospital. I had 3 surgeries in 2 weeks and then another surgery this summer. My wrist was basically put back together (shoutout to Dr. Wolfe and HSS for that miracle).

When you go through physical trauma, there’s no time to assess how you’re feeling emotionally because every waking moment is spent on your recovery. Even in my hospital bed, every 3 hours I was woken up for blood draws and physical therapy. I didn’t have time to be sad or be depressed or be angry at the driver that caused all of this. I had to keep going.

After a few weeks with my parents I moved back to my apartment and that’s when the depression sunk in. I started realizing things I couldn’t do: clean my room (that required lifting), brush my hair (that required twisting my wrist), cook (everything requires two hands). I couldn’t drive so I was stranded unless I took an Uber. I saw my hand therapist 3 times a week but other than that I was alone.

It’s really easy to lose hope when all you’re focusing on is what you can’t do. 

The day before my accident I was in the gym doing deadlifts, now I could barely lift my arm.

One of the smartest things my Occupational Therapist told me to do is take a picture every week of what my hand can do. I have pictures of my fingers struggling to make a fist, videos of a grip barely strong enough to hold a pen for a few seconds. All of these moments in time where I thought I was failing and that nothing would get better.

Then I started making a list of every milestone (regardless of how silly it sounded) that I accomplished:

  • Moving each finger on its own
  • Making a fist
  • Having a grip longer than 3 seconds
  • Holding a fork steady
  • Turning a key
  • Writing my name
  • Carrying things
  • Using chopsticks
  • Pushing a door open
  • Throwing a medicine ball
  • Driving a car again
  • Pushing myself up from a chair
  • Not having panic attacks while driving anymore
  • 5lb wrist curls
  • Chest press
  • Wall push-ups

And the list keeps growing every day I go to the gym and every day I forget that I had an accident.

I know that a lot of this was rambling, but I have a point I promise! This year I’ve had to rebuild my wrist, accept the defeat of depression, and become resilient to what comes next. Strength doesn’t mean 125lb deadlifts, it means typing all of this without pain. It means getting out of bed on days I don’t want to, driving to work, and putting on a smile.

2017 was not the year I was defeated. I was planted, growing roots, getting stronger. 

And I look forward to what I’ll accomplish in 2018.

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