One of the things that I told my physical therapist a few days after my surgery and mentioned to a different therapist today, is that I’m starting from zero. And that it’s actually not a bad place to be.
When I was in physical therapy last September, one thing I learned was that a lot of my problems with my knees actually come from weaknesses in my hips. Because those muscles are weak, I compensate by putting more stress on my knees. So this experience is also about learning how to strengthen those muscles and correct my walking habits in order to reduce the problems with my knees. Which is another aspect of starting from zero. By being off my legs for a while, I can relearn a lot of things. I’m already retraining myself to do simple things like walking or going up steps so it’s a good time to correct problems.
Last week, I wrote that things were going relatively well and that even the pain seemed to have a purpose. Two days later I would have written a completely different entry. I decided shortly after putting aside the crutches that I would also stop taking my prescription painkillers, thinking that I was progressing well so I didn’t need them.
I have a list of issues with taking medications like that, most of them are really just me being stubborn about things. But I just don’t like taking any medicine, let along strong narcotic painkillers. Plus I don’t like that they usually lose their effectiveness over time. I want them to work when I desperately need them, so I don’t want to take them when I could survive without.
The mistake though, was that last Monday was not a time where I could survive without, and I didn’t figure that out until Wednesday morning. I ended up in so much pain that I couldn’t sleep, and I had trouble sleeping since the surgery so when I got to Wednesday morning I was so exhausted and in so much pain that I started to wonder if I would ever feel normal and walk properly again. I’ve had insomnia for most of my life, and while I might not like it, I’m used to surviving with constant fatigue and lack of sleep. But the exhaustion reached a point that I hadn’t felt in a very long time, and I just wasn’t equipped to handle it.
It seems like this isn’t a rare moment for somebody to go through after a surgery like this. I told my physical therapist about it and she said that sleep is vital to my recovery, but that I also need to make sure not to push myself too hard and to take the time to do this right instead of trying to be super human.
I took her advice, I started taking the painkillers again but only for a couple more days. I did my exercises as prescribed, even when they hurt, but I paid attention to my pain and didn’t work harder than I could stand. And it paid off faster than I would have expected. I thought that I was taking a slow and steady path, but it turns out it wasn’t that slow.
My physical therapy has steadily increased in intensity. I’m driving my own car again and while it’s not easy to push in the clutch it’s doable. I can go up and down stairs like a normal person instead of one at a time, but they’re still not easy and I think the six or so in front of my house is still my limit there. But I’m not really limping, and my range of motion is nearly what it was before. I’d say I’m already back at about 75% of where I was before the surgery.
Now, “where I was” doesn’t mean that I was in a great place. I feel like I’m actually still at zero, but I’m so very close to actually making progress rather than standing still.