I am sitting here on the couch with my arm in a sling while writing today. I’m specifically reminded of my very first column in Motorcycle Mojo, “Life After an Injury” (August 2020). In my inaugural entry, I wrote about my long journey after injuring my shoulder, from the injury to the surgery, to healing.
A few weeks ago I injured my “good shoulder,” as I’ve so fondly called it in recent years. I wish I could say my dislocated shoulder was caused by hitting a jump and having to crash because a bear was on the landing. No, it’s not nearly as entertaining. I was riding and rode up a small rock ledge, and I extended and moved the wrong way. I didn’t even crash — there was no impact — just an odd move and then POP! Luckily, I was able to get it back in on my own, but I knew that it was not good.
When it first happened, I felt as if I had déjà-vu. The feeling of methodically riding back to the truck with the intention of not moving my arm because of the pain; or driving with a manual transmission with the injury, trying to juggle shifting and steering; or the familiarity with discomfort while trying to fall asleep the first night. And then there’s the oh-so-painful feeling of knowing that my riding season now has a serious damper on it.
Along with the physical pain, I felt all the stress and worry I felt when I injured my other shoulder. The fear of not knowing if my shoulder would be okay, or if I’d need surgery again. And the anger I felt toward myself for getting hurt. I discovered I carried a lot of residual pain and trauma from my first injury. One of the biggest things I realized was the lack of trust I had in factors relating to my injury.
You can lose trust in your skill to do something, or in the thing that factored into the injury — for me it was the snowbike that I had crashed on — or just lose trust that your body will perform adequately enough not to be reinjured. The brain is a funny thing: our reality is created by our thoughts built from past experiences. If something traumatic happens to us, it inevitably factors into our decision-making process throughout our life.
There was no doubt that I struggled a lot during the years that I was injured. That became very apparent when I read back my column and could feel the sadness in my words while reading.
Being injured again on my opposite shoulder, I now realize how much I worked to suppress the lack of trust and pain I had in my originally injured shoulder once I was healed. I quit certain sports, fearing I would easily be injured while doing them. While riding off-road, I had become such a cautious rider that sometimes it would make me a dangerous rider, crashing in places I shouldn’t have because I carried so much anxiety and fear of another injury.
Over the years after my surgery, however, I learned to have trust in my shoulder and finally felt like I was where I should be with my riding … that was until my last ride a few weeks ago. Now, I’m focusing on healing again and finding joy in different things and learning to take it slow for a while. Of course, that’s not an overly easy thing to do, but it’s manageable. Finding new hobbies, or different activities to do with friends. It’s also important to remind yourself that it’s good to take a step back from something for a little while, whether intentional or not.
Those who have experienced injuries often know that maintaining a good mental state can be tough. I’ve also had to take extra time to work through the feelings I suppressed with my last injury, just now realizing how much it actually affects me. There is no sense in moping around with a woe is me attitude. So this summer might not be my best for riding, but it will be great in other ways. You have to deal the best you can with what life throws your way, including injuries and health.
Things happen for a reason. So what? I’m injured! I’ll get better in time, and for now, I can take the time to learn new things. I’m also taking a lot of time to reach out to friends, new and old … mostly dogs.
If you’re in the unfortunate position of not riding this summer season, I encourage you to take the time for yourself in order to be happy. Even if it’s with something unexpected: learn something new, go somewhere new. Find alternate ways to explore and have fun whether you’re able to ride or not.