Skip to main content

As a 28 years old fitness junkie, I always felt invincible. I had never worried about getting injured or thought I knew enough about sports to not get hurt.

The day me and my ACL parted ways is one I will never forget. It was a beautiful Thursday morning, the sun was warm, the snow shining, and I was ready to savour the French Alps slopes. On my first run down, I went all out. Shredding the slopes with music blasting in my ears. I felt unstoppable. Well, that’s what I thought, until I heard “the infamous pop” in my knee. I laid on the side of the slopes, unable to stand back up. This pop felt strangely familiar to me. I had heard tales about it from friends and trainers. I tried to convince myself everything was alright despite being carried straight to the ER.

The Result? Fully torn Anterior Crossed Ligaments and a damaged meniscus.

For the weeks that followed, my attitude towards my injury oscillated between defeat and glory (I want to believe it was more of the latter). Along the way, I learned a lot about the world that I tried to summarise into 5 life lessons. I hope you enjoy reading!

1. While setbacks are inevitable, mental resilience gets us through

When I learned the results of the tear, I saw my world come crashing down on me. The injury was going to rob me from the one thing that brought me joy: sports.

While I couldn’t control what happened, my reaction to it was in my hands. I remember giving myself the day to be upset, cry, punch the wall and scream. On the days that followed, I had to get my s*** together. ‘Miseryvillle’ is a slippery slope and I was determined not to set camp there. There was no space nor time to feel sorry for myself. So I became resourceful and looked for new ways of engaging with life. I explored other hobbies that brought me joy and that I had neglected: drawing, painting, meditating, journaling, reading, spending time with loved ones… I made sure to fuel my body with healthy food and found workarounds to exercise my upper body, lifting weights and making my walk on crutches enjoyable. I also learned to protect my energy and surrounded myself with people that built me up, quite literally.

Setbacks come every now and then, they are often inconvenient but rarely catastrophic. Nonetheless, they are opportunities to grow and build resilience.

2. The human body is miraculous

We speak about miracles, but have we seen how our bodies function? How, every organ, ligament, neuron, and cell contribute to the orchestra that is creating life on earth?

It took one ligament to tear for my body to stop being able to stand (or walk or run). Within three days of my surgery, I had lost 40% of my muscle in my left knee. When in bed, I remember touching my left toes and being shocked by how cold they were compared to my right ones. My heart was slowly pumping less blood to the infected area. I remember literally talking to my body: “Please don’t give up on that knee”. And it did not. Fast forward a week, my body started recovering. Every step of progress felt like an achievement. First, it was stepping on my left foot. Then, it was showering without anyone’s help. Every time I bent my knee a little more or lifted it a bit higher or walked on it a little longer, I sensed a glimpse of hope. Watching my body heal made me reflect on the miracle of life. How lucky we are to be alive!

3. The world is not built for everyone.

Before my injury, I thought I saw enough disabled signs in parking lots, airports and restaurants to believe that the world was catering to those who needed it. Little did I know.

Life on crutches is difficult.

Most buildings don’t have an elevator, doors need manual pulls/pushes, chairs are uncomfortable, and cars are a nightmare. A five minutes’ walk on Google maps translates into a 20 minutes upper body workout (Why don’t maps have a disabled toggle option? and why doesn’t AI learn from my pace to estimate my future journey times?)

Everything required effort. Doors were too heavy to open, pants were impossible to wear, my bed was uncomfortable, I could not shower, eat, go anywhere nor do anything on my own.

It did not take long for me to realise just how poorly designed our world is, made entirely for people who can perfectly walk, see, hear, and smell.

4. Humans are inherently kind.

There was an upside to the crutches and brace, besides stabilising my leg and helping me walk. They were a conversation starter. Although walking on crutches was not very pleasant, it opened me up to memorable moments with strangers almost anywhere I went; elevators, public streets, restaurants, grocery shops, classrooms… Aside from high-fiving other handicapped with my crutches and making friends with the homeless, I was surprised by the number of people that showed sympathy, asked how they could help or just smiled at me. Some just went ahead and helped without even asking.

My injury reminded me how inherently kind humans are; and how compassionate they become when they recognise a situation where their help is needed.

5. In a world where you can be anything, be humble.

In the days that followed my injury, it felt as though life was teaching me a lesson; just hoping that I might finally get the message. In the span of a day, I went from being the fastest walker (I somehow always end up first in line in any group of people) to being the slowest, by far. On crutches, I had no choice but to slow down. I noticed streets with more detail, thought thrice before going anywhere, and moved with more grace (which helped to avoid another fall). The lesson did not stop there. After getting surgery, I felt excruciating pain. Pain often woke me up at night. I could feel every cell in my body working hard around the incision site. Instead of drowning in my misery, I would sit and think; what can I learn from this?

And so, I learned to trust my body. I loved it, despite its temporary injury, and connected with it to help it on its road to healing. The more present I was with my pain, the more alive I felt. I would sit with the discomfort and remind myself that symptoms may intensify before they disappear. Strangely, this pain brought me back to myself. It reminded me of life’s energy moving through me and made me one with the universe.

If I must leave you with one quote:

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we do.” – Confucius

Stay safe and if you happen not to be, learn a thing or two from it.