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Getting Back Up After You Fall

“If you get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through.” ~Chinese Proverb

Last year I had emergency open heart surgery. Shortly after the procedure, two nurses entered my room and gave me terrible news: I had to walk.

That may not sound like a big deal, but open heart surgery is brutal. Simple things like being able to sit up or change position once my backside became sore were agony. Getting to the walker, a mere several steps away from my bed, was an extreme effort.

My goal was to walk around the nurse’s station, and I might as well have been told to walk to the moon.

Despite a punctured lung (a surgical accident), I concentrated on regular deep breaths and slow deliberate steps. I was so focused on these two things that the pain, while still significant, slipped away.

By the time I made it back to my bed, I wanted to cry and laugh—I had made it!

The next day was very different, as I’d been having a difficult time. I couldn’t seem to muster the strength to get out of bed; finally, out of desperation, I cried and gasped out that I couldn’t do it. One of the nurses very firmly but compassionately told me I could.

With her help, I somehow managed to stand on both feet and stagger to the walker. As I made my tour of the station, the deep breathing and deliberate walking allowed me to calm down enough to cope with the pain and the severe depression I’d been battling.

It had hurt so much to move that morning, but once I stood up and took that first step, things started to get better.

From that moment on, I knew that I had the strength to conquer this physical challenge. I walked every day, right up until I was released. By far it was the greatest and most painful thing I had ever accomplished.

The stumbles and falls we suffer in life can be very much like physical ones. Have you ever actually fallen? Aside from the embarrassment, what thoughts ran through your mind?

Did you:

  • Cry?
  • Get back up faster than when you went down?
  • Take a few moments to regain your senses before standing?
  • Hit the ground so hard that you wondered how badly you were injured, but decided to try to stand up anyway?
  • Blame someone else for making you fall?
  • Discover that someone was offering a hand to help you back up? Did you accept it?

The down moments in life can cause us to react the same way—if, that is, we even recognize we’ve fallen. People often “hit rock bottom” yet continue the motions of living, denying problems that are piling up.

Knowing you’ve fallen is the first step. From there, how do you get back up? Here’s what I’ve learned:

Stop dwelling over circumstances. 

Lamenting our poor choices and the faults of others won’t get us back on our feet. While it’s important to learn from these situations, it’s even more important to take these lessons to heart and not allow the past to root us down.

I could tell you about the years that led up to this surgery. I could spend a lot of time pointing fingers, even at myself. But I’d much rather talk about the positive changes I’ve experienced, and the joy I’ve found in day-to-day living. Our power is in the present.

Know what you’re capable of.

We generally know it’s harmful to stay in a bad situation, but sometimes we sabotage our attempts to leave. Setting goals that are out of reach not only create an environment ripe for failure, it feeds frustration and the sense of “I’m never getting out of this.”

What kind of goals are you setting? Are they realistic? Are they based on your capabilities, or someone else’s?

I wasn’t told to do my walking within a time frame. I wasn’t told I was supposed to handle it better because I was young. The nurses wanted to see just how much physical activity I was capable of.

When it was obvious that one trip around the desk was no longer a challenge, they asked if I’d like to make another round—and I did.

In the end, I got the pleasure of walking to the solarium where I could soak up the sun and watch the river. I really don’t think that would have been possible if my first goal had been anything more than simply “walk.”

There’s no shame in starting small. Sometimes it’s the best way to start.

Don’t let other people’s expectations dictate your situation.

What worked for a friend of a friend may not work for you. Have a conversation with yourself and understand what you can handle.

We really are different. Some people are better equipped—physically, emotionally and spiritually—to bounce back. Others need time, which can take days, months, or even years.

Don’t beat yourself up if it’s taking a long time to get up. We all have our own circumstances to deal with.

The most important thing isn’t that you bounce right back; it’s that you want to get back up.

Photo by japypen_g

Avatar of Dana David

About Dana David

Dana David is a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and heart attack survivor who is currently working to invest positive energy back into her community. She is also a wife, avid reader, and is proudly owned by two cats. You can follow her @ivorynetsuke on Twitter.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://nochnoch.com noch

    when i fell into severe depression, i wanted to give up and die. even now i sometims feel like that
    but a thought of “maybe just one more day, a day at a time”, slowly picks me up…

  • http://twitter.com/petevisintin Pete Visintin Jr

    Great post.  The principle of getting back up after we fall is one everyone should live by.  It is especially true for our physical fitness and well-being. 

    Only the people who are successful in the long-term get back up quickly after they fall off the wagon with their diet and/or exercise program. 

  • http://ponder-the-pre.posterous.com Kate Britt

    Thanks for sharing your story or courage and healing, Dana. One thing you said really struck home to me: “One of the nurses very firmly but compassionately told me I could.” When we fall, it’s so important to have that kind of strong support to haul us out of our self-doubts and down-ness. I appreciate so much the people who are there for me like that in my life, and I try to be like that for others too. We’re all in it together and that mutual effort seems to be the way through so many things.

  • Peactone

    Successful people simply get up more than they fall, so remember, always get back up and you’ll always be a winner!

  • http://loveforsuccessfulwomen.com Janet Ong

    Dana, thank you for sharing your personal story of courage.  There are many truths here.  When life has been the most challenging for me, when I view these situations as opportunities for learning and growth, life always has a way of working out…always for the better. 

  • F.N.

    Thank you for your story. I’ve been struggling a lot lately after many, many failures and I’m still trying to get back up. This gives me courage and hope.

  • William

    I had open heart surgery at 26, and I can vouch ”where there is a will there is way’. Former personal trainer, that still works out daily. Maybe not to the vigorous routine before heart surgery,but stil tries.