Injury and lessons in resilience


I recently twisted my ankle badly. Well – I actually did it very well, not badly – it’s been sprained (technical term) for about eight weeks. I’ve not had many serious physical injuries, so it’s made me think about what I’ve learned during my recovery so far. Here are some thoughts and reflections.


As a person, a generation and perhaps as a species, we are crap at resting. Life as a busy worker, parent, hobbyist writer and someone who is pretty active – I’m not really geared up for resting. It’s been the hardest thing to ask others to wait for me, or to go to the shops or carry something upstairs. We’re all pretty busy physically.

Asking for permission to rest, for help or just moving more slowly is not a natural thing. It has made me think about what life is like if you have a lower limb injury or disability and how it separates you from the two legged caffeine-fuelled movers that whizz around the streets without a thought for how lucky we are.

Something to ponder as you browse the range of contradictory ankle recovery pages available on the inter-web, with your foot on a cushion and your behind on the Sofa.

It is coming…

Old age is coming someday and maybe like my Grandpa (who is nearly 100) I’ll have reduced mobility in some form as I get older. It’s almost certain some of our physical faculties will decay as we mature. My other Grandparent reached her 90’s and despite losing her site continued to attend Yoga classes up until her penultimate year. So there are strategies for keeping your faculties.

Having recently watched and listened to a few interviews with Billy Connolly and his challenges with Parkinson’s disease, I hope my challenges with ageing will not be as extreme. I also marvelled at the way he has adapted and the completely new skills he has nurtured from an enforced sedentary life.

One of my blind-spots today is rest and tiredness. I get this funny feeling sometimes when my brain isn’t really working, I get forgetful or clumsy or struggling to structure something. I’m often caught by surprise that the problem is – I’m tired. Ha! – who’d have thought it?  I guess old age will be like that every day. Hopefully I can continue to laugh at my restrictions, but make the most of new opportunities like the Big Yin and my blind crazy Yoga Granny. It seems a good approach.

Recovery and learning

There’s always a learning with any injury. It’s good to re-frame these experiences and find some positives.

I have learned that mending a sprained ankle (this is not medical advice) requires a number of things. First, you must rest (see above). Then, you need to find ways to mobilise again.

One of my best discoveries has been to ‘write the alphabet with your toes’ – point your foot and write all 26 letters in the air. Try it with both feet! – the difference in your ankle mobility may surprise you.

Also try drawing a circle (clockwise, then anti-clockwise) with your toes in the air. The circle made by my sprained foot was about half the diameter of the well one. It’s amazing the restriction a small soft-tissue injury makes to your range of movement.

Moving forward again

Finally, my recent thoughts have turned to what I can do once I am mobile again.

I’m definitely going to be more considerate of the mental impact of those with mobility challenges or injuries. I guess it’s something you learn to live with, but the extra struggle it adds to your days is not insignificant. The amount you need to adapt and to rely on others for help has really surprised and upset me. I had not appreciated the physical and mental connection with good health, mobility and mental well-being before.

Second, I have been thinking for a while about improving my balance in Yoga. Not being able to balance on my left foot has had a noticeable affect on my posture and stability. Improve it while you can I think is my conclusion. It’s something I need to do this year. Daily practice is needed. You need reps, not intensity for this one.

Finally, don’t underestimate recovery from an injury. After resting you need a gradual rehabilitation programme with rest days and some scale-able movement challenges. Exploring and researching recovery activities takes time. Also, don’t overdo it when some movement returns. It’s easy to overuse your ankle on the day you think it’s better. Stay well within your new limits.

And lastly (also a note to self) don’t give up  🙂  Others have bigger problems than this. Recovery from injury does take time. Be thankful for that you have, what you learn and where you will return to.

Thanks to Erik Mclean for the above image (Care of Unsplash) to brighten up this post.
Erik Mclean