I'm not suggesting that losing your cycling, even permanently, is likely to have the same effects on you as life-threatening illness or the death of a loved one. However, given that your injury has resulted in a sense of loss--and perhaps, as noted above, a sense of loss that cuts quite deeply--truly accepting what's happened may accelerate your recovery. In other words, if you're stuck in one of the other stages, your recovery from injury could be stuck. What might this look like?
- Denial: "It's not that bad." "I'm fine." "I'm still racing tomorrow." "It's just a flesh wound."
- Anger: Repeatedly becoming angry with unusual intensity, frequency, or provocation. Could be anger directed toward self, others, pets, lawn furniture...
- Bargaining: "Coach, just let me do this one race." "If I do this one double century, I'll rest for the next seven days afterwards." "Doc, couldn't you just give me some pain pills?"
- Depression: Sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, irritability, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, loss of libido, loss of enjoyment, over- or under-sleeping, anxiety, inability to concentrate, lowered self-esteem.
Acknowledging and accepting what you've lost doesn't preclude working to get it back. But the more clear-eyed and clear-headed you are about what you've lost, the less likely you'll be to fill that space with something unhealthy.
Four More Steps Toward Recovery
Once you're clearer about what's going on within you, there are several things you can do to optimize your recovery:
- Determine your needs and build a team to meet those needs. Perhaps you're the kind of person who just needs a great doctor. On the other hand, you might benefit from support and guidance from such people as a physical therapist, alternative healthcare practitioners, a coach, a trainer, family and friends, a counselor or therapist, or clergy.
Since it's critically important to see health care professionals with whom you feel highly comfortable and trusting, you may need to get clearer beforehand on what affects your feelings of comfort and trust. Is it the person's approach to treatment and recovery? Their bedside manner? The cost? Whether they're on your insurance plan? Whether they've been referred to you by someone you trust?
- And don't forget: you're on the team, too. How you relate to yourself during your recovery--your self-talk, how you manage your emotions, your expectations--may make the biggest difference of all. Speaking of which...
- Set and reset your expectations for the recovery process/time as accurately as possible. Having healthcare professionals who you trust will certainly help with this. It may also help you to get educated about your injury via other sources. Arnie Baker's Bicycling Medicine, Andy Pruitt's Complete Medical Guide for Cyclists, and Brian Halpern's Knee Crisis Handbook are examples of books that I've found helpful.
- Minimize any decline in your physical fitness. You may be off the bike, but you may not be completely prevented from doing any sort of physical exercise. Physiologically, exercise will tend to help combat any mood or anxiety problems that you experience as a result of the injury. Plus, if you can see and feel that certain non-injured areas of your body are staying strong--or perhaps even getting stronger--your outlook will tend to improve.
- Take inventory of your core mental skills and use them. You're still in training; recovering from injury is just a different kind of training program from the one you're used to. All of your five core mental skills, some of which may need rehabilitation themselves, can make a big difference as you heal.