So， it’s been just over 2 months since the accident. I’ve had my surgery, I’ve been back to work, I’ve been able to walk for a good while now, and I’ve got to a stage where I can do the majority of the things that I was able to do before.
But I wanted to take the time to explain things that I’m still finding difficult. One of my best friends from Australia had a very serious car crash a few years ago, and went through his recovery period which for him took 6 months or physical recovery, but what I wanted to say, what I now know what my friend went through… as I have been going through it as well, is that there’s still left over mental recovery that you have to go through. And that is a different kind of difficult.
So, as anyone that can been following my articles.. I’ve now quit my job. Yes, the weather of the Netherlands had a big role in my decision, but it wasn’t JUST that. In fact the crash, and the anguish from the crash also played a pretty big role. In fact in some ways, it was a blessing in disguise, I was thinking about quitting for a while, but this really gave me the time to think about what I really wanted to do.
After all, I was sitting in bed just sleeping, waking up, eating and sleeping again for 3-4 weeks straight, as my physical body required that much sleep and non-movement for my physical recovery. And in that time… I’m not joking on this, your body doesn’t think so much about matters of the mind, its like the majority of thought is concentrated on fixing your body.
For 3 weeks since being back (4 weeks after the crash) I slept the normal amount during the night, and then had to take a nap of at least 3 hours each day just so that my body could recover.
And in a country like the Netherlands, where the laws really take care of employees… it was great because my company allowed me to do this.
In reality I COULD have gone straight back to work.. I would just have to consume a lot of pain medication and put a lot of focus in. In fact I managed to do this for a presentation I had to do when I 1st returned. But in all reality that may have sent me back a bit.
But yeah, the physical body needs so much rest to get yourself back to a state that you can resume somewhat in ‘normal society’. And then when you resume, once you get that ‘doctors approval to resume’, it still doesn’t mean that you’re 100% good.
And that’s where the massive frustration comes in.
You see people see the return to work, as a return to normalcy, even though they offer their support and say that they understand, they don’t. They can only truly understand if they’ve been through something like this before.
It is REALLY important to have people around you that are patient and open at this time. I was & am very lucky to have my Dutch housemates which were & are very patient.
For example, I haven’t been able to, and even now can’t open a jar. This is because my left thumb was broken, which means I can’t even hold the jar properly in my left hand, or the cap to get some twisty power going.
Nor for the 1st 3 weeks I couldn’t even open a packet of chips. Yeah… that’s right, not even that.. I had to either try to cut it open with some scissors, or try to tear it open with my teeth whilst holding it with my right hand.
When I returned back to work… yes, difficult because my body was used to having a 3 hour nap each day, and then suddenly bam, you’re expected to not just be awake, but be constructive for 8-9 hours. On top of the fact that you can’t drive a car, or ride a motorbike to work, so you have to catch public transport… which is stressful enough.. then it doesn’t make for an overall great experience.
Normally your day is filled with activities, you go out for a walk, you go to the gym, even certain things like you sleep on your side… things that you now just can’t do because you are still recovering and certain activities are just too painful, or agitating, or too taxing in some way.
For instance, all you really feel like doing is watching repeats of cartoon series that you’ve already seen. This is weirdly specific, because that’s all I felt like doing. Plus, that’s all my friend felt like doing after his accident.
The reason why… your mind can’t concentrate on anything constructive… its slightly more passive than normal. And that’s where the real frustration comes in. Your body is well on its way to being healed. In fact you’ve returned to work, people around you see you as recovered, or almost recovered, and from that their expectations go up.
But of course you’re not.. you can’t really do anything constructive… your mind doesn’t want to work in that way.
You see people around you getting on with their life, doing constructive things, creating projects that either make money or little adventures that will be fun to do. And you?
You’re just left sitting there on the couch, or migrating to a chair, or laying down… with a mind that doesn’t want to work properly. And because you’re not 100% physically healed, you can’t go to the gym, you can’t go and play squash, you can’t go for a surf, all those things that were both relaxing for you and actually good for your health.
All the work you put in at the gym beforehand, all that muscle you built, is quickly disappearing, the work is being undone. The networking contacts you made at work are slowly disappearing because that takes work and you sometimes can’t bring yourself to do the work that is necessary…because that takes a somewhat constructive and imaginative mind….but nooo.
Putting on a backpack is painful because it involves stretching your arm backwards, …putting on a backpack is difficult…it’s insane. It took me 3 weeks to wear pants because I didn’t have the grip strength to pull on and do up a pair of pants.. I mean wtf?
Oh yeah, and depending on what medicine they’ve given you for your recovery… hair-loss. If you’ve been on blood thinners, needed if you can’t move very much, or if you needed to sit on a plane for a while, then you probably needed this. All that pain medication takes a huge toll and you end up benefitting in some ways, and not benefitting in others.
But still the expectations around you are that you should be functioning properly and that you will return to normal afterwards, that’s I think, really adds to the mental pain.
The cartoons thing by the way, its because in cartoons anything can happen, they’re not dealing with the limitations of real people, so they can draw anything and there is no limit to what you can do. Ricky & Morty, Futurama, American dad are perfect for this.
Plus as you’ve already seen all the episodes before, there’s no stress for having to watch the end of the episode, your mind can just fall asleep at any point and you don’t feel bad for missing any of it. The cartoons really keep your spirits up because they’re usually pretty smart and pretty funny at the same time.
Also, you have to go through re-hab (rehabilitation) usually physiotherapy or ‘physio’ for those that have had to do it before.
If any normal healthy people were to go to the physiotherapist they would be wondering…’what the hell is this shit’ but the fact the exercises are so simple yet the patient can’t do it… is sign enough how much pain they’re going through.
Having a really kind, patient physiotherapist is really important, that they really understand your situation because chances are you can’t open up to anyone completely, or at least don’t feel like it because of the expectations that people around you seemingly have. Just being able to talk to someone like that who sees situations like yours every day and can be sympathetic towards your particular situation is really important.
I’ve got to say, the food situation is really a difficult one. Delivery in china is amazing, cheap and convenient, but in Australia… because of the distances required its neither cheap nor convenient. Netherlands in Leiden because it’s a student city.. its mostly ok. I ate a lot of Taco Mundo (delivery Mexican food in my recovery period… but having to make your own food, go shopping ..etc. incredibly difficult
Even though I now have a fairly good idea of what my friend went through, the fact that his accident was so much worse, I think it must have been really difficult.
What I’m trying to say through all of this, is that if you know someone that has been through an accident that has a long physical recovery period, know that that isn’t the end of it. The mental angst is there too, in fact that’s something that very difficult to deal with, and needs a lot of support too.
Support is of course welcome & appreciated with all the physical stuff, but taking the person out and about – out of that common passive environment, allowing them to not focus so much on the things that they’re missing out on, not focusing on the fact that people are moving on around them, not giving them that extra stress that they really don’t need, well it’s really important, and it is very much welcomed and appreciated from the person that had the accident.