Being patient with yourself is hard

What a knee surgery taught me about myself

Posted on

4 min read

Two crutches leaning on a couch

I've been having knee issues all my life. I can't remember a time when the occasional pain, stiffness and crunchy noises in both knees weren't part of my regular experience. The past three years however the left knee got a ton worse, frequently hurting for days on end, getting hot, and overall just being a literal pain. That is why earlier this year I finally decided, enough is enough, got another opinion from my orthopedist and we scheduled a key hole surgery to fix what was suspected to be a very active plica syndrome. This surgery happened on September 20th and it made me learn a LOT about myself.

I went into this knowing that I'd be immobilised for a few days, that I'd need crutches, that there'd be pain and also several weeks of physical therapy following the surgery. What I did not expect was how utterly impatient I would be with myself.

See, this was the first surgery I ever had as a conscious person. I did have two minor ear surgeries as a toddler, at two and four years of age, and while both of them make for my earliest (and quite scary) memories, I don't have any feeling on how long recovery took, what it entailed and so on. And in any case, that wouldn't have allowed me to judge what I was looking at with a knee surgery anyhow. I had read up on this of course. How I could expect full weight bearing of my leg by day two or three, and how I was even encouraged to try to really use it again right after. That there would be some swelling for a few days. In my mind this resulted in "I'll be back on my feet with everything working in no time".

Colour me surprised when I woke up from anesthesia to a ridiculous amount of pain, the inability to lift the leg, swelling beyond expectation and the information that there had been a so far undetected meniscus tear that had since scarred over. And thus began a journey of self discovery 😅

What this experience taught me has been eye opening. It turns out I have next to no patience with myself. Consciously I understood that the knee would need time to recover, that the swelling would not come down one day to the next and that I'd have to give myself time to heal. But at the back of my head almost immediately I started judging myself and falling short of my expectations. Here I am, a week post surgery, and feeling bad for still preferring to have my crutches in reach even though the leg is fully weight bearing again simply because walking without them feels utterly unstable and outright hurts too after one too many attempts at pushing myself. Here I am fretting over the inability to achieve full motion in the leg again even though it has gotten better day after day and I have been taking small milestones all the time. And here I am growing increasingly annoyed by my general reliance on help.

This surgery made me discover a new flaw for good that I had suspected to be there for a long time. I'm utterly impatient with myself. I have absolutely no problem with other people taking all the time they need to recover, to heal, to work through a problem, but when it comes to myself I have such high expectations that I'm absolutely bound to fail them and get frustrated by that. I've pushed myself through bad times before - my mental health did not thank me but yielded and I made it work somehow. My body however is not taking this kind of crap from me and showing me some strong boundaries right now, and that is an utterly humbling learning experience.

I wouldn't say you should get yourself a knee surgery, because frankly this experience so far sucks a lot. But if you do, take it as a chance to practice patience with yourself. It's what I'm now seeing myself forced to do and it was long overdue.

Hydroponics the Kratky way →