Here I will discuss my personal experience with injury as a lifelong athlete and the things it has taught me about being independent as well as asking for help.
The life of an athlete is, of course, going to come with some heartaches and hardships. Besides losing games and that heartache of defeat comes body pain and injury. Now being accident prone to start, rugby was a sport where I knew I was going to put my body through some things.
Just to be clear, every single moment of pain was worth it. Rugby has been the absolute best thing in my life and I’m sure if you have ever spoken to me you already know that I feel that way.
Injury is not my favorite part but it is part of it, and maybe the part I have learned from the most.
For as long as I can remember I was accident prone/injury prone… never mind once I became an athlete.
Now when I say I was injury prone from the start, I mean my first injury was not even a sport. I was 2 years old and decided I was going to jump down the stairs after my older brother did. His successful attempt was followed by the demise of my tiny little tibia.
When I say injury prone from the start, I mean I always had a tendency towards finding the floor on the basketball court. My dad liked to lovingly refer to me as the “mop” telling me I was the janitor’s favorite player.
When I say injury prone from the start, I mean I threw my own shoulder out of the socket when I was practicing with my All Star little league team for baseball. I just threw the ball too hard sending my AC joint into a frenzy. The Michie smashes self saga had begun.
When I say injury prone from the start, I mean throwing my shoulder out of the socket AGAIN when I was 18 at a rugby social. My good friend Camila challenged me to who could punch harder in that damn boxing Arcade game, where the bag drops and you get one punch. Needless to say, she won.
Side note: I since refuse to go near this game with my own body though enjoy watching my cousins and brother try to break the machine.
When I say injury prone from the start, I mean I was about to play rugby and right before kick off, I tripped over my own two feet. No reason at all, much like how somehow one could choke on their own spit. Wait, only me again?
When I say injury prone from the start, I mean I slipped so badly on ice walking in downtown Albany that my feet went above my head like a cartoon. I laid there, not dead, feeling dead and not surprised as a larger than average percentage of my life has been spent on the ground.
I have put my poor body through some shit for the love of the game and injuries have been plentiful as a good year’s harvest:
- I have acted like a brick wall and let someone full force knock me on my ass, taking out my knee in the process.
- I have tackled someone out of bounds landing in a wasteland of water bottles which somehow felt sharp on my bloodied body.
- I dove face first into the ground to score breaking my actual face/ eye.
For the sake of brevity, I will ‘yada yada yada’ the rest. Accidents in my always clumsy hands have gone hand in hand with injury.
Thankfully, my body has come to understand at this point and knows that I work so hard to give it what it needs for the most part. The trade off is that we still play rugby, a fact my father wishes would have ceased years ago. Unfortunately for him, this one wasn’t a phase like my punk rock days. While my money is no longer spent on blue hair dye, it is certainly spent on cleats… that I will eventually trip in.
I have been working on having a big goal for every facet of my life. I am one who tends to fall into codependency, whether it be friends or lovers. Because of this, I decided to make my relationship goal two fold.
Relationship Goal: to foster independence while building friendships.
Note that this does not include romantic love currently. I know I am doing AWESOME and I want that work on my goals to continue. I certainly don’t need to be heartbroken, gaga, or straight up stupid right now. Romantic interests can do that. [I will talk all about this in my piece “All my Tinder Wives”–once it is done] I can’t stop those romantic vibes all together in my brain, as babes are all around this world. When those thoughts and feelings start to arise though, I am actively trying to let them float away at this point.
Now back to my relationship goal– that goal meant putting time into both myself and my friendships. My solo-dates have taught me what I needed to put back into myself. This part was a little easier in the sense that I knew what to do. I just needed to commit the time to those things, which I did through investing in habits that put those good things back into my life.
Putting time into my friendships has been a little more tricky because people do not want the same things as me or each other. I have been working really hard to navigate what the people in my life want and need. This is something strikingly novel to me as I have always just treated people the way I wanted to be treated, or tried to. My learning is that this isn’t always helpful. You need to find everyone’s love language even when working on friendships. Friendships are so much closer to romantic relationships than people want to think. Showing love to friends is just as important as your romantic partners.
For example, I love sending little trinkets of love, nothing big– just something to show that I am thinking of the person– notes usually, something personalized with their name, their favorite candy. My mom always did this kind of thing, leaving me notes and little things every time I came home from college. We have similar love languages. She still has notes taped on the wall from when my handwriting made it almost impossible to read the “I love you.” My brother, on the other hand, does not appreciate the same kind of thing as he is a minimalist and it drives him crazy to have extra things around. Similarly, my dad never loved cards much as they clutter the mantle.
People are different. Work on giving them what they want and not what you would want.
Some people want one thing and others want another. Friendships rely on you working to figure this out.
The thing with being injured is it puts you in this really weak state where you have to ask for help. I have never liked or been one to want to ask for help. I have found that this isn’t just me though. No one likes to ask for help. Hell! No one wants to need help at all!
I’ve always been a person that has needed a lot of help or felt like I needed more help than an average person. This perception probably isn’t completely true but my struggles with mental health have made it feel that way. It is hard to ignore past manic or depressive episodes and not think I have been in need of a lot of help in my life.
The thing is I never wanted to ask for the help as I said. Luckily enough, I have had friends who see past the “I’m fine”s and the “Fuck you”s and have offered hurdle help as well as lots of BIG help without being asked.
In a depressive state, I have had close friends come to my rescue in the form of writing a check for my rent and having me sign the bottom before mailing it. I have had friends clean my damn dishes that have been piling up in the sink. They have brought over something other than McDonald’s when I’m on my tenth big Mac. Did I say cleaning my damn dishes that have been sitting there for a week? They have taken everything out of my car and put it on blankets like a true episode of “Hoarders” before going through each piece with me. They have sat and ate McChickens with me because sometimes you need that, too.
In the rugby ages, my friends have helped me in the form of accommodations for my injuries, such as moving furniture and setting up space where I can work. They have ensured that they kept rooms and spaces clear, so I have space to get through with crutches. They have encouraged me through the injury and assured me that I was worthy of such help.
Once embarrassed of this, I now can admit I have needed and been given so much help. I have been supported by my friends. That truly is what friends are for and now I feel worthy enough to take that help and actually ask for the help before lashing out into some form of crazy. There is always a reason for behavior and a lot of times I have acted really shitty because I did not know how to ask for help.
INDEPENDENCE AND ASKING FOR HELP
Now independence and asking for help seem to be two opposite things meant for two different people. The thing is you can do both and everyone really has to do both. You can be an independent person and ask for help sometimes. There are times when it is best to handle things alone and then there are times when you will literally fall down the stairs from carrying too much by yourself.
There is a delicate balance in this life between fostering independence and knowing when to ask for help. As a special education teacher, I work tremendously hard with my students on knowing this balance. A large majority of them do not want to ask for help while ironically learned helplessness has been fostered in their academic history. This means while the students are not capable of being independent at their present level academically, they are ALSO unwilling to ask for help. This is the same thing I struggle with. I am not sure how I never saw the connection between myself and this trait in my students before, but I am not surprised as I learn from them every day. It is so easy to teach them the things I know are right, but there are inconsistencies when it comes to doing these things myself.
HELP ME MOVE, FRIEND
Now that I am moving, I have needed a truly indefinite amount of help. It feels good to know that I have worked on my friendships and my relationship with myself before this. I have worked on putting the time and effort into my friendships, so this doesn’t feel as though I am asking too much or uncomfortable taking the help. Most people feel guilty asking for help because they feel like they owe something to the person in a way. The thing is with real friendships, it isn’t tit for tat and most people don’t think it is.
I think the real reason you feel like you are asking too much, is often that you don’t feel that you are worthy of help. That is where the guilt truly comes from. You feel underneath that you are asking too much, because you are not enough. Your self worth has effects on how much help you are willing to take. This is why if you want to work on your friendships, you need to work on your relationship with yourself first.
You are worthy of the help and support of the ones you love.
Accepting help means accepting that you are valuable enough for people to give you their time with nothing in return, but love.
I have found that all those experiences I mentioned with injury and asking for help made me more capable of it now even if I am not perfect at it or resist it at times. Being injured gave me the opportunity to see where my support was in my life. The people who were there then have always been there and continue to be there. I didn’t want to get injured to find this out by any means, but it happened that way. As I stated before, the laundry list of helpful services provided by my friends is immense. I can’t tell you how many rides I received, physical help up hills or stairs, as well as countless other necessities being injured.
I’m a large lady and my friends have carried me both literally and figuratively. In these times, I found those people that would go through hell for me. In rugby, it wasn’t too soon before I had to help some of those ladies out myself, but again, that is a whole different story.
I CAN DO IT ON MY OWN BUT I DON’T HAVE TO
Before moving, I got this sense that I wanted to de-clutter my life in an attempt to be more independent in my move. To do this, I wanted to get myself to the point that I could independently move all of my things, besides furniture. Besides de-cluttering my space and also my brain, this gave me a huge sense of pride to be able to do so much on my own. It was also nice to do this without having to work around anyone else’s schedule (which I hate when I am trying to get things done!) This was another step towards the independence I desire and that truly felt AMAZING to be so independent. \
However, it also felt great to realize I didn’t have to do it alone. There’s that balance.
Knowing I had worked really hard to do as much on my own as possible made me feel empowered to ask for the help where I really needed it.
AGAIN this is what I teach my students. I say I won’t help until they try. They say “I did try, Miss!!” This leads me to ask them what the question even is and of course, they reply that they didn’t read it. Trying on your own first leads to learning. I am learning to try it on my own first, too, kids.
I joke a lot that I’m really dumb when it comes to home improvement and fixing things. While this is true right now, it is more of a lack of education on the matter and not a lack of ability I have found. This is where the help comes in again! I have asked for the support of my lesbian cohort and I have to say, the help led to even MORE INDEPENDENCE. I am the kind of person who learns best from seeing. Do it once and then let me do it. When it comes to working with my hands, that’s how I learn. In this way, asking for help led me to learn how to do a lot on my own. Thanks, fellow gays!
They say it takes a village and if there were an Apocalypse, I know that I would have the best Apocalypse team.
I have luckily developed a group of friends that can apparently do anything from what it seems and if I ask for enough help, I know I will be able to do anything, too.
So in summary, be an independent boss lady or dude, who is confident enough to ask for help.
*Don’t forget to help out your friends, too, you jerk.*