When a person is in pain, their mental health is compromised. That does not mean that you have a disease or should be treated any less. It’s a temporary state in which we tend to make poor decisions, lack clarity, and can become overwhelmed by both physical and emotional pain that is louder than a person’s ability to cope.

How do I know?

Although I have had several types of surgery, this one was particularly painful and involved incisions on all sides of my foot. I had an incision in the back of my leg, both sides of my foot, up through my heel, and one on top too. It was incredibly painful, but worse was the isolation.

Character is built when things are the hardest, not when things are easy.

Rochelle Swanson, 2016

The doctors gave me a nerve block going into surgery, and left a small pump of medication going directly to the nerves feeding my lower limb. It helped me a lot for the first 24-38 hours, and when it ran out was a stark difference that lead me to tears.

Not only did the medicine run out, but I had to remove the plastic catheter from my leg. It was one of the most grueling challenges and yet I was glad to have had it. The On-Q pain pump worked wonders, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is going to have orthopedic surgery.

When doctors finally revealed my leg to me, it was atrophied to the point that I didn’t recognize it. I’ll spare you the photos, but I almost threw up and said something about how I believed my leg was missing because I couldn’t recognize it anymore.

While I am an intelligent person, the emotional response overwhelmed everything else. For that brief moment, I was convinced that it was much worse than it was. That’s not because there is something “wrong” with me, but rather that the impact of the circumstances of that moment had temporarily impacted my mental health.

Why are you sharing this?

I want people to start thinking about mental health similar to physical. There are things we can **ALL** do to improve our physical health like going to the gym, and some people need it more in one area to work through an injury and often go to physical therapy to do the same exercises that everyone else does but slightly more targeted and with more support from family, friends, and the physical therapist. So why can’t we see outreach for mental coping skills the same way?

How to Support Someone

Say something. Even if you’re not sure what to say, say SOMETHING.

  • Wish the person well.
  • Tell them what they mean to you.
  • Tell them you hope that they feel better.
  • Offer to help them if they need something.

Even a small gesture can mean the difference between falling into depression and healing.

How to Help Yourself

There are many coping skills to help you deal with both short-term and long-term/chronic pain. While pain can be very unpleasant, there are ways to be enriched by your ordeal and come out the other side stronger…even if you find yourself in a moment of weakness or desperation.

  • Ice/Heat
  • Elevate Your Injury
  • Spend time with family or friends.
  • Find a distraction!
    • Watch a movie or show.
    • Write a short story.
    • Engage on social media.
    • Draw or do some type of art.
    • Spend time outside, even if you can’t walk/run.
    • Play or listen to music.

What are your suggestions to help someone cope with injury or disability?