In for the Long Haul

I admit that I can get away with things as a community-based mental health counselor that the average counselor dreams of. I get to take my clients out into the community to parks, restaurants, community centers, drop-in centers, appointments, schools, etc. versus being confined to a desk all day long. It allows me to be creative with my sessions including developing coping skills, linking my kids and their families to resources, and having some fun. This backfired on me the other day though.

One of my teenagers utilizes basketball as his primary coping skills. He often walks down to the local park and will shoot around for hours. I thought I was a decent baller until I met this kid. He ran circles around me. During our session the other day, we were warming up. I stood under the net rebounding for him, as we talked about his behavioral issues. As I went for the one rebound, the session quickly came to an end. My ankle rolled inward under my weight. As I came down, I heard a “pop.” I knew immediately that I was hurt without even standing up. I took my shoe and sock off, revealing a baseball-sized swell on the outside of my ankle. Luckily, my client helped me back up to my car, and he was only about a half mile from home. I called his mom, and she said that it was okay for him to walk home.

It was my left ankle, so I drove myself immediately to the local hospital. They took me right back into the emergency room and put me through the “express lane.” It was nerve-racking. I was sitting there by myself, contemplating how this would affect my work, my social life, and my physical health. My anxiety skyrocketed, and I let a few tears cascade down my cheeks. I reminded myself that this was not my first time with an ankle injury though (fourth time to be exact) and that I would make it through again. They took me back for some x-rays. They could not see anything too serious though. They sized me up for a splint until I could see an orthopedic surgeon later in the week.

Early Monday morning, I called around to see who took my insurance and who could get me in quickly. It took about ten phone calls to my insurance company and local orthopedic surgeons. When I finally got someone on the phone to schedule an appointment, my mouth dropped. I struggled to fit in the appointment. It was not because of work or leisure. I had blood work to get done. I had a rheumatologist appointment early next week. I was scheduled to see my therapist in two weeks followed shortly thereafter by my primary care physician. I had a pulmonologist to follow up with regarding test results. This was over the next two weeks. I managed to squeeze in an appointment for my ankle three days later, but I was in awe over how many medical appointments were coming up.

I felt saddened by the idea that I am only twenty-seven years old and seeing so many medical professionals all in one shot. What on earth did I do to myself to get to this point? I took a step back to reflect. I felt myself going down the irrational path.

The plethora of medical appointments was absolutely alarming. However, it was necessary. This was essential to my self-care and my self-preservation. I honed in on the word “preservation.” The ancient Egyptians went through a lengthy, patient process that took days in order to “preserve” their ancestors. Thousands of years later, mummified remains are intact. They survived the test of time.

This was how I framed my debacle. In order for self-preservation to take place, there were essential steps to be taken. This meant following through on medical appointments to maintain and improve my physical well-being. The same concept can easily be applied to other aspects of one’s well-being. There are daily goals and small baby steps to take. Although we do not always see the immediate benefits of our actions, it vastly improves our longevity.

That is why it is called a self-care journey.

-The Caring Counselor

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