We have talked about dreams and goals the last few weeks. The feeling of accomplishment once we have given our all leading up to that moment. But what about the other side of it? What happens when we "fail" or hit a complete road block on our journey? Here is a look at what I was going through mentally when I had my first real injury right before covid hit...
"Injuries. An athlete's worst nightmare. Recently, I received my first real one. I have gone my entire playing career almost injury free. Dislocated finger, slight knocks that would keep me out for a few days, but nothing that prevented me from performing for a significant amount of time.
Even though I am only coaching now, the competitive nature never leaves you. I love competing and challenging those around me. I hopped into a seven a side match and put in the effort needed to keep the intensity at the proper level. Stole the ball off of a player and pop. When it happens the first reaction is fear. Followed by thoughts that are completely negative. "Career is over. I'll never play or walk again. Why is this happening?" Then the pain sets in. You're not suppose to feel this level of pain. You're not use to something hurting so bad. The fear still outweighs the actual pain. Now, thoughts of failure and not preparing for this actual moment. How do you? You've never been in a situation such as this. After all of these thoughts go through your head in the first five seconds, a calmness comes. You start to hear voices of comfort. Players, coaches, and trainers surround the area as they start to reassure you that everything is going to be okay. A safe zone is now created. You start to analyze your actual pain and become as honest as you can with yourself. Positivity is your friend and you will need it during the initial assessment. I felt embarrassed to be completely honest. How did I not prepare myself properly to avoid this?
After visiting the orthopedic a few days later, I found out that I dislocated my left kneecap and tore my patella tendon. I needed surgery and the recovery time for this would be nine months to a year. I became overwhelmed with emotion after hearing this as I have never been seriously injured. I knew this would effect my training, lifestyle, and of course my mental health. It is tough, but you have to stay focused on still reaching goals that you originally set for yourself. I have a responsibility of training others and developing players.
Once surgery was over, I was placed in a cast for six weeks. A very challenging experience mentally as you start to feel claustrophobic after the first few hours. I am stuck with this thing day and night. I gained a lot of weight and started to go down a dark path. I remember waking up at 3am and having a panic attack. I broke down as I lost all hope in being able to make it through. After some time, I started to express myself and what I was going through. This proved to be the most important first step that I took. My surgeon and the people around me helped stable myself mentally which allowed me to become strong again.
I created a rhythm for myself in my daily routine. I started to get out of the house and got back to training. The gym sessions began again for my upper body. All of this helped get rid of the toxic thoughts that were invading my mind. After the six weeks were over, I had my cast removed and a brace replaced it. The size of my left leg was laughable compared to my right leg. Most of my strength was lost, balance was all over the place, but now there was hope. I started rehab a few days after and began the rebuilding process. Now, I am on week four of rehab and I have fully invested myself into this process.
During all of this time I continued to build and develop my programs to make sure that I did not let anyone down. I have to respect everything that has been worked for so far. Huge thanks goes to all of those around me who have been sending well wishes and the support that I've received. I know that I will come back strong and be able to deliver my sessions to the fullest.
Would love to help any player going through a tough time with injuries. Feel free to reach out if you are looking for any type advice or would like to speak on your injury"
“Ultimately, I think it’s just my time. In the past couple of years alone I have watched teammates beat serious illnesses and adversity with the biggest of smiles on their faces."
- Leah Williamson