About three years ago, I broke both my elbows. Yes, both of them at the same time. I was riding my bike and my shoe slipped from the pedal and I flipped over my handlebars. I had just started at Grand Valley and was still doing a lot of meet and greets. Because of this experience, I learned a few things:
1- Healing hurts.
I have always associated healing with a positive connotation. However, anyone who has ever recovered from a broken bone or surgery knows that healing is a painful process. The same goes for emotional healing. When we are recovering from something traumatic or difficult, we should expect some pain as our body tries to recover. We can validate ourselves knowing that the pain we experience may be a signal that we are healing.
2- Growth also hurts.
After months of resting and caring for my elbows, I was able to begin slowly resuming my normal functioning. As I grew stronger, I noticed there is pain that is associated with growth. This can be seen in other aspects of life as well. My tween son will often complain of “growing pains.” When a person lifts weight for strength training they will feel sore the next day as their muscles are strengthened.
3- Rest is imperative and restorative.
The treatment for my broken elbows was simply rest. My body knows how to heal itself, so with strategic exercises and rest, I was able to use my elbows again. The sling was meant to encourage me to rest. It also served as a symbol to others that I was wounded. I was walking around wounded with my double slings and couldn’t help but see the parallel to our emotional lives. I think a lot of us walk around emotionally wounded. Whether it is walking around with a heavy heart for a family member who is suffering or our own personal anxieties and traumas, we all have things we are healing from emotionally. However, there is no outward expression or symbol of our healing. I wish there was because then perhaps in our shared suffering we would be more empathetic to each other as humans.
4- Rest is active and deliberate.
If I continued to use my elbows and neglected the doctor’s orders to rest, I risked causing long-term damage. Similarly, when we go through emotional pain, we forget the power of rest. If we neglect rest and keep pushing, we only add to the long-term pain we may have to deal with later. We keep walking around wounded wondering why we are sad, stressed, or anxious. Rest can be active and deliberate; such as, practicing meditation, going to counseling, or mindful grieving.
5- People want to help if they can.
It was so interesting to see how people responded to me when they saw me in a double sling. They asked me if they could grab me a plate of food or help me with the door. As an independent person, it was so difficult to let others help; however, their help was imperative to my healing. I saw how happy and willing people were to help. In accepting help, I was able to heal.
Emotional wellness includes having skills to cope and bounce back from difficulties. These lessons carried over from the physical to the emotional in a way I will never forget. The chaos in today’s society reminds me of this experience. I try to practice loving kindness as I think about the many people walking around emotionally wounded. I hope that the pain we are experiencing means we are healing and growing. I encourage myself and others to rest and let others help.
May this reflection validate any pain you feel. I hear you. I see you.