Habits

It’s too difficult to change habits, that’s the thing I’m running into the most with this. Recently I found a printable .pdf that was meant to be a habit “checklist” to help you keep track of what habits you were succeeding at and which you weren’t. The trick was 1-you’d have to print the checklist every single week, what a waste of paper and 2-they were charging for it.

So I took the basic idea from a few printable checklists that I saw and made it into a very simple Google Drive document, which you can look at here. You should be able to save your own copy that you can edit and keep track of yourself as well.

Also, I’ve been trying to use Evernote to keep a food, sleep, and exercise diary since I can access my Evernote notebooks through multiple devices. I’ve not really gotten that down, but I think I’ll add “update Evernote” to my habits list. But what I’ve been doing is pretty simple. I just have a notebook that is my food/exercise journal. Then each day gets it’s own note. The first line is when I slept the night before, then a list of the foods I ate and when I ate them (I’m not keeping track of quantities right now, I don’t want to be too obsessive) and then a line at the end for what exercise I did that day. Partially I’m doing this to keep track, but I’m also working on figuring out what food and exercise changes might do to my sleep schedule, and how I’m generally feeling. I’ve seen some spreadsheets that work in a similar fashion, but they usually have a bunch of lines I don’t feel like filling out.

My husband is on vacation this week, so we’re going to be taking more walks, and see how it goes. So next week hopefully I’ll have something more than “this is how I’m trying to even just remember to do what I’m supposed to do.”

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Back to the circuit

So last Friday I decided it was time to get back to walking. My physical therapist told me that at this point everything was up to my own tolerance.

My husband, my best friend, and I all took a walk around the lake that I live next to. I need to check on the length of the walk again, but I think it’s about a mile.

It was mostly non-eventful. My left knee (the one I had surgery one) wasn’t too bad, but the right knee ached a bit. Likely because I’ve been focusing on the left with my strength workouts and stuff. So time to start doing everything on both sides I guess.

It was also a bit muggy, so now it’s time to start grumping about the weather! I did finally get a pair of shorts that fits after having to return some. So now I need to make sure to put on sunscreen before I go out.

So slow progress this week, but progress.

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A month later

So I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last posted, but I think everybody could tell I was fed up with everything.

My knee still pops and crackles as I walk down steps. It still aches a bit, and I’m still not entirely sure it’s better than it was before.

My physical therapy exercises got easier, so they made them all more difficult last week and I spent a day unable to walk comfortably because my muscles hurt. But I need that kind of thing right now, it’s been too long that I’ve been letting myself be still because of weakness in my joints and muscles, so it’s time to work them and get better.

My last day of physical therapy is Wednesday, and I’ve been officially cleared to start taking walks again. I might not start this week because things have been crazy busy but it’ll be soon. I’m also thinking about taking up yoga. Have any hikers done yoga and know if it’s a good combination?

The sad thing is that starting the walking again is just going to remind me again that I need to buy a raincoat, it’s been very rainy here lately.

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Two and a half weeks in…

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.

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Hobbling around

So it’s been a week since my arthroscopic knee surgery. The bruises are fading, and the swelling has thankfully gone down a lot already.

The surgery itself was mostly uneventful. The only problem was that after I woke up I couldn’t sleep, because I usually sleep on my side and I couldn’t. So it took more than 24 hours after I woke up from anesthesia for me to actually get any more sleep. I had my first physical therapy appointment about 48 hours after the surgery, and they took off the bandage so I got my first good look at everything. It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t too bad either.

Part of the issue before my appointment was that my crutches were all wrong, so they were almost impossible to walk with, which led to me mostly staying in one place. They were set really low, and I was hunching over to try to walk. I tried to fix them myself but it wasn’t much better until the PT fixed it.

Of course the first thing he did was tell me “okay, we’re going to put your leg flat on the bench.” I was absolutely convinced that I could not do it, that my knee would never actually manage that until it wasn’t as swollen. But about ten minutes later it was actually where it was supposed to be.

The part that disturbed me the most was that he asked me to tighten my quad muscle and it didn’t respond at all. I have this weird thing about when my body either does things I don’t tell it (shivering, reflex tests) or when it doesn’t do what I tell it (like in this case). So I was a little freaked out, but he said that it’s actually common after this kind of surgery and swelling. So they hooked up an electrical stimulation unit and I sat there with that on for ten minutes. I can’t say I liked it, but I didn’t dislike it either. It just kind of was.

Then I had to do a few exercises and they put my leg in a machine that pumped ice cold water through it, and it had pressure too. So that was kind of nice. The therapist definitely is not going to be the kind of coddle me or let me get away with anything, he’s going to push, which is what I need.

I’ve been keeping up with my exercises, mostly. Some days I don’t do as many sessions as I’m supposed to (by like, one set, not by a lot) but I at least get it done. My friends also don’t let me get away with much, so I actually ended up going out and walking around (on crutches) for three days in a row. I may have overdone it a bit because yesterday I’d decided to stop taking my pain medication because I thought it might be too much, and I ended up with a fever and nausea.

But the big thing is that today I decided to not use my crutches at all unless things got really bad. And I did it, no crutches at all since yesterday. On top of that, I actually started walking more or less like a normal person instead of shuffling and hopping around. It hurts to do it, but it hurts in a way that I think is probably good, rather than in a way that means I’m messing up my progress.

I can tell one of my big problems will be my calf muscles, because my exercises are designed to help work my calf and the on my left leg that muscle has ALWAYS been too tight and a big problem, so working it like this is making it hurt. But again, maybe it’s in a good way.

Tomorrow I go back to physical therapy again, and keep that up for about a month it looks like, before they re-evaluate and decide if I need more. Plus this week I go to the doctor for the general follow-up and maybe somebody will finally tell me what they actually did while they were poking around in there, since so far nobody has actually said what happened specifically.

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Just one more day

So tomorrow I’m going in to have my knee operated on, and Thursday I start physical therapy. So the tone of this blog will change a little bit to be about updates on my recovery and my progress towards my thru-hike. I still think I can do this, and I plan to tell my PT that it’s my goal and that I want to work towards that.

But the first step is recovery. Yay. Wish me luck!

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Diets?

So the other day I went in to see a cardiologist because I had a problem with my heart last year. The discussion covered a lot of topics but one of the big ones for me was that he suggested this diet that’s run in the office next to his, by one of his affiliated doctors.

Now, I’m overweight and I totally admit that. But I also am pretty adamant most days that I’m not looking to “lose weight” I’m looking to be healthy and feel well. I know that more than likely in my case that involves losing weight, I’m not stupid. But just simply decreasing the number on the scale is not on my list of things to do except when I’m having a particularly hard day.

One of the things on my list though is to eat more balanced meals and be more nutritious about food in general. I haven’t figured out how to do that on my own, really, so this diet where you actually purchase food and eat what they tell you while meeting regularly with a doctor actually did catch my eye.

But when I started looking into it more, it would go completely counter to what I’ve been planning to do with the rest of my life. Especially with this plan to hike the trail, it just wouldn’t work. Because for the first portion of the diet you’re eating so few calories in order to intentionally send your body into shock that you’re supposedly not allowed to exercise at all.

I’m finally getting my knee problem sorted out, I’m not going to suddenly drop all of my plans and spend a ridiculous amount of money just to drop a couple numbers for some arbitrary thing. I get that losing weight would have other side effects, but one of the things I want to change about myself through this hiking plan is that I feel weak and unable to do things that require any kind of physicality. THAT is my primary goal for wanting to feel well, I want to feel able and accomplished. So I don’t see how this diet could actually help me accomplish that at all.

Which means I’m back to the drawing board on figuring out how to get my eating habits in line and be better about them.

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Surgery scheduled

So, I’ve scheduled my surgery to deal with my knee/shin/leg issue in March. I’ll probably not update this much until after that’s done, except maybe to discuss my plan for building back up from that.

They say the surgery is minimally invasive but involves some physical therapy, so I’ll be probably talking about that for a bit. But I want to get back on track with this, I’m tired of this knee issue putting me on the sidelines of everything.

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Verdict is no verdict really

So, the MRI results are in on my knee and the basic result is that there’s no result. The doctor looked at the scan and said that there’s not really visible evidence of a meniscus tear, and that the chip of cartilage that he thought might be the cause is actually rather insignificant or something.

Honestly, I kind of glazed over midway through because I was so disappointed that there’s still NOTHING to show for all of this time, money, and effort.

But the basic answer is I can either suck it up and do nothing and stay in pain, or I can get arthroscopic surgery on my knee to fix the tear.

You know, the tear that may or may not actually be there. Because despite there being no visible evidence of it, the doctor still thinks that’s the problem because of where it’s particularly tender. I guess he’s the expert.

I don’t know, I know I can’t afford the surgery and I can’t afford to continue to feel this pain. And it’s keeping me from walking which is keeping me from hiking.

But having surgery for what they “think” the problem is doesn’t sound all that great either.

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Success!

I haven’t had my follow-up appointment yet, but my doctor called me the other day to say that the MRI did in fact show a problem. I’m going to wait until I have more info to post about it but it’s so great to finally have an idea what’s wrong and know that it’s something that the doctor understands that has treatment protocols and there’s an answer in sight.

So after I have more info, I guess this blog will become a recovery blog for a bit until I can finally start with my plan for walking/hiking again. Not that it isn’t already a blog about illness, bleh.

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