Claire Drey-Brown’s we need to talk blog: sometimes things just suck

  • I think the hardest thing I have gone through within my riding career, and one of the hardest things I have ever gone through in life in general, was breaking my leg.

    To talk about this topic I probably need to give you a little bit of context..

    So, here’s the story of the leg.

    I was teaching and the girl had lost some confidence and asked me to get on. I wasn’t expecting to ride so was wearing short ‘muck’ style boots. I hopped on, went for a jump, the horse took off awkwardly, tripped on landing and dropped her shoulder simultaneously. I half fell, half jumped off, and landed on my feet. Except I wasn’t standing on both feet, I was standing on my right foot, and my left ankle, after my foot had gone floppy.

    After horrendous treatment by the hospital (that’s a WHOOOOLE other story!) my strength had left me. I was beaten. Temporarily. I got stuck ruminating about the ‘what if’s’. What if I had done A, B or C differently? Would I still have broken my leg?

    Let me tell you; I was NOT a nice person to be around for those months!

    The thing is, I have never trained as hard as I did before I broke my leg. I would run and work out at home almost daily. I’d eat clean. I was unbelievably focused and worked stupid hours every day to gain experience. Of course, because I was working so hard, I managed to save up quite a bit of money too.

    This all came crashing down in that split second that my leg snapped. That split second. Even writing this I can feel surges of anger when I think about it. A tiny millisecond that destroyed everything I was. Everything I had worked for. Everything I had planned.

    It is now a year and a half later since that split second. I have had two surgeries on my leg with a third planned. I am eventing and running my business, riding up to six horses a day. It all looks good on the surface.

    Under the surface I am in constant, excruciating pain. The pain keeps me awake at night. I had a huge confidence knock. I have been taking Morphine up to four times a day, every day, for the past year and a half.

    My leg is still black and purple from bruising. I am covered in disgusting, twisted scars. I am 22 and walk with a limp. I have to limit my riding a lot. I have to plan everything around what my ankle can handle. It takes me twice as long to walk a cross-country course, and I have to do it on crutches. I can’t go to parties or go out clubbing in case I get accidentally bumped into, and I go everywhere with a cane or crutches. I can’t drive long distances, and I can’t really go anywhere alone. I’ve lost my independence.

    I am 22-years-old.

    The thing is, when you experience a trauma like this, your mental state is weakened and things that may not bother you normally, can pile up and break you down.

    You do start to break down. You know that feeling when you have a bad day, you drop a spoon, and you scream at the spoon. Well, that is kind of what my state of mind was like for a very long time after the accident.

    Living in pain is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone; it eats away at your energy and strength. It is exhausting. It causes you to snap at people for no reason (spoon theory). It isolates you.

    It is pretty tough to find motivation again. I still go through days where the pain is bad, and I can’t scrape the motivation together to be as productive as I used to be. I hate this version of myself, I really do. I look back and admire the ‘old me’ for having grit, determination, an amazing work ethic, the skill, the body, the brain.

    I don’t recognise myself now. This is not who I want to be. I feel as though I am letting everybody down.

    I have another surgery in a couple of months, which I planned for the middle of my season purposefully so that the horses can have a break while the ground is hard.

    I am trying desperately to make achievable goals for myself to build my motivation, but with the various surgeries it has been so ‘stop/start’. Just as I get everything going again, something goes wrong in my leg and it needs surgery. It has literally been my life for the past two years.

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    If you are reading this hoping that I will be able to share the secret of staying motivated, I’m afraid you will be left feeling disappointed. I don’t have the answer yet, but I will find it.

    For now, I am finding the joy in riding again. I am doing a lot of hacking and messing about with the horses. I am training bareback, going out galloping, riding in headcollars, riding with friends, rediscovering my passion and sparking the fire again.

    I am sorry to not write something really inspiring and motivational, but the reality of the matter is that living with pain is not all inspiration and motivation. Sometimes, it just sucks.


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