Monday Notes: 4 Similarities Between Physical Therapy and Mental Therapy

These days, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all of the things, and one thing I’ve noticed is how similar physical and mental therapy are.

#1: Physical and emotional wounds require some type of healing.

This may seem like a ‘no, duh’ statement, but it really dawned on me during the last three months. If I told ya’ll I had no intention on going through physical therapy, you’d think I’d lost my mind. You’d google all of the information and comment or email me reasons why this was a bad decision. However, what do we do when folks are walking around in emotional pain? We offer toxic positivity, or we ignore their emotions. What we rarely do is say, hey, maybe you should try to heal that, so you can be whole again, so you can stop ruminating about the time that person did that thing. Like a physical wound, emotional wounds also require healing.

#2: Just because you feel better, doesn’t mean you’re healed; it just means you’re on your way.

Two weeks after surgery, I was doing so well, the doctor gave me some at-home exercises usually suggested for later. I felt a lot better and resumed my regular typing schedule. But my shoulder was fatigued and started to throb. I was able to swing my arm in a circle and do table slides, but typing all day was too much. I was still wounded. Emotional wounds are similar. We start doing self or professional therapy after a divorce (for example), and we think we’re ready to swipe left or right. The reality is there’s probably more healing to do, especially if for some reason, everyone you date reminds you of your ex.

#3: Just because you’re healed, doesn’t mean you should return to business as usual. In fact, you may need to develop some new habits altogether.

There is nothing I want more than to walk into a hot, steamy room, with a strong bass line playing in the background, while I perform beautiful āsanas. I miss Bhakti yoga. But I know it is not time. This is a little different than #2. Although I can return to yoga, I do not need to return the yoga I was doing before…not yet anyway. I have to do something different, something I used to think was boooring—restorative. Mental therapy is similar. For example, maybe your healing requires you to stop drinking alcohol. If that’s the case, it’s probably not a great idea to go back to that group you used to do shots with. This seems like common sense, but it’s not always. A lot of times, we want to return to the scene, but we’ve changed, and the scene has not. The scene is the scene.

#4: If you’re not careful, physical and emotional wounds risk re-injury.

The sling I was in served as a physical reminder that I was injured. The sling prevented me from using my hand or reaching too far. Once the sling was off, there was nothing stopping me. The first thing the physical therapist told me was to be careful of thinking I was fully healed. I still shouldn’t have reached for anything; otherwise, I could risk re-injury, and if that happened, I’d begin back at week seven. Mental therapy is a part of a healing journey, but there is no big black sling reminding you of your emotional wound. Oftentimes, the reminder comes in the form of people or experiences, like that family member who hasn’t grown or that place where the trauma occurred. If you’re not prepared, re-injury comes in the form of triggers. Suddenly, there’s a familiar smell that takes you back to being hurt. Just like a physical wound, you must be careful; you’re the only one who can protect yourself from being re-injured. Whatever those measures may be, you’re the one responsible for avoiding emotional pain.

I could only think of four of these, but if you have more, please share. I strongly believe we can help one another do better.

54 thoughts on “Monday Notes: 4 Similarities Between Physical Therapy and Mental Therapy

  1. The emotional wounds finds ways to surface as physical wound if left unhealed. Inflammation, chronic paim etc. Can’t hide from it forever.

    I loved ‘… we think we’re ready to swipe left or right.’ 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. I realized that last part about natural instincts recently. There’s no reason to keep calling my PT person to ask her what to do or if I’m okay to do X, Y, or Z. I started using my instincts to determine all of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate to this entire post because I’m dealing with injuries and emotions at the same time where I tore through the cartilage on my knee. I think emotion is worse than physical pain. It’s as if I am grieving the person that I used to be but I have to accept I have limitations now.

    Also, for some reason I had to follow you again – not sure what happened.

    Anyway, I finished the Infinite Sadness painting and would love to have you come see my result! 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jennifer, I’m happy/sad to know you can relate to both of these, but also, thank you for commenting that it is relatable for you. We have to move through all of these physical and emotional pains, regardless. Acceptance is a key part to both of these; otherwise, we risk rumination and depression (I think).

      WP is wonky…always lol

      I’m headed over there to see/purchase!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. All the best for your recovery. I cannot agree with you more – rehabing my broken knee was the catalyst for me to fix my shit. Life would have been so different otherwise. I laughed out loud when I read reinjury. Oh, how right you are, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you can relate to this. “Fix your sh!t” was going to be my last piece of advice for turning 50, but I kept going back and forth about if I should really write it. Now that you’ve said that, I’m thinking it definitely will be lol


  4. I sometimes think that emotional wounds are actually harder to heal, because people don’t see them and so don’t even know that we’re hurt. And because they don’t know, they expect us to do things we’re not ready to do yet. Emotional wounds are the only kind that we have to actively tell others about if we want them to understand. And even after being told, they often don’t fully understand.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ann, everything you’ve said here is true and has been my experience. Because no one can see it, there’s not as much as support. But lately, I’ve been thinking that I don’t know if others really don’t see it, or if it’s easier to claim they don’t. Know what I mean? I can pretend I don’t see your face twisted up or hands balled up (and then gaslight you about it), but with physical pain, no one can ignore a limp or whatever.

      I guess I wrote all that to say, I kind of agree.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re right. Even when people do notice the signs of emotional wounds, it’s easy for them to pretend they don’t. And that makes it even harder for the person who is wounded!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is so perfectly explained – emotional wounds often are more delicate to deal with and we might feel practiced in putting on a face, it can really cause more harm and it can be a lonely process to find our way. There is often very less support and awareness regarding the time required for healing and building new habits in our day to day life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with everything you’ve said here, Pragalbha. Dealing with and healing emotional wounds is a very lonely process, and it tends to take a little more to convince the people around you that you were even going through something, which can delay the healing even more (if we’re waiting on validation).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, Katherin! I had an accident on Friday. I fell off an electric scooter. I’m pretty banged up, but very very lucky. After a CAT scan (I did bump my head)
    and multiple xrays, nothing was broken. But my right pinky was completely dislocated and grotesque. I am realizing what a foolish risk I took – seems I’m really good at worrying about my kids’ safety instead of my own. And even with this injury, I can’t do the many things I love to do – like play guitar, draw, play tennis etc. Thank goodness, it’s temporary.

    So now that I’ve shared this, I have to say that #4 really stuck out to me about risking another injury. In so many ways, this injury paralleled my broken ankle. I also need to be careful and allow myself to heal. I tend to use my hand a lot. I’ll let you know how things go. Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JUDY! What the hey??? I’m glad you’re doing well, and I guess this essay was a week too late. Good grief, I’m sorry to hear that this happened, especially the part about your pinky because I do understand how this affects all of the things you like to do.

      I suppose we all have to move slower and with more intention, you know? Sending you some healing vibes 💫

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Katherin! I am in healing mode and back to embracing patience. I’m thankful that this is temporary and hoping to get back to my life soon. I appreciate your words very much!


  7. You make some interesting observations on the healing process and I agree, they are similar, but I find physical healing much easier than mental or emotional healing. I don’t know why, I could be a grudge holder, but emotional pain likes to linger in the background of my mind, popping up like a pimple during times of extreme stress. And I can’t be held responsible for the flood of emotion that oozes out of these wounds. Hugs, C

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After reading your book (I promise this is the last time I’ll say it…maybe lol), I understand your grudge-holder status.

      Emotional pain can linger, but only if we let it, right? Kinda like physical therapy, if I never do my PT or do it haphazardly, then the pain will definitely linger. I gues with both, you gotta do the work 😉 But I hear you. The physical work is sometimes easier than the emotional 💕


  8. My right hip is getting in good shape! The time off from a full time job teaching is also healing! Physical therapy take a lot of discipline and will power to do on your own each day. If I return full time in the fall, I will be doing my PT early early morning as before and continuing to work. I feel tired just thinking about it. However, as long as the mind can perceive, the body can do it!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You’re totally right, KE. People take physical healing much more seriously than mental healing. I’ve done psychotherapy for a long time and let me tell you, nothing feels better than finally being able to shed emotional baggage you’ve been carrying around. Healing takes time. And it changes your life, how you see things, how you go about getting back on the horse (or not). If you want to stay better, you can’t just return to doing things the same way you did them before.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Living with chronic illness, I have to be mindful of pacing. It’s like learning a new rhythm – rest when needed, take small steps when feeling better, or as you say, the illness re-triggers. For an “A-type” it has meant finding patience and tenderness for self I seldom applied before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very hard to learn to ask for (and receive) help. Over the past three months, I learned just how embedded not asking for help is in my psyche…it was almost offensive to me to even receive it, even though I needed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. How about “therapy can feel weird and uncomfortable”? When I had to go to physical therapy after fracturing my wrist, some of the exercises they had me do were things I found odd and not entirely physically comfortable, like kneading a circle of a Play-Doh like substance. Then in couples therapy we got asked to do another exercise that was somewhat outside my comfort zone. It was ultimately better to experience the mild discomfort in both cases but it did feel weird at the time

    Liked by 3 people

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