Are you injured? You probably feel like your world has imploded
But you are not alone, and hopefully, this site is going to be one of the things to help you to get back on your feet.
Injured athletes all struggle with things that go way beyond the physical pain and limitations of the injury. And the bad news is that we get injured quite a lot – for instance, a Runner’s World survey said that 66% of runners experience an injury that stops them from running for at least one week in a year, and other commentators suggest that this number is even higher.
If you are feeling low and depressed, you are not alone
Unpicking what is going on for athletes usually reveals a whole host of things:
- My friendships and activities are all built around my sport – and without them I feel lost and alone
- If I am honest, my whole approach to life and who I am has been built on sporting principles, and now that I don’t have these, I feel lost, worthless and irrelevant
- Sport is my stress-reliever, as well as competing making me feel great – without this, I feel so lost and unbalanced, including fighting powerful surges of emotion that I have never experienced like this before
- I like to be in control of my training, my life and my body – and now that these things have gone, I feel lost and out of control. And I don’t seem to be in control of my weight any more
- I have always been able to rely on my strength and ability to pull me and others through – but now that this is gone, I feel so lost and dependent on others
So why does this aspect of our lives hit us so hard?
It seems like the common struggles of us injured athletes come into every single one of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs) – and often hits all in a matter of a moment: one misjudged action in an accident, one unlucky twist in a race, one small niggle that builds to an action-stopping crescendo. From hero to zero in one unlucky moment. Your athlete’s card was taken away in one hammer blow – with far-reaching implications.
The first struggle is at the physiological level – as many of the basic aspects of life become impossible, so we need people to prepare food for us, medication to enable us to get some sleep and at times quite humiliating support needed to even be able to use the toilet. After the first month, the muscle loss becomes quite noticeable, and even after a week or two many athletes say that they feel that their body is no longer their own, that it does not respond and that the mental impact of the pain, lethargy, and lack of feel-good endorphins leaves them feeling flat, down and frustrated.
The next struggle is tougher when the injury is not completely debilitating and is at the safety and security level. What am I still safe to do? How should I adjust my work/family/home commitments to a level that I do not damage myself? And in today’s instant fix world, what will be the impact of this on my job and relationships?
The belonging needs hit the athlete hard and the struggle of not belonging is especially brutal. We train in groups and love to be with others who do the same thing. But being a member of this tribe goes with a certain level of activity, and when we cannot do it, the feeling of no longer fitting into the world and no longer being on the team can be completely crushing.
Then we come onto the more mental ones – for many of us, the feeling of self-esteem comes from being in control of our own bodies, achieving goals that we have set for ourselves, and gaining the accomplishment of competing.
And finally, deep down, the reason that we have devoted so much time to sport in our lives is that it can be a big part of the underpinning our sense of life’s purpose, meaning, and direction. And without the self-actualisation that goes with sport, it can be that we can feel lost and worthless.
The good news is that other people have come through these same challenges, and you can too
The first stage is understanding and acknowledging them. And then you can work to move forward. For more on this, jump to the ‘Getting back on your feet’ tab of this site, and see how to take this into building a practical roadmap of the help that you need according to your circumstances and the stage that you are currently at.