Mental Health, Injury, and Advocacy (Part 1)
Updated: May 5
We are excited to have with us Kerry Morris (@lifeisajourknee) for the next few weeks to talk about a commonly looked over aspect of injury, surgery and recovery. Mental health!
Check out her story below, and in case you missed it her amazing podcast episode with us here!
Ignorance is bliss. Many of us spend our lives oblivious to the potential dangers and pitfalls that we can fall victim to in the world, especially when it comes to our knees. One split second composed of the wrong movement or pivot, can wreak havoc on our bodies and our minds. In my experience, unprecedented damage to my knee resonated like shockwaves through my body. I tore my ACL ligament in May of 2018 in my living room. I can attest that having never had any physical damage to my body, this experience of severe pain was as scary as it was mentally debilitating. The momentary lapse of judgment with my misguided sense to step on a bee, led to a long road of recovery, temporary physical impairment and mental anguish.
The emphasis in Orthopedics is to “fix” the physical problem, however fixing the problem does not encompass or address the emotional trauma experienced by the patient. It is not the standard of care in Orthopedics to review the potential mental health resources, such as a local Sports Psychologist or other mental health counselor with the patient. Instead the attention is primarily focused on the physical aspect, such as the physical therapist options based on locality. While I can appreciate the enormous impact that physical therapy has on recovery for an injury like mine, I can not fathom why Orthopedic procedures are not also focused on the severe impact of emotional trauma.
How an injuries affect you mentally
The mental component affects every patient to some extent. Sports athletes with full scholarships to college who lose their future educational and athletic prospects due to an injury. The decrease in one's social life due to the lack of mobility also plays a role in one's self identity. People with pre existing mental health disorders become more displaced with exacerbated anxiety and catastrophic thought patterns. Future plans are cancelled. Parents cannot play with their children. Additionally, some patients simply do not have anyone to listen to them or aid them in their recoveries. The shock of the trauma, the inability to walk normally, the impact of white coat syndrome, the unknown, the fear, and the loss of self are compounded. Thoughts such as “Who am I now? Will I ever be the same? Will I ever play sports again? Will I ever be able to workout again?” This injury creates the likeness of a beautiful home with a weak foundation.
I started using social media to reach out to knee patients shortly after my knee injury. I wanted an outlet; I wanted people who could validate and normalize my anger, confusion, sadness and anxiety. I found a home with my virtual friends on Instagram. I created @lifeisajourknee for the simple reason that I was going to connect with knee patients with all types of ailments, globally, to bring this issue to the forefront. As time went on, I decided that I wanted to open my page up to Orthopedic Surgeons, Athletic Trainers, Physical Therapists, Sports Psychologist and Personal Trainers. If I wanted to make a change I knew I would have to be impactful. Since I started the page in May of 2018, it has grown to nearly 7,000 people, industry-wide who support my mission. Orthopedic Surgeons’ from all over the world write to me and inform me that they REFER patients to me or that I opened their eyes to the emotional impact of the patients.
I am using my platform to create change. I would like Orthopedic medicine to view mental health standards of future patients as an important pre-surgical or post-injury “check point.” It takes less than a minute to ask the important questions, “How are you doing” or “Are you aware of any mental health resources to assist you in this process, if needed.” To simply ignore or cast aside the major impact that this has on mentality is to disregard the patient's OVERALL health. Most patients are not aware of their options to seek counseling or they try to be strong in the face of struggle. The messages that I receive daily from folks all over the world simply reinforce my mission; people are struggling with their knee ailments and they do not have a voice to advocate for their mental health. I want to be a voice for the voiceless. This is a crucial platform that is growing daily. My advocacy grows with the interest of my virtual world.
5 Tips on How You Can Advocate for Yourself!
What can knee patients do for themselves? Listed below are my top 5 most important advocacy tips for my Jourknee Family:
1. MENTAL INTEGRITY
Find it within yourself to seek the mental health that you need. Inform your family, friends, surgeon and primary that you are struggling with your knee surgery
2. IN IT TO WIN IT
Become your biggest advocate in the fight to overcome this adversity
3. TRUST YOUR GUT
If something isn’t feeling quite right etc trust your own vibes, ask PT/doctor, be safe rather than sorry, for me this is peace of mind.
4. IGNORE THE NOISE.
Ignore the emotional vampires who try to destroy your happiness or outlook on your future
5. FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTH
You are stronger than you think.
Part 2 with Overcoming Mental Roadblocks here!
Interested in more?
You can check out her site here: https://linktr.ee/Lifeisajourknee
Or her IG here: @lifeisajourknee
And she will be speaking at ACL Study Day 2020 and can be heard in person or on livestream
KERRY MORRIS, BS, MPA, is a former patient of ACL surgery and Massachusetts native. She tore her ACL in May of 2018 and underwent surgery in June of 2018. As a non athlete, she found herself with an infamous sports injury in the world of orthopedics. Her world was turned upside down. Through pain and persistence she learned that the mental and emotional health was just as paramount as the recovery process. After months of physical therapy; ignorance was no longer bliss. Throughout her recovery, it became a profound goal of hers to help others through the use of her Instagram handle @lifeisajourknee. Through this digital avenue, she has reached out to thousands of knee surgery patients from all over the world. She believes that it is not enough to suggest that physical therapy and "at-home" rehab will cure the invisible scars that are left as a heavy burden on the minds of patients. Her goal is to support igniting the change that is needed to respect mental health therapy in the same way physical therapy is regarded for recovery.
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