Reflecting on the Year After My Climbing Accident

Some pensive thoughts
Personal essay. One year after my traumatic rock climbing accident when I broke my leg. #reallife #personalessay #ptsd #selfcare #healing

A year ago today I almost died. I actually don’t know if that’s true or not but in my brain it feels very true. You can read about the details of my accident here, but essentially breaking my leg kept me from pitching forward another 12’ head first. I think about that fact a lot. I don’t profess to be an expert in trauma or PTSD or even anything really, but the past year has brought some of the hardest challenges I’ve ever faced and, as I share more and more with you guys about my personal life, I wanted to also share this.

Over these 365 days of pain, struggle, healing, a second surgery, and so many damn tears, I have had a lot of realizations:

People were there for me in a BIG way. I truly don’t think that I overlooked how much my friends did for me before this, but I definitely learned so much more about my community and my tribe. After literally and figuratively leaning on them for so much, I will never take them for granted again.

An accident like this cannot be and will never be only physical. The mental aspect of my trauma still affects me in a big way. Not only do I think about it every day, but it still holds me back. For a while, it was even hard for me to leave my house — I was THAT scared of hurting myself or falling again. The accident really rattled the trust I had in myself and I have fought against the rapid fire questions in my brain every single day since then. Am I strong enough to do this? Did I make the right decision in doing this? Why not just go home and go back to bed? These are just a few of the questions that run on repeat in my mind, even if I’m just going to take the dogs for a walk on the beach.

It’s been so hard for me to get back into the gym for this reason. The amount of anxiety I feel when I even think about going to the gym is enough to wear me out and exhaust me for the rest of the day. I get all worked up, can’t eat, can’t sleep and then hide in bed. There have been a few times where I’ve powered through and gone to the gym. The entire time I am there, though, I fight back tears and, when I am finished my workout, I cry in my car every time. My hope is that some day this won’t be my normal, but for now… it just is and I’m working on it.

I am also working on trying to reconnect with my body. My entire body moves differently, not just my leg. I gained about 15 pounds in the last year because I haven’t been nearly as active as I used to be. And did I mention that my toes are still numb? Recently my doctor confirmed that the sensation in them may not ever come back, so that is yet another residual affect for me to work through.

A few things that have helped:

  • Stretching, sooooo much stretching.
  • Long, hot baths (after my incisions healed) in essential oils and epsom salts.
  • Flow CBD deep tissue and joint gel, for when my hardware is particularly achy.
  • Crying. I freaking hate crying, but sometimes the feelings are just too big and I can’t hold them in. I always felt better after a good cry.
  • Acupuncture and massage.
  • A partner who pushes me in a way that is gentle, but encouraging so I can one day get back to living my full life.

I’m not sharing any of this for pity. Instead, I want anyone going through something similar to know you’re not alone. While I was recuperating on my couch (the only place I could get comfortable), I spiraled into a really deep, dark place. I can recall it so vividly and I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone. I know that one day I will actually climb again, but I still have so much more to get through.

Photography by Meghan Klein

Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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