29 June 2016

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About Injury

About seven years ago I rolled my left ankle playing soccer. It wasn’t even in the name of making a play or save — to be honest I was innocently fetching a ball from the sidelines when, due to the poor field conditions in the park we played in, I didn’t see a concave divot and the next thing I know I heard a pop and I went crashing to the ground. It was an intense moment of shock and pain. Players rushed toward me and eventually a bag of ice was fetched. Within 24 hours I managed to make it to a hospital where I was told I was lucky to have not broken anything. While I was happy to hear this at the time it didn’t do anything about my tender ankle and swollen foot.

Most of all, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to play soccer again.

After a week or so of stubborn recovery, I went to a park and — careful to make sure that the conditions of the field were good — proceeded to jog, then sprint short distances. I paid close attention to my left foot all the time, trying not to aggravate it and yet knowing that in order to avoid a build-up of scar tissue it needed to be worked-out. Next came dribbling a ball — this was hard. Knocking the ball around with my left foot was scary and new, not least because I’d never really paid attention to my left foot before, because I’m right-footed. And yet the more I paid attention to my left foot the more I began to feel more in control, perhaps in better control than I had previously.

In the subsequent soccer season I found myself to be more ambidextrous than I’d ever been, bagging goals with my left foot as often as my right.

If this sounds like a metaphor, then you’re on the right track. When we expose an emotional or mental wound, whether new or old — but particularly if we’ve been withholding it from ourselves — the temptation might be to catastrophize: I’m not normal and I’ll never be normal again. Everyone’s going to see that I’ve got this…thing. The wound in question might be a childhood trauma that we’ve buried or the premature end of a romantic relationship we’d thought would last forever. When we unpack it with a therapist and shine light on it, we can feel a lot of things — perhaps most destructively, shame. And yet, with an understanding therapist and careful attention, we can come out of these experiences with a more complete picture of ourselves than we had previously.

Therapy has the ability, under the right circumstances, to not only make room for the airing of wounds, but for the redefining of our strengths and accomplishments.