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After a fall: 5 stages of recovery

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on May 16, 2012 at 7:00 AM


I’ve mentioned in previous posts the fact that a few months ago I was injured in a bicycle crash that caused a concussion and broken clavicle. I have learned a lot throughout this experience and have shared some of that wisdom in: 10 Things you can do for pain besides taking a pill, What to do when things fall apart, and Why falling apart is good for you.

Now I am working on making a full recovery from my injuries, which turns out to be a much more complicated and time-consuming process than I ever expected. I honestly thought that I would just gradually start feeling better and better each day until one day I would be totally back to normal. And, by “normal” I meant: exactly the same as I was before the fall.

Well, I was wrong. I was completely wrong about everything having to do with recovering from a fall. I am learning as I go and figuring things out one-day-at-a-time. So far I have been through 5 different stages during my recovery process. (There may be more that I haven’t gone through yet; I’ll let you know.) I have imagined that these “stages” might be similar for other people going through other types of difficulty, so I’m going to describe them here, but I might be completely wrong about that, too, just as I have been wrong about everything else having to do with recovery.

1. Stage One: Ridiculous Optimism (“It’s not that bad!” )During this stage you imagine that you are so strong and amazingly gifted that you are going to have the fastest and easiest recovery of any person-who-has-ever-existed-and-experienced-exactly-what-you-are-experiencing. Yes, you actually believe that. This stage might last for only a few days or hours.

2. Stage Two: Reality Slam (“This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to anyone!” ) Suddenly, gut-punching reality slaps you awake to recognize that you are in serious trouble and have absolutely no idea what to do about it. You whimper on the couch for hours at a time, feeling sorry for yourself and wondering why you are the only person you know who has ever suffered. This stage lasts forever (well … it seems like it.)

3. Stage Three: The Roller Coaster (“Yesss!!!” … “Noooo!!!” … “Yes!” … “No!” ) This stage begins the moment you actually start to feel slightly better. The first inkling of improvement causes a giddy rush of excitement and a return to the Ridiculous Optimism of Stage One that leads to overdoing absolutely everything including eating, exercising, working, playing, etc. Within 4-24 hours though all the improvement vanishes and you plunge directly back into Stage Two Reality. The cycle repeats itself over-and-over again as you foolishly believe you are really getting back to “normal” every time you improve just a little. This stage can last for weeks or even months, depending on how stubborn or foolish you are.

4. Stage Four: Quiet Despair (“Maybe this is as good as it gets.” ) This stage arrives when, exhausted from The Roller Coaster, you give up believing that you will ever be “normal” again. You cynically stop getting excited when you see any improvement because you know it will only be followed by another downturn. You stop caring whether or not you get better because it is too difficult and too painful to keep hoping. You sit quietly and slowly, gradually let go of your expectations and demands. This stage lasts … a moment … or a million moments … it’s all the same.

5. Stage Five: Dawning Awareness (“Everything changes.” ) This final stage begins as soon as you stop resisting the process and accept whatever comes to you. You finally understand that you will never be the same again. Your difficulties and injuries and sorrows have been sent to change you and to shape you into who you have always been meant to be. There is no “normal” state to which you can return. There is only this present moment and who you are right now. This stage lasts … (I don’t know yet, but I think … to infinity.)

So I’ve shared these stages of mine in hopes that, if you are in the difficult process of trying to recover from anything, you will recognize the pattern and perhaps feel some comfort that you are not alone. I don’t really know very much about all of this – only that there is a reason behind and an opportunity within everything that happens. Don’t forget that as you make your way on this fascinating journey. May your recovery take you exactly where you have been meant to go all along!

Categories: Illness & Healing, Transformation, Spirituality

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1 Comment

Reply Karen k. Wyatt
2:09 AM on June 24, 2012 
I found your website by sheer coincidence....we share a name. Interestingly, I broke my proximal humerous bone in three places in late December. So, we not only share a name, but also healing from a very painful injury around the same time period-give or take a few months. I read with curiosity what you have defined as the healing stages. Not bad! I had to laugh in recognition of some of the stages. One thing I would add....there seems to be a bouncing between stage 4 & 5. Like a ping pong ball, some days.
Thank you for the interesting read!
The other Karen

Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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