Dr. Gary,
I've been going through some rough times. I caught an infection in my left foot back in May. I was bombarded with antibiotics and doctors performed surgery (incision and drainage). A lot of tissue was removed (with bone and tendon exposure). Upon release I was placed on a wound vac, and am now awaiting the top layers of skin to grow over, which is pretty much done. For 5 months I've been non-weight bearing, so I haven't walked since May. I've lost a lot of flexibility on my ankle and am stretching daily, with slow but obvious progress.
I am a police sergeant. I could've retired last March but, being young and still loving what I do, I decided to stay longer. I'm concerned that I may not be able to perform my functions (I did a lot if running and had to "scuffle" occasionally) as I did prior to my surgery. Needless to say, I've been depressed about it. I want to get back to work. I want to perform the same duties as well. If I can't perform close to where I was, or if I feel I may be a danger to my team, I feel I should retire. I don't want to. A desk job is out of the question.

Adee5, I am glad to hear from you and honored that you let me know about what’s going on with you, the challenges that you have been facing. It sounds like you have made a lot of progress in healing over the last few months, and that you are much further down the road to recovery. That is really good news.

It sounds like you are also dealing with a lot in terms of the uncertainty about your future and all of the emotions that uncertainty brings up. Anger, disappoint, and fears about the future. Humans don’t do well with uncertainty. And we don’t do well with change, either. It’s just human nature to focus on the limitations – what might not be possible – when we find ourselves facing health challenges.

How about starting by getting informed? I encourage you to have a conversation with your doctor, or a few conversations, about what you can expect after you complete your recovery. What level of activity does your medical team expect you to be able to return to? Running? Scuffling? What are the risks of returning too early? And if you need to do some additional healing to get to this level of activity, what’s going to be required on your part? Most likely, your physicians can give you a sense of what you can expect. Now, you may not like what you hear. But information is power. And once you are armed with information, you will be in a better position to make decisions about your future. It’s better to know than to not know.

Now, let’s take a look at that depression. It’s only human to want to be in control of your life. So I can understand why you are feeling frustrated and disappointed at having to take time away from work that you love to recover from this foot infection. Are you getting any emotional support? Talking with someone who can be a good listener – without judging you or trying to tell you what to do – could make a big difference. Hashing this out with a mental health professional, who could give you some additional perspective and help you to cope with this difficult time in your life, would also help. If you aren’t sure how to get started, your physician may be able to make a referral. Don’t go through this alone.

And your future. It sounds like you are seeing your future in terms of performing at the level you were at before your infection or, on the other hand, working at a desk. Of course, you know your profession and I don’t. But I am still wondering if there might be a middle ground somewhere. Once you are armed with information, it might be time to explore what’s possible. A gradual return to your former duties? A return with some modifications to accommodate any limitations while also allowing you to feel that you are contributing in the way you want to contribute. Even a role that might be more satisfying at this point in your career? Just an idea. Is this worth a conversation at your workplace? Just want to encourage you to think outside of the box.

By the way, if your depression is such that you are feeling overwhelmed, if it is affecting your eating or sleeping habits, your personal relationships, or other areas of your life, then I encourage you to reach out for help right away.

You are at a crossroads in your life. And when we are at a crossroads, it is time to take a step back and look at the options. So get more information. Talk and listen. And talk some more.

See this as an opportunity to reassess your life. What you have contributed in the past, and what you can contribute in the future. And be open to the possibilities in your life. Most of all, take good care of yourself!

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To learn more about this topic:
The Emotional Roller Coaster of Diabetes
Depression: The Hidden Diabetes Complication
Depression and Diabetes: 5 Steps toward Better Mental Health