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From Car Accidents to COVID, I know recovery.

and trust me, this is your comeback.

My car accident happened out of nowhere.  Life was normal, someone didn’t pay attention, and in a flash of a second everything was upside down.  As a small business owner surviving life in a pandemic has felt the same way; like life was going along smoothly and then in an instant everything was upside down.  

I panicked.  I went into surgery.  I slept.  I woke up with a new titanium femur.  In March 2020 I did the same thing as a business owner with the Coronavirus shutdown.  I panicked.  I slept.  I woke up and wondered what was next . . . at least this time I woke up with my pants on.

The thing is, I didn’t need courage for the surgery . . . I needed courage for the recovery.  

On the cusp of this COVID recovery with a vaccine on the way and economic relief sure to come I feel like I can share with you what we are in for as people and businesses in recovery.

This is really hard.  You are mourning what will never come back while trying to have the energy to build something new. It is normal to feel sad and sluggish, like life just requires too much from you.

There is some joy too. The chance to start fresh and change things up can be energizing.  There will be new ideas fueled by time away and you have the rare chance to reset priorities. 

No matter how the pendulum swings two things are true: you are in recovery and the new creation will be better than before. Here is how you get through it.

Recovery requires participation

not perfection.

Teresa S. Porter

Recovery is “up with the good, down with the bad”.  That’s a physical therapist phrase that reminds you to climb up the stairs with your good leg; go down the stairs with your bad leg.  This allows your strongest muscles to do the lifting on the climb and on the way down your strongest muscles support you lowering down. 

It’s the same for yourself and your business in recovery.  Instead of babying the weakness, use your strengths to pull up the weaker parts.  Instead of dragging dead weight and trying to make it perform like it used to, dig into your strengths.  When you have to “lower” yourself, do it from where you are strongest, don’t let your weakest leg do the work.  

Recovery is mourning. It is the day I saw an empty Diet Mountain Dew can on my desk, left over from a time before my accident, and dissolved in to tears.  I was crying for the person that would never exist again.  I was mourning a version of myself, that took 26 years to form and 2 seconds to disappear.

The accident happened and things were different inside me. The lightness of life, the carelessness of thinking I’d always have another day to finish. Gone. The physical strength, flexibility, and coordination.  Gone.  The sense of knowing who I am at the core.  Gone.  A new version of myself was forming but not yet identifiable.  The memory of what was before did not match who I was now.  The dreams of yesterday all seemed impossible or unimportant.  I was completely disoriented and I was deeply sad.  

Recovery is mourning what is lost and what will never be. 

Teresa S. Porter

Recovery is reorientation.  Recovery is forming the ‘new’ thing while grieving the old thing.  It is giving yourself the grace to feel lost, the time to mourn, and the space to explore what might come next.  I knew I wasn’t the same but I didn’t know what had replaced it.   That came with time and tears but more than anything it was acceptance that things were just different even if I couldn’t explain how.

Recovery is when I learned to drive again but with new fears of ditches, trees, and the soft shoulder of country roads.  It was (and is) a surprising, relapsing fear which rises up in me without warning; sometimes a nudge and sometimes a shove.  It is a panic attack on the way to a session because someone pulled out in front of me.  It is cold sweat that pools on the back of my spine when braking too fast.  It’s science – a new brain pattern, caused by trauma, that makes me think everything that looks like an accident is going to be another accident.  Is this really another car accident or is it just a dump truck emptying a dumpster?  

My body sends adrenaline at the sound of a dump truck clanging like I’ve crashed into a tree again.  That primal, adrenal response takes time to calm.  All I can do is breathe and connect with reality. 

If you’re tracking every Facebook group conspiracy theory, hanging on every phone notification, and regularly engaging with things that piss you off . . . why?  Take time to breathe and reconnect with reality.  Don’t make decisions driven by fear or avoiding discomfort.  Let your mind settle and then respond.  Be scared, but drive the car anyway.

Recovery is the parallel grab bars where I learned to walk again.  Stand firm and don’t look down.  Even when everything in you screams out for the reassurance of looking at your feet or the person next to you, just hold on tight and look forward.  

With your chin up and your eyes fixed you are less likely to stumble.  You are in alignment.  You are balanced.  You are secure.  Just keep looking at where you are going.  Trust that there are things you are “made for” that will happen naturally if you just let them.  Like walking.  Like this business you’ve created. You’ve got this – keep looking forward.

Recovery is the breathing exercise tube with the little ball (“incentive spirometer”) that made me cough through bruised lungs.  It was looking at my leg and telling it to lift off the bed even when it only moves an inch.  It’s putting on the stupid grippy socks to walk anywhere so you don’t fall down.  It’s uncomfortable, irritating, and doesn’t seem to go anywhere or make any difference.  It’s the little things you can do (but don’t want to!) because of the exhaustion of the really big thing.  It’s why you can be surviving a pandemic but feel really overwhelmed by updating your social media or responding to a lead.  

Use your anger.  Use your frustration and your resentment to fuel the motivation to get through mundane activities.  A “oh hell no I’m not giving in to this bullshit” approach to my spirometer helped me push a little harder with each breath.  I funneled my competitive nature into a will to not be defeated by trivial things like grippy socks and PT exercises.  Let your anger fuel activity. 

Be mad enough to not quit.

Teresa S. Porter

Finally, recovery is creation.  Recovery is rebirth.  Recovery is a chance to start fresh, to be better, to demand more of yourself and those around you.  Recovery is permission to purge what weighs you down.  It is the chance to be made new.  It is a time of celebrating that you survived the really awful thing – – – and, having survived it, know what you are capable of.  Recovery gives you a break from the status quo to shift priorities.  Recovery is when your expectations are the lowest and your possibility for growth is the highest.  

You’re not laying in the ditch anymore.  You’re not on the operating room table with your life in someone else’s hands.  You survived.  You are recovering.  You are rallying.  You are in possession of everything you need to become the new (stronger) version of yourself.  This is recovery.  This is the beginning of your biggest win yet.