Surgery and Physical Therapy: A Mental Toughness Strain

I’ve contemplated writing about this many times. But… I wasn’t sure what a good title would be, I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally ready to talk about it, and I wasn’t sure if it had been too long to talk about it. Come to find out, titles don’t matter, I am emotionally ready, and there is no statute of limitations on when you can talk about something. So, here we go.

I had knee surgery on August 7th, 2018 (after being injured for at least 2 months before hand). Mind you, I am a person that plays and had played through many injuries before (including, but not limited to: a fractured leg, a fractured wrist, shoulder injuries, sprained ankles…). My mom had always said “if it isn’t life or death, you don’t need to have surgery”. I even gave myself the run around when I realized that I was injured to the point of not being able to walk properly. I had multiple second, third, fourth, and thousandth opinions. I kept putting it off. And finally, the “playing it off” caught up to me, I went up for a reverse layup, came down, tore some things…

And there I was, under the knife…

That sounded dramatic, but seriously. My reasons for not wanting surgery had less to do with the dangers of having surgery in general, but more to do with the fact that I didn’t want to lose the progress I had made in weight loss, muscle gain, confidence etc. I honestly didn’t believe that I was going to be able to recover enough to get myself back to where I was, let alone be the ball player that I was. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I didn’t know anything about physical therapy, and I didn’t want to lose myself. It had taken so many years to even half way like my body, and I didn’t need to go back to the dark days when I hated how I looked. So, fear set in. But I knew that I had to have surgery because…ya know… I couldn’t bend my knee, let alone walk. And I would rather take the risk of surgery than be in pain. “Treat your body right now, so it treats you right later”, right?

Post surgery was hard, between being on crutches for 8 weeks and having to work and do daily chores (which were now 15 times harder than they really needed to be). To put it into perspective, I cried when I dropped my chapstick because I knew how much effort it was going to be for me to pick it back up again. And then I dropped it again…and now its still on some New York street somewhere, under a black SUV that I damned and cursed for no reason.

Despite the post surgery daily life hassle, I met the best physical therapists and they helped me gain the confidence that I desperately needed back, as well as helped me exceed that confidence by not only getting back to where I was before surgery, but being far better than I was. So let’s start from the beginning.

First Couple of Months

The first month post op was brutal to be honest. My muscle was gone, I was in pain, I cried all the time, and sleep was not a thing. I had to crutch around everywhere, with chafing armpits. But, physical therapy started soon enough, but that was still a struggle sometimes. I had this massive brace on that I had to take on and off and I was afraid of the exercises that I was supposed to do. My physical therapists, knowing I was an athlete and how strong willed I was, did not lower their expectations of what they wanted from me. And me, knowing how strong willed I am and where I wanted to be, I said yes to everything and then some. They took care of me, they checked in, and when I wanted more, they gave me more (within reason). The first months of physical therapy made me feel productive and happy. I was overjoyed to be there. I didn’t feel bad that my once strong quad was now a pile of mush. I didn’t feel weak or low, which is how I felt when I was on my own. They had full confidence that I would get to where I needed to be. I guess, Winnie and Catie taught me patience and self care, in every aspect of the word.

Last Couple of Months

This is when I saw my body transform! The first sign of my little baby quad coming back sent me over the mood. I was even more happy because Winnie noticed and gave me the “See! You’re already doing so well!”, which was really her way of saying, “I told you to be patience and look what happens when you listen to me”, but either way, I was okay with it. Then I saw myself get stronger and start to push through barriers that were set by no one other than myself. All the way, Winnie was encouraging. Just the words “if you can do more, then give me another set” (which came to be a regular phrase when I was in physical therapy) made me want to do more. It’s amazing what you allow yourself to do when you have the green light.

Now, toward the end of my journey, I started to get antsy. I felt good and immediately wanted to start running and playing basketball again. It’s really hard, being me and all, when you feel good to actually sit your ass down and do what people tell you to do. I’ve never been that person. If anything, when you tell me not to do something, it only makes me want to do it more. But, for some reason, because I had so much respect for Winnie and Catie, I wanted to NOT upset them more than I wanted to run and play basketball. I enjoyed how proud they were of me and the ways that they helped me improve both physically and mentally. So, what they said was what it was.

Later on, they started to loosen the reigns a bit a let me run at PT and maybe once on my own. And when that was fine then they allowed me to play two on two and so on and so forth. Even those baby steps, which in hindsight were actually HUGE steps in comparison to where I had been, were an exercise in patience and self care. No way were they going to allow me to hurt myself in anyway, and it showed me skills and made me want to take care of myself too.

I think the last couple months of physical therapy, while giving me confidence, I also learned how to love, forgive, and appreciate myself more than I ever have. I guess that’s what vulnerability does to people. Letting people in can teach you a lot about yourself. In this case, it was a forced situation, because I had surgery. And I could have been stubborn and gone against what they had asked of me, however, because they were both so kind and genuine, it was an easy choice to be the “good patient”.

Now

Now, I am playing basketball just fine (maybe better than before). I have run another half marathon and PR’d (crazy that my post surgery time is 11 minutes faster than my pre-surgery time). I am back in shape, if not in better shape. And I love and take care of my body! I am extremely proud of myself and the journey that got me to where I am.

This is my story, this is my journey.

Until next time,

Jaym

Published by Finding Jaymee LLC

As a 28 year old educator, traveler, and athlete, I aspire to candidly shed light on my journey through my blackness and my womanhood, and promote positivity, growth, and all the things!

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