5 Important Life Lessons A Broken Leg Taught me About Mental Health

My life in 2023 was a series of life lessons. I was caught in a cycle of chaos and uncertainty.

I spent the year with a whirlwind of doctors as we hunted the mystery illness that was causing my fainting.

I was so focused on my physical health, that I forgot I needed to spend time nurturing my mental health as well.

Hell, I was so busy trying to stand up straight and not faint on a daily basis that I didn’t even think about mental health at all. I was stuck in a constant state of anxiety and survival.

Until the fateful day in September when I broke my leg.

And on that day, I decided that I would nurture my mind and my body during my recovery. I would bring back balance to my life.

This is the story of the life lessons I learned about nurturing mental health from a broken leg.

Mental Health Life Lessons I Learned From My Broken Leg Recovery

The Day I Broke My Leg

Honestly, this isn’t going to be one of those broken leg stories that impress you. It’s not filled with adventure or even a shocking accident. In fact, it’s going to confirm just how accident prone I can be.

This broken leg story is on going. We’re still hunting the “why” as of Feb 2024.

Sometimes things just happen. No reason, no warning, no event. Just a result. We don’t always get to know why.

Life is just that way. And that is what happened to me the day I broke my leg.

That morning I woke up, and went to take the pups outside for their morning potty. I never made it to the back door.

I paused at the bottom of the staircase.

My left leg felt full, tingly, odd. But unlike the cold tingly feeling in my calves that precede my fainting episodes, this was a complete feeling of disconnection with everything below my left knee.

As anxiety crept into my body and I prepared to faint, I moved to sit on the bottom stair of my staircase to protect my body from a fall injury.

That’s when the white hot pain spread through my lower left leg.

I would find out later the extent of my injuries. But at that time all I knew was I needed help, and I needed it now. Thankfully, my support system rallied to help me.

After learning of my broken leg, I knew my life was going to be different during my recovery and for the rest of my life.

Life Lesson: When Life is Hard Getting Support Isn’t Optional

We all need a helping hand, whether its a friend or a medical professional. When you are not your best, you need a support system to lean on.

When we experience something as traumatic as a broken leg, we don’t think twice about calling for help.

We see a doctor, get a cast or in my case surgery, and we get the help we need to recover.

But we don’t think of asking for the same kind of support when it’s our mental health.

Your support system is your foundation for nurturing your mental health.

We need to have the same high standards for both our mental and physical health because they are intertwined.

You cannot heal without support. From mental health professionals, self care & anxiety coaches, friends, family, or a support group, your support system is the backbone of your plan to improving mental health.

Thankfully my family was here to help me as I had “fallen and couldn’t get up’ moment. They helped coordinate and streamline my care with Emergency Medical Services. Also, super big shout out the the Fort Belvoir Fire and Rescue. They were so comforting and kind.

Embracing Change and Growth is Hard During Healing

No one likes change, especially when it is thrust upon you. But to grow and heal, you need to make changes.

Embracing change so you can grow is not easy.

I struggled against change when I first started battling chronic illness, I struggled when I broke my leg, and I sure struggled when I was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Change is hard, and scary. But without change, we are not allowing space for healing.

Life Lesson: You have to Embrace Your Vulnerability

My broken leg introduced so many changes to my life. Both emotionally and physically.

I was so angry that I could no longer provide for myself. I had to accept that my life had changed. And it will never be the same again.

Not only do I have emotional disability, I now have a physical one as well.

Trauma, either physical or emotional, always brings change.

I had to accept that my broken leg had left me vulnerable. I had to grieve what I lost.

I had to accept I needed more help from my service dog, I needed my support system, and I needed to make a new self care plan to help me deal with my situation.

Did it make me weak? No. Did it make me a burden? Also no.

All it changed was how I needed more self care. Nothing more.

At first my feelings overwhelmed me. I felt like a burden, but as I apologized to everyone who was caring for me their reply shocked me. No one felt like I was a burden. No one didn’t want to help. No one felt I was taking advantage of them.

Doctors and nurses loved caring for me as I was their easiest patient. Friends were happy to help me just like I helped them. And family were happy to send get well gifts to keep my busy while I healed since they were too far away to help care for me. And my husband, well he told me that I was not a burden to him even if I couldn’t physically contribute I was still providing love and emotional support that our family needed.

I was projecting my own feelings onto them and assuming I didn’t deserve care. My low self esteem was convincing me I was not worthy if I could not give my all while everyone was happy to help me without being asked.

When I accepted my new situation and that asking and receiving help was not a weakness; I no longer felt guilt, shame, and embarrassment. My medical trauma no longer triggered me.

Mental health care is the same as a physical injury. Ignore the wound and it can become inflamed, infected and cause bigger issues.

No one ignores a problem wanting things to get worse.

Fear tricks us into feeling that ignoring problems will make them go away.

By embracing vulnerability, you are accepting yourself as you are right now. You are making room to heal and grow as the person you are right now and want to be.

RELATED POST: What is Self Care & Unlocking the Benefits of Self Care

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My surgeons were required to sign the leg. I told them I felt like a rock star had signed me! And it was true!

Nurturing Mental Health During My Recovery

I have to give a HUGE kudos to my surgical teams at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.

Those guys juggled my chronic illnesses and my leg trauma like the pros they are. They provided me with amazing care that helped me learn to balance my new needs in that first week after my surgery.

It was this amazing team that helped me accept my new status of bionic badass, and taught me the skills I needed to take care of my newly repaired leg.

Just as I have done with my mental health for over a decade.

Life Lesson: Self Care was Essential To Provide Balance

Just like a broken leg, I created my own self care kit and plan for my mental health.

Everyone needs self care!

It is not selfish, it is a necessity for growth and healing. And it is what brings balance back during chaos.

Proper self care not only treats you in the moment but allows you to prepare for life’s little surprises before they occur.

Since I was transferred to a hospital that could accommodate my illnesses and trauma at the same time, I was unable to bring my service dog with me.

Yes, he was allowed, but he did not have an alternate handler to potty him for 12 hours a day and that is not fair to him or the staff caring for me.-

Instead I brought “Carl”, my weighted anxiety puppy. Not only did he help me with nighttime anxiety by applying the same deep pressure therapy that Koda would, but he was an EXCELLENT post surgical foot prop! Filled with beads, he cushioned my very tender leg like a pro. I used him daily for 3 months post op!

Self care helps you bring your mind and body back to a neutral, restful, and healing state.

Weighted Corgi Plush For Anxiety Relief
I named my weighted plush Carl.

RELATED POST: 7 Types of Self Care You Need to Manage Anxiety

Post Orif On The Left Ankle Xray Of My Repaired Broken Leg- 5 Life Lessons I Learned About Nurturing Mental Health From A Broken Leg
You can see my journey from the day I broke my leg to my post ORIF recovery update when I could start bearing weight again on Instagram. Proper healing, whether mental or physical takes time!

Life Lesson: Patience and Acceptance Were Key

We all have limitations. Some very minor, others affecting large parts of our life.

We practice little bits of patience in our lives on a daily basis from cooking to waiting in line while running errands.

Patience = reward in our life. If good things come to those who wait, then those of us who are healing will reap great rewards.

Healing takes time. You cannot rush it, and it doesn’t look the same in everyone.

No matter if you are healing a broken leg or improving your self esteem, patience is part of the process.

Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.

John Kabat Zinn

When we are facing these life lessons, we all need to treat our self with kindness and compassion.

Self compassion helps you meet challenges with a better spirit and appreciate every step of the process.

RELATED POST: 20 Healthy Mindset Habits You Need to Improve Your Anxiety

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Koda kept trying to heal me by sleeping on the exact spot of my break. His love helped with pain relief.

Life Lesson: Setting Small Goals Kept Me Motivated

It’s not the easy days that make us who we are, but the challenges that life gives us.

Adversity teaches us to be resilient. Our problem solving skills grow and we rise to overcome and survive.

While being faced with the problem can overwhelm anxiety sufferers, creating smart goals to overcome that problem can inspire and motivate us as we problem solve each step.

By setting small achievable milestones in my healing process, I learned that I can keep myself motivated to do the work, even when it was challenging –and sometimes painful. Just learning to walk after my injury was a challenging and enlightening experience that really made me look at how much we take for granted.

You can do the same with your mental health!

When you are managing your mental health, you are learning to be resilient in a different way.

I’m going to be brutally honest, managing anxiety disorder is not easy, much less managing a mental disability.

To thrive you need to learn how to motivate yourself to do the work in and out of your mental health professionals office.

Every year, I create a huge list of small smart goals that I want to work toward. Some improve my mental health, some my physical health, and some are just fun.

Each micro goal that you create helps keep you motivated. How? Because micro goals are so small that you can achieve them in a shorter amount of time. And each goal that you complete helps you boost your motivation and move you closer to your overall goal.

Want to learn how? Check out this related post!

Related Post: How to Create Smart Goals When You’re Stressed

5 Nurturing Mental Health Life Lessons I Learned From A Broekn Leg5
One of my smart goals was to be able to climb the stairs every night and sleep in my bed. This was the first time in 3 months I had sleep in my bed. It was the proudest moment I had in 2023.

My Take on The Life Lessons I Learned

While breaking my leg really sucked, the lessons that I learned about nurturing my mental and physical health will last the rest of my life.

I am embracing a new slower lifestyle to care for myself rather than allow life to push me over my limitis.

I am learning to accept that I am in fact worthy of help and support from others. And not let my own negative thoughts run the show.

This journey has taught me just how important it is to find balance in your life. It’s given me new perspective on caring for mental health for anxiety sufferers just like me.

Has an injury taught you a life lesson too? Share your insight in the comments!
Five Life Lessons I Learned From A Broken Leg About Mental Health
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  1. It’s so nice to hear people’s personal stories on the journey to physical and mental well-being. While the leg break was horrible it did force you to stop and take stock. This has led to your growth and mental well-being. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. My granny is going through this right now. She woke up with pain all over her body and it lasted for weeks. As her body slowly recovers, her mind still seems to be in pain mode. So she is hesitant about doing things like going outdoors or walking without support.

    • There are definitely days where my brain remembers how much pain I was in and I have to adjust to it. The brain is an incredible thing, we just have to start reteaching it slowly that things are okay again.

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Krystian Howe
Hi! I'm Krystian. The Creator of With Love, Me. I created this blog for others like myself: people living with anxiety disorder on a daily basis. I have been living with anxiety since my teens. This blog is to give you a how to guide for living with anxiety, because I sure didn't have one. I want to save you the pain and misery I had of figuring it out all on my own. Join me and my service dog Koda on the journey to help you manage your anxiety. See you on the blog and our socials!
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