The Difference Between Getting Better And Feeling Better

A few years ago, on my way to work, I was hit by a truck on a snow-covered highway. My doctors said that I would need 6 months to a year to fully recover and to get back to full-time work.  However, I was sure I could get my health back much faster. 

I was in great physical shape when I was in the accident. My doctors said this would help me get back to normal. I’ve always had a positive outlook on life too. My therapist said that would help me during the recovery process. I even started working with some alternative medicine professionals. I was feeling better and stronger every day. The healing process was happening faster than predicted, and I was back to work in 3 months. 

Then, I got cocky. I decided to start exercising again. I popped in an Insanity DVD, which is a very intense series of workouts. About 20 minutes into “Extreme Cardio,” I felt a sharp pain in my right knee. After a trip to the doctor’s office, I learned that I had damaged my right ACL. Now, on top of recovering from PTSD and face surgery, I had to recover from this new knee injury. This meant more appointments with doctors, more time off work, and spending more money on therapy. 

I should have taken the time for my body to be ready for extreme exercise. This mistake cost me both time and money. It wasn’t worth it.

Get Better Now to Feel Better Later

We often confuse getting better with feeling better. We assume that whatever comes quickest is the best. We assume that if the pain is gone, we’ve healed. But this is not always the case. 

Years after the truck accident, when I was feeling almost 100 percent normal, I started getting headaches and dizziness. I would take pills and anti-nausea medication but those did not treat the underlying issue. My neck was injured in the accident. So, when I was under stress, the tension in my shoulders and neck would cause misalignment, which led to headaches and dizziness. 

Pills would not keep my head on straight so most of the time, so I used the pain as an indicator. It told me when I needed to make an adjustment. It told me when I needed to relax. It told me if what I was doing was actually working. But when I took a pill and the pain went away, it only meant that the pill was effective, not that I was actually healing.

Why We Rush

It’s normal to want anything painful to go away as fast as possible. There were many days, even years after the accident when I was dizzy and vomiting that I would pray for it to be over. I hated being sick. But I hated, even more, the constant reminder that the truck accident still had a hold on me. 

Maybe that’s why we rush. We don’t like the feeling of being out of control. When the body and mind are injured, it’s a loss of control. It’s unrealistic to think we can control our own biology at all times. Yet we cling to this idea. It’s better to accept that there are just some things you can’t control. 

 It also has to do with fear of the unknown. When you’re really sick, you wonder, “Will I ever be normal again?” or “I don’t know what will happen if I can’t function normally again.”  It’s one of the biggest fears human beings have: the fear of the unknown. When you’re sick, you just can’t know, at that moment, if you are going to be OK. So we want that moment over with as soon as possible. We want to be rid of the discomfort of the unknown. The truth is, and we all know it, there are so many things we can’t know. 

I didn’t know if I would ever be the same again. I also didn’t know how the accident would affect me as a wife, mother, friend, and pharmacist. I’m a better person. I have more appreciation for my life and the people in it. I enjoy my work so much more. Despite all of the pain and suffering, I’m grateful that the truck swerved into my car. 

What I’ve Learned

Today, I take my time when I eat. I allow myself time to digest my food. I don’t rush through meals. If I’m tired, I rest. I don’t push myself to do that workout I had planned. I skip it and sleep in or do a morning meditation instead. If I’m lonely, I’ll plan time with my family and friends for a nice dinner and some conversation.  I don’t pretend that I don’t need them. If I’m sad or anxious, I take a walk or do some journaling. I don’t try to push down uncomfortable feelings. 

There are days that I still rush. There are days I forget to stop and rest.  Because I try to pay attention to my body, I usually catch it before I’m exhausted and frazzled. Healing is a journey after all. I’m still on that path, even if I’m moving slower on some days than others. 

Take the time you need to heal so you can come out better and stronger. Try to appreciate every moment even the hard ones. 

The next time you’re exhausted, don’t reach for the nearest source of sugar or caffeine.  Instead, stop and give yourself a real reprieve. Take a stroll. Doodle on a notepad. Sit outside and admire the trees. Intentionally rest just for the sake of resting. 

Here is a video I made to go along with this post.

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