More of the Same

I missed my one-year anniversary of blogging! This blog was first created out of desperation on April 26, 2016. Let’s see, back then I was freaking out about my company closing, and about needing two knee surgeries instead of one. All perfectly logical reasons to freak out, in my opinion. While I’m more focused on other projects now, I’m glad I started this blog when I did. It’s nice being able to look at my thoughts and progress from the last year. Sometimes I’ve wanted to remember milestones from the first surgery, so it’s handy being able to look back through my blog.

I haven’t been updating because nothing changed in the last month – except for my recovering progress, of course. My walker has been sitting in the corner of my room since last month, I moved to the cane, and now I don’t even need the cane when walking around my house. I’m still wearing the small brace though. My original follow-up appointment with the doctor was May 18th, but she’s going to a medical conference, so now I won’t see her or the hospital’s physical therapist until May 30th. Frankly I don’t mind. At this point I think I just need to do my exercises until I’m fully recovered.

One sort-of interesting change is that I’m using a muscle stimulation wrap that was (hopefully) covered by my insurance. Electrodes literally zap my quad muscle to make it stronger. Plus I control the strength through an app on my phone. I’ve experienced this in physical therapy before, so I guess this is the home version.

Not to jinx myself, but writing has been going really well too. There was a break in freelancing assignments so I got to work on my novel. It’s close to 30,000 words now and I finally have a clear idea of what the ending will be. This might be a little too optimistic but I might even finish this draft by the end of the year.

I haven’t returned to baking yet, unfortunately. I should flip through my cookbooks again and pick something for this week.

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Counting My Blessings

While I’ve neglected this blog, I have been a busy little writer bee lately. I hit thirty pages for the new version of my ongoing novel project (I lost track of how many versions there’s been so far). On top of that, a freelance gig assigned me new blog posts that are longer than the ones I previously wrote for them. All good things, but between that and recovering from my knee surgery, I haven’t had much motivation left for this blog.

As usual my recovery has been the standard roller-coaster of emotions. My knee is a lot less stiff than the other one was because the surgeon completed this procedure in half the time. On the other hand, I had much more trouble walking this time around. Before I wasn’t so concerned about walking correctly because I still had one knee left to do. When trying to “be good” over the past month, I could barely out-shamble a zombie and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. Thank God for the hospital’s physical therapist, who I saw for my belated four-week appointment on Saturday. Apparently I should be leading with the surgery knee instead of the recovered knee (wouldn’t you think it was the other way around??). The therapist made sure I had the technique down pat and showed me exercises to make sure my “muscles fired.”

I’m so grateful to be on the right track again. On Saturday night I went to my aunt’s house, my first social outing since the surgery (though I’ve had visitors every week). I’m still struggling a bit but I’ve improved more these last few days than I have the entire month. I’m also glad I didn’t miss dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house because I got to see my cousin and her new husband after their destination wedding last week. Although, watching their wedding video made me wish I could’ve gone to Jamaica! At least I wasn’t the only relative who couldn’t make the trip.

I’ve had a more positive outlook these past few months. Instead of cursing my misfortune of needing two consecutive surgeries, I’ve been grateful to have the opportunity to fix knees that have bothered me my whole life. Still living at home at my age turned into a blessing because I didn’t have to worry about giving up an apartment and moving back home post-surgery. I’m grateful for my two best friends who have visited me every weekend in the last month. I’m even feeling optimistic about my writing again. While I still doubt I’ll make a living selling books, I’m hopeful about eventually publishing my current work-in-progress.

That said, I still dread getting back behind the wheel of my car in a month or so. I just have to remind myself of all those hours I wasted taking public transportation.

Frozen

Don’t worry, I don’t mean the Disney movie, and I’m not about to sing “Let It Go.”

…well, now I am since watching the music video, but that’s entirely irrelevant.

Anyway, by “frozen,” I mean those times we are frozen with fear and unable to take the next step. This has always been very literal for me, especially now that I’m recovering from knee surgery. You’d think I’d be back to normal after three months, but the thing is, much of the time I didn’t walk “normally” pre-surgery. I could walk on my own when I felt steady enough, but when I didn’t, I leaned on my stronger knee (ironically, the one operated on first) or reached for something to hold on to. I’ve been holding myself back the last few weeks because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t gaining any balance. So what if I leaned on my other knee instead of the post-op one? I did that in the past and managed well enough.

I’d gotten frustrated to the point of tears (again) because I couldn’t use my shiny new cane that I ordered from Amazon. It seemed bizarre that I couldn’t use it because I barely needed the walker anymore. If I shouldn’t use the walker, and I couldn’t use the cane, how the hell was I supposed to get around?

So, with that realization, I resigned myself to practicing with the cane and only using the walker if absolutely necessary. Not very encouraging three months after surgery.

Then a few days ago I used the treadmill for the first time in weeks, as part of my plan to walk more in addition to physical therapy exercises. I’d been making excuses because we have a foundation leak in our basement, and our treadmill is in the basement, so how can I possibly use it with all the furniture crowding it? Finally I asked Mom about moving things around so I could practice walking (as in heel-toe with equal weight distribution) on the treadmill. I didn’t think much of it but figured it could only help.

“Help” was an understatement. My mental state improves every day by walking with confidence on the treadmill, even if it’s at a snail’s pace and I lightly hold on to the railings for safety. I understand now that, hey, what do you know, maybe leaning on one knee more than the other does have something to do with balance. I also realize that my post-op knee is capable of supporting more weight than I’d thought, that I won’t fall as soon as I rely on it. Even if I do feel like I might fall, I’m capable of righting myself without frantically grabbing for the nearest sturdy piece of furniture.

I feel much more optimistic now. It wasn’t a miracle of course, as I still have plenty unsure moments and reach for furniture on occasion, even when using the cane. Now I try to thaw when I freeze up, and not allow my fear of falling to get the best of me. These days I’d rather risk falling than hold myself back from moving forward.

 

Getting My Groove Back

I consider myself a big-picture person, but there are times when even I can’t see the forest through the trees. It’s easy to get wrapped up in daily challenges. Lately, I’ve felt frustrated with both my writing and physical therapy process, overwhelmed by apparent lack of progress in both areas. My knee had loosened up after being stiff for well over a month, and the new sensation of being able to move it freaked me out – even though that’s what was supposed to happen. I couldn’t help associating it with pre-operation fears, despite knowing that the problem had been fixed.

On top of that, I’d hit a wall with my writing. The idea of writing everything I had planned, then editing it all, then doing something with it…it seems like too much. Then I have to hope that people will actually read it. I got a little depressed thinking of the future, realizing a career in fiction is probably not going to happen, and wondering what else I want to do with my life if not that. I even freaked at the thought of applying to publishing houses. The possibility has always been in the back of my mind, but then I think about the interview. An earlier post here explained why I haven’t read many classics. While it sounds perfectly reasonable on my blog, I doubt a hiring manager will agree.

Confidence in my knee has since improved. I’m getting around better without the walker again, and from here on it’s just a matter of practice. I often have to remind myself that it depends on my state of mind. My knee has been fixed, so it’s all on me to believe I can walk on my own.

I can’t say the same for  a writing career. While I still don’t think I’ll ever make a living from selling my books, but there could be a niche writing/media/communications-related job out there for me in the future. It’s frustrating though because I have no idea where I will eventually end up. Without knowing what kind of writing job I want, I can’t work towards it now. I’m more lost than ever before and I don’t know what to do with myself.

Hoping inspiration will strike soon. Hell, these days I’ll be happy if I decide which book to read or TV show to watch.

Who Rocked Physical Therapy?

*points at self* I did! Woohoo!

After a month of weekly trips into the city and consistently disappointing my doctor, I FINALLY got the all-clear during my visit on Thursday. Before that it had been very aggravating because no matter how much I did, my muscle spasmed, my leg shook, and at times I didn’t have a leg to stand on. Switching to the walker and doing my exercises gave me the confidence to believe that everything’s really okay now and nothing will happen to my “new” knee.  There are times where I can almost walk without holding on to anything. My doctor was so impressed with my range of motion and stability that she even had me get fitted for a smaller brace that would allow me to bend my knee when walking. The best part? I don’t have to go back for SIX WEEKS! 

Unfortunately I can’t use the smaller brace just yet. My new goal is to do a straight leg raise without my brace, because that means I’m ready to switch. 

Worrying about my recovery was upsetting, so for the last week or so I’ve stayed in post-writing project limbo. Today I’m looking forward to editing and maybe starting my next story. I didn’t think I would be so relieved after my appointment but the validation made a huge difference. I’m still doing exercises regularly, but now I can relax knowing I’m on the right track.

Knee-jerk Reactions

This week has taught me the true meaning of “mind over matter.”

I’ve been given a new physical therapy regimen. The first week I had no idea how far I was supposed to progress, so I took it easy and didn’t move that much. Big mistake apparently. Now the doctor’s office is worried about knee stiffness, so they’re sending me to my local physical therapist every day this week. If I’m not there, I’m on my rented Continuous Passive Motion machine 4.5 hours a day (three sessions, 1.5 hours). If I’m not on the machine or at therapy, I’m doing exercises or putting ice on my knee.

Ice is on my knee right now. Frankly, I’m not sure I’ll have time to finish this post before my next CPM session.

While it’s easy to complain about this intense schedule, I don’t because I see the difference every day. I’ve been nervous about my knees my whole life. Preventing my kneecap from dislocating was on my mind constantly, and it still is because I haven’t done my right knee yet. My insecurity runs so deep that my knees have developed actual “knee-jerk reactions” to various movements. I’m so afraid my kneecap will move that my knee automatically jerks or tenses if the physical therapist stretches it in a way that would have caused pain in the past. The doctor, nurse and therapist think it’s because of the pain, but I have a high tolerance for that. It’s strictly because my subconscious is holding me back.

I wish there was a way for me to put my knee in phsyco-therapy, because that’s what it needs. It doesn’t believe yet that everything is okay now.

Then I discovered there is a way to talk to my knee. Whenever I feel a jump or instinctive tension, I take deep breaths, remind myself to be calm. It stopped jumping. I was so shocked today when I could actually straighten my knee out while sitting. I’d never done that fully before.

I’m not a competitive person, but this week, I’ve become competitive with myself. This progress makes me want to test my limits and see what “new tricks” I can learn. When I get my second knee done, I can imagine working out regularly.

After all, an hour at the gym every day would be nothing compared to my current schedule.