Mind over matter truly comes into play when dealing with broken bones and other injuries.
Many years ago, when my mom was in her mid sixties—younger than I am now—she caught the heel of her shoe in our trendy shag carpeting and took a tumble down the stairs, breaking her ankle in three places. (That was typical of my mom: dressed in a shirtwaist and heels on an ordinary weekday and carrying a basket of laundry from bedroom to basement.) While casting her foot, the doctor assured her that the bones would eventually mend, but she would walk with a limp for the rest of her life.
My mom looked first at the doctor, and then addressed her comment to me. “Tall people can get away with a limp, but short people just look ridiculous.” Straightening her tiny five-foot frame to its maximum height, she continued, “So I’m not going to limp.”
While I was impressed by her absolute confidence, I had my doubts. Ankle bones are weight-bearing, and I knew she wasn’t the type of person to “take it easy” as the doctor suggested. In fact, just a couple of weeks after the accident, while paying a visit, I found her in the kitchen—spiraling around in her wheelchair with a cloth under her injured foot, cleaning the tile floor. My dad was at work, so she decided to get a bit of housecleaning done in his absence.
The cast was removed after several weeks, and after gingerly walking around the doctor’s office to get the feeling of her newly freed foot, she proceeded to walk absolutely normally. No limp. Not a vestige of her injury. The doctor looked at me in amazement.
“She did this,” he said, clearly flabbergasted. “This is the most remarkable case of mind over matter I’ve ever seen.”
My mother just smiled.
To be sure, that kind of healing isn’t always the case, but your mindset can have a dramatic effect on how you emerge from physical trauma. If you expect it to knock you on your butt and keep you there, odds are that’s precisely what will happen. But if you believe you can overcome the obstacles—within reason—you just might be the victor.
My 81-year-old friend Dauna, upon returning home from the gym, took a freak fall in her home and shattered her femur. The break was so serious that she was expected to be in a nursing home for the rest of her life. Ha! Dauna’s time spent in the gym was a contributing factor to her rapid healing, and she breezed through physical therapy and was out of the rehab facility within weeks. The only concession to her lifestyle: she had to sell her red Mustang convertible because it was “too heavy to drive.” These days, she can be seen cruising around the Napa Valley in her new British racing green Mini Cooper.
The thing to remember is that we are not victims. Our bodies are not the enemy that can strong-arm us into submission. We have a role in the healing process, and attitude can go a long way toward mending broken bones.
Elle Gianforte is an award-winning writer and published author whose work includes non-fiction books on a variety of subjects, including adoption, fashion, food, design, healthcare, and memoir. She is currently co-authoring a new book, Don’t Stop Now, Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life (DontStopNow.us). You can see a complete list of books on her Amazon author page.