Nearly 9 weeks ago, I suffered the greatest injury to my body ever. I have had the good fortune of never breaking a bone, enduring an overnight stay at a hospital, or surgery (I never had the pleasure of being “put under” while my wisdom teeth were being pulled, but that’s a different story). While playing softball, in a moment of instincts (or lack thereof) I dove head first (first time ever!) into 3rd base. While I was safe, I picked my head up, and saw the white of my bones, my finger bent at an unnatural angle- I had a compound (bone broke through the skin) dislocated finger. Ew!
This week, I was finally given the pat on the back by the doctor, that I no longer needed to go to occupational therapy, and no longer need to have follow ups on my finger. I was told that my knuckle will always be a bit bigger, but the swelling would continue to subside, and that I should continue to do my exercises to regain full range of motions and functioning. Yes, my finger is still swollen from the trauma of almost 3 months ago (my finger still remembers).
The good doctor, stated that it takes about 3 months before the tenderness and swelling would go down, 3 months, 90 days, for one little injury, albeit traumatic for my finger.
We often hear about our favorite sports heroes and their journey back from a potentially career ending injury, all the time they rehab-ed and trained to get back to their playing condition. We admire their dedication to their body, so they can return back to their team to hopefully be ready for the playoffs. We always hear the prognosticators talk about that while they are back in the game, it usually takes much longer for their body to be 100%, and so true.
The body can/will heal, but it takes time, often times longer than we would ever think:
What are the effects of unexpected loss, a sexual assault, living in a crime ridden neighborhood, school violence, threats via social media, or exposure to domestic violence?
How does the body respond to psychological trauma?
Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk is one of the world’s leading experts in the field of trauma. The title of his newest book says it all: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. The connection between mind and body has been well established, but the idea that psychological trauma not only affects, but resides in our bodies is a new idea and gaining traction. I look forward to reading and learning more about these ideas.
It seems easier to go to hand therapy two times a week to get massaged, and play with various apparatuses, than to go to psychotherapy once a week to process through the mental, emotional, and physiological experiences and effects of trauma. There’s a stigma with counseling, it requires vulnerability, it’s intense, but its not the only option. If you’re not ready for counseling, that’s OK, but you may be ready for some guided meditation, yoga specific to your trauma, acupuncture, Tai Chi, couch to 5k program, swimming laps, SUP (stand up paddleboarding), etc.
Our mind and body “remembers” trauma,” and it takes an intentional active “mental” and/or “physical” approach for recovery.
Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself.
Take care of your mind and body.