On December 3, 2017 I suffered what they called a catastrophic injury breaking my right ankle while playing soccer/football, (for the purposes of this blog, this sport will be referred to in this way in order to be truly international). I broke my fibula all the way through and chipped the other side. When it happened, it sounded like when you break a branch over your knee. I did it playing the sport I love, see above. They called it catastrophic because it required surgery to fix it. So now I have a titanium plate and 7 large screws holding it all together.
Fast forward to now, one year later and here I am back on the pitch playing the game I love. I’m certainly not doing it with the finesse, speed or confidence that I had then, but at least I’m back there. I also have this crazy, multi layered brace I’m using that has more straps and Velcro then really seems possible but it has helped me collect the courage required to play and feel stable. It absolutely hasn’t been easy though, it was a very long haul through a lot of obstacles not the least of which how it absolutely turned my life upside down.
Last December was absolutely horrible, I was flat out on my back with a giant cast, in tremendous pain trying my best to wrap my head around what had just happened. The first time I cried was when the doctor said “surgery”. But this can’t be possible, I was doing everything “right”, I train, stretch, warm up and practice. I was assured this wasn’t an issue of any of those things, it was a fluke accident that took me and consequently my life out from under me. It was Christmas time and I had two kids and a 7-month-old puppy to look after, not to mention that I was a couple of months into a degree studying in the UK (I live in Canada) and was planning a lot of travel back and forth. In one fluke moment it all came crashing down, nothing prepared me for this, or did it??
I like to imagine that I’m the type to dust myself off, do what needs to be done and get on with things however in this case I physically couldn’t. Here was lesson one, you aren’t going to be able to tough your way through this, time to ask for help. That’s exactly what I did, I used every available resource to find dog walkers, present wrappers, house cleaners and food makers to name a few. The one thing I understood immediately about this situation is that there were some VERY BIG lessons to be learned here, the second thing was that there were some dark places that I was going to have to walk through first. I was going to have to face an intense physical vulnerability that I had never before experienced in my life at a time when it was horribly inconvenient to say the least. The draw to curl up and sink into a black hole was undeniable and sometimes hard to resist.
The road to redemption has been very long and frankly quite lonely. It’s been full of times that I wanted to give up, times that people told me “I couldn’t” or worse, “I would never”. There were a lot of hard feelings, times when I wanted to count on people who weren’t able to show up the way I felt I needed them to and that hurt, a lot. But then there were the surprises, the people that really showed up in ways I didn’t expect. Those were very special and they’ve taught me a lot about how I want to show up for others who are in crisis. Overall, I’m extremely proud of how I did it, how I didn’t give up and if something didn’t work, I left it and went to find something else. One of the “secrets” to my success wasn’t just not giving up but being diligent and relentless in pursuit of my dream, to be back on the pitch in a year. When the call came almost 11 months to the day from my surgery, I gulped a huge bit of air and said yes. With my stomach churning and a knot so big in my throat I could barely breathe I ran onto the field. Then my passion took over and the rest is history.
It’s more than just don’t give up, it’s also to leaving situations that aren’t right for you, to fight for yourself, speak up. Be your own advocate and be relentless and unapologetic about it, not rude or unfeeling but passionate, diligent and firm. It’s also about accepting the arc of how things can support you, they can be great for a while but once they stop working it is time to move on to something else. There will be dark moments but after those there will be lighter ones and then there will be a few breakthroughs.
About the Author: Kimberley Wakefield is a MAPP-in-training at Bucks New University, a leadership coach, positive psychology enthusiast and a marketing & communications professional. Find out more about me at linkedin.com/in/kwakefield9/