Knee-pocalypse Anniversary: Not Quite Healed

As last summer was winding down, I was extremely excited to get a new cell phone–so I could play Pokemon Go, of course. My old phone couldn’t handle the app, and I felt like I was entirely missing out on all of the fun of walking around my neighborhood catching Pokemon. I was able to play for about a week before I broke my knee. My fiance and I were walking around our neighborhood while I was catching as many Pokemon as I could. I had just caught a Tauros, my favorite, and I couldn’t be happier. As we were heading home, my fiance suggested that we turn a different corner to explore more. This would be my downfall. Quite literally. As I was looking down at my phone, my foot caught the edge of a raised sidewalk and I fell, slamming my knee into the concrete.

When I tell people that I broke my knee, people are usually confused. Some didn’t know that you could do that (you can), while others weren’t sure what it entails. I broke my patella–a.k.a. my knee cap cut horizontally in half. That explanation usually elicits a gasp or a gagging sound. I’m aware of how gross it was without disgusted faces at my story or my impressive scar. Yet I think it’s natural for people to react that way. The scar left from the surgery looks like I fought off space pirates at best and at worst lost a battle with a sentient robot. It’s not pretty.

People tend assume that my injury has completely healed. That I can walk around like I used to before my trip over the sidewalk. Almost a year after the incident my knee looks quite gnarly. On good days it’s mildly stiff and on bad days walking is a struggle. When it’s cold I can feel the iciness in the titanium pins helping my knee fuse back together. Pain is ever-present. I don’t remember what it feels like to not have a constant ache in one of my knees.

When I’m asked how my knee is faring, generally people only want the short and sweet version of how I’m doing. If I give an answer less succinct than “It’s getting better” many don’t know what to do with it. It’s like the details of my injury remind them that recovery isn’t a straight line upwards. My knee is always going to bother me in some fashion, but no one wants to hear that. No one wants to think about an ever-present pain that might not ever go away. Individuals with chronic illnesses have to deal with that all of the time. But we try to explain away pain that devalues the struggle people have to face everyday.

While not as obvious as the scar on my knee, I realized that I, as well as others, have treated my internal scars the same way others treat the idea of constant physical pain. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Major Depression and a Panic disorder. This was after years and years of struggling inside of my own mind. I had convinced myself that the pain I was feeling was deserved or what I was experiencing wasn’t real. And if it was real it wasn’t valid because it couldn’t be as bad as other people’s pain.

Now, with years of regular therapy and medication, I’m doing much better. I have tools to help me work through rough patches and generally keep me on an even mood level. But it’s not always perfect. The month of June was exceptionally hard for me. Probably one of the hardest months I’ve had in awhile. My mood was out of control, I was quick to tears, and I struggled to get myself out of funks. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Of course I made it harder on myself through the ‘expectations’ I created about my own recovery. I understood that my knee was going to hurt worse some days, but I wasn’t giving my brain the same slack. My mental health has been generally improving over the last couple years, despite a few dips. But I was always able to pick myself back up after a few days. I haven’t had to deal with a ‘drop off’ that last a few weeks in almost three years.

It’s easier for people to think that my depression and anxiety has magically disappeared because I’m a much different person than I was four years ago. I’ll most likely have a serotonin deficiency for the rest of my life. But to the the world I’m ‘better’ now. I didn’t realize how much I’ve internalized this until last month. I’m always ‘supposed’ to be depression and anxiety free. All of those bad days where I cry for no reason are ‘supposed’ to be behind me. Crowds ‘shouldn’t’ freak me out anymore.

Most of my days are good days now, but some of them still really, really suck. There is nothing to make me feel better or snap out of it. I have the tools to maneuver through these days in healthier fashions than I used to, but they still are extremely difficult to manage. Is it frustrating that people can’t (or won’t) see or acknowledge the daily struggle that I face? Of course. It’s even more infuriating when I internalize their thought process.

The pain in my knee is a constant reminder for my struggles with my mental health. I know that my knee is always going to hurt, despite what the outside world thinks. My brain should be no different. I’m always going to struggle with my depression, but that isn’t less valid because people think I’m ‘better’ now.

Recovery isn’t a straight line up, nor is it a horizontal line. It’s a squiggly mess. A tangled ball of sore knees and days full of crying. It’s a constant struggle. But when I make it through another day, it’s a victory.

Moving Forward, Moving On

This past weekend my girlfriend and I moved into a larger, much better place.

All of this moving has got me thinking about all of the movement in my life. Physically, psychologically, emotionally. It’s funny how the word ‘moving’ can have different connotations. Moving forward, backward, or in one place. I’ve need to move forward and move past people and decisions and disappointments.
I’m almost a professional at physically moving. This is the fourth time I’ve moved in about 4 years. Moving past disappointment has been the hardest for me. Getting close to getting a job, and then having to move past the rejection, frustration, and sadness of not getting an offer.
It’s strange feeling like parts of your life are moving in the correct direction while other parts are stuck in place. My organization is going steady. Moving to a nicer place with my girlfriend of 2+ years is definitely forward progression. Having a steady job for almost a year and contributing to bills and paying off loans is positive. Being two years into my recovery and working towards bettering myself is forward momentum.
But for some reason I’m feeling stuck in place. Big parts of me are moving forward but I can’t get unstuck from the disappointment of not getting a position in the non-profit world.
I guess I didn’t realize just how terrible I was at focusing on the many positive parts of my life. I didn’t want to become a person whose job defined who they are, but here I am being all mopey about a job that in reality isn’t all that bad.
It’s time for an attitude adjustment. I need to train myself to not dwell on the negatives and to solely focus on the plethora of good that it’s in my life.
I’m doing well. And that is good.

27 and Counting


My cake looked a lot better

I’m a little behind, but I figured I would dedicate a post to my 27th birthday.

I really haven’t cared too much about my birthdays. I’ve gotten slightly more excited about them over the last couple of years since my girlfriend’s birthday is the day after. But, I still really have a hard time enjoying birthday celebrations geared towards me.
There was a lot of stuff that happened when I was a kid, especially around my birthday that did not make me exactly feel excited for the day. I’ve been using that excuse, but in reality, I’ve had very good birthdays for probably the past 10 years.
It’s not just indifference, I could understand indifference. Once you turn 25 and rent a car without extra fees, there really isn’t a monumental birthday.
I can’t think of the right word, but the closet word that I come to describing how I feel on my birthday is ‘uncomfortable’. Not uncomfortable because I’m getting older, but I think due to the unknown.
I know no one knows their future, but they usually have a good idea of wear they want to generally be at a certain age. And they’ve had these plans for quite some time. I feel like I’m making up my life plans as I go along. I honestly didn’t think I would make it this far, so my childhood and young adult wonderings really never made it this far.
Does this give me some weird advantage, that I can’t be disappointed because I didn’t have any goals? Maybe if I had some longer term goals, I would have a better idea of how to move forward in my goal to work in non-profits?
Does it matter?
I think the real reason I become so uncomfortable and anxious on my birthday is that I become way to retrospective and caught up within myself. Instead of focusing on surviving and thriving for another year, I find myself stuck in the murky past or the hazy future.
I probably will never be very excited about my birthdays, but the goal for my 27-year-old self needs to be focusing on the present, and celebrating the victories. So when my 28-year-old self comes around, I might just look forward to April 22.

Getting into the Holiday Spirit

I love this time of year and all of the traditions that come with it. Baking cookies, decorating the tree – it’s one of my favorite times of the year. Even in the midst of my depression, Christmas/Hanukkah/New Years was always a shining light, a chance for me to not wallow in my problems and really get into the spirit of things.

This year, however, I experienced something during the season that I haven’t probably felt in over a decade – joy. The feeling hit me while helping my girlfriend’s mom make cookies, while my girlfriend and her dad were setting up trains underneath the Christmas tree.

What did it take for me to feel this way? The simple answer is that I’ve been actively working on my recovery for the past year and a half. Working on my recovery isn’t just about working on overcoming the biological obstacles; it has also been an acknowledgement of the environment I had been creating for myself.

There have been many toxic friendships and relationships that I have cut out from my life. I no longer spend my time on people and drama that is doing absolutely nothing to support who I am, the work I’m doing, and my recovery.

I have also welcomed new and accepting people into my life, and I’ve realized the importance of those people in my everyday life. My girlfriend’s parents have always been friendly and welcoming, and have accepted me as a part of the family. It finally hit me a couple of weeks ago, and that’s why I was able to fully immerse myself in Christmas.

Often the end of the year and the beginning of the new one means shedding things or cutting things out. Which I think is extremely important. But when we cut the toxic out of our life, we need to be open and accepting to the positive aspects that are new or that we haven’t noticed in our life.

I’m not where I wanted to be at the beginning of 2015, but I’m a lot closer to my goals now than I was a year ago.

May the new year be full of positive moments and full of strength and perseverance to overcome negativity and challenges.