‘What I learnt about resilience after I had my heart and nose broken in 24 hours’

It’s funny how things work out. Lying in bed at 1am after ending a relationship with a guy that, at one point, I was almost certain was ‘the one’, I was pretty sure I couldn’t feel any worse.

I was wrong. The extent to which I would only truly discover less than 24 hours later while nursing a broken nose in hospital.

Prior to what would turn out to be one of the worst weeks of 2019 for me, my biggest concern had been the need to find a new job. My previous six month contact was up and I was back in the pool of writers looking for work, contacting editors and pitching ideas daily.

Now both unemployed and single after nearly seven years – the fresh pain of shifting your status from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘single’ and the sense of loss and confusion that comes with it is one that needs little explanation – I decided to take a day away from my increasingly claustrophobic home ‘office’ and take my board down to the beach for a surf.

It was the most beautiful day. Blue skies, a shimmering sea offering wave after surf-able wave, a gentle breeze sweeping over the surfers sitting easily on their boards waiting for the next set to roll in.

I was out there for hours, enjoying the conditions and the mental break from the worries and concerns that had been weighing so heavily and painfully on my mind.

A little before 5pm, realising that the previously quiet waters were now full with locals flocking to the ocean after work, I decided to start heading back in to the beach.

This is the last thing I remember before finding myself being spun viciously underwater, the feeling of something sharp and hard connecting with my face and the stomach-churning crunching sound of a bone being broken.

As I broke back through the sea’s surface, clutching at my board to stay afloat, warm blood begun pouring down my face and neck from my nose, pooling in the water around me.

Concussed and dazed, it was only moments before a lifeguard begun pulling me from the water that I realised I had been hit by another surfer who had lost control in the water, the point of his fibreglass surfboard connecting with the bridge of my nose, breaking it instantly on impact. A couple of centimetres to the right and the point would have gone straight through my eye.

Accidents of this nature are so common, a doctor in Bondi Junction tells me a couple of months later, that they don’t even bother to show them on Bondi Rescue.

Despite the number of people of different abilities out on the water each day, I had never considered this before, and certainly never thought I would be at the receiving end of a collision. I still couldn’t believe what had happened as I sat in shock in the passenger seat of my friend’s car while she drove me to hospital, gauze and an ice pack provided by the lifeguards to control the bleeding and the swelling held firmly to my face.

You might say that it was meant to be – a real physical pain to take priority and precedence over the emotional, internal one I was processing. But at the time, as I sat in the emergency department waiting to be assessed by a doctor, my face resembling that of an injured rugby player, I couldn’t believe my bad luck.

Told to go home, rest and wait for the swelling to go down, I was scheduled in for an operation to straighten my now seriously wonky nose and bruised face in two weeks time.

Over the next few days, I steeled myself every morning before looking in the mirror. Those who have broken their nose before will know that along with a disfigured nose you get two, shiny black eyes to boot – and as the saying the goes, they have to get (much) worse before they get better.

As well as not feeling like myself at all, I now didn’t even look like myself either.

I wanted to crawl under my covers and not surface until my operation. However, three days after the accident an editor got in touch, offering me potential work on a steady, part-time basis – I just had to go into the office and complete a trial shift first.

This was the email I had been waiting weeks for, but when I read it I burst into tears. What kind of a first impression would I make meeting a new potential employer with a broken nose and two black eyes? Plus I had barely left the house in days and couldn’t even begin to imagine commuting through Sydney and then walking into professional office environment.

Concerned friends rung to console, encourage and support me, but I refused to have video calls with them because of how I looked and felt.

However, their words and their advice coaxed me out of my feeling of helplessness, and my need to get a job, and desire to get this particularly good role at a brand I really wanted to work for, chastened me.

Turning up to a brand new office, full of people I had never met before, looking like I’d come out the wrong side of a fist fight or rugby scrum, I was more than a little nervous.

However, I had a goal in mind, to get the job – and was dead set on achieving it. So instead of dwelling on how I looked, or how bad the copious amount of cover up I had used to try and minimise the initial impact of how bad my face looked, I focused instead on how I was going to try and impress the team with my skills – rather than scare them off with my appearance.

I needn’t have worried. The team could not have been any nicer or more understanding about my situation, and were very reassuring when it came to how I looked walking into a new job for the first time with two black eyes and a swollen face.

Sitting behind a desk and focused on the tasks at hand, I would have forgotten about what I looked like if it was for the occasional dull throb of pain from my nose when it was time to top up my pain meds.

In the end, I got the job, and even though my first few weeks were spent commuting in surrounded by sideways glances from people on the bus and fielding questions about what on earth I had done to my face (was it better or worse once I’d had the operation that people just assumed I’d had a nose job?) I actually felt happy and confident with something tangible to set my mind to.

I slowly learnt that even though things may not always be good in that moment – and there were definitely times in the weeks following my break up and my accident that I was not okay – that they would eventually be better and that over time the low I was in would pass, whether that be in a few hours time, a few days or a few weeks. I just had to always have faith and trust that it would.

One week after my operation and I was having the cast removed and a fairly pleased looking surgeon was admiring his handiwork.

My broken nose was fixed and aside from a tiny scar which I was reassured would fade, there was little to show I’d ever been involved in a surfing accident in the first place.

As for my once broken heart, time is a great healer, but so is having a focus, goals to strive towards and a brilliant tribe of friends at your back when you need them most.

Although it may sound cliche, the whole experience taught me that I am much stronger than I ever realised and that resilience isn’t just about biting down and weathering storms, but enduring them to reach your goals regardless.

You do not choose to be resilient, but rather you choose not to be beaten or broken by your circumstances or the challenges that life throws at you, and this in time makes you resilient.

When you have a goal to strive towards this suddenly becomes as easily done as it is said, or at least that’s what I found, facing each individual obstacle as it was presented to me rather than allowing myself to be overwhelmed by the situation as a whole.

Bones heal, hearts mend and storms pass – you just have to trust that they will.