Everything Is a LOT Right Now

Today was a very, very hard day. It was physical AND emotional. I don't know how to make it into a cohesive narrative because my brain is not functioning at even medium capacity (more on that later!), but I am drained and I am sad and I am overwhelmed and I need to let it out. Anxiety sucks, man. 

The Straw:

The knee that I replaced had a previous surgery from 1993, and so I have two scars now -- one beautifully thin but 10" long and vertical that's new, and one thick angled mess that has a skin loop I can put an earring through (don't ask how I figured that out but it cracks me up). I will be able to teach supplementary angles with my knee scars next year. BUT, the old scar has had some swelling around it and extra pain and it really ramped up today. 

I have worked really hard to get the oxy down even further, and had three days where I successfully did 1x/day at night. But this morning it hurt so bad that I had to take one, and that felt like a small failure but it was a tiny price to pay for relief. 

I had a PT appointment today (still in-home, still on my walker, still dealing with instability and "buckling" that's preventing me from using a cane), and I texted her and let her know that I was in a lot of pain and it was that same spot that has been bothering me since Week One, and that I did bring it up with the surgeon but he didn't seem concerned but what if it was some kind of soft tissue damage that needed surgical repair, or some kind of weird tumor like a traveling vestigial twin (all hair and teeth) showing up at exactly the wrong time? What if it is a sign I'm actually dying? 

You can see the spiraling. 

I was sobbing and pretty inconsolable when my physical therapist arrived at 12:30. She checked it out, and translated surgeon-ese to explain that it is probably where the instruments broke through the membrane into the joint capsule (EW EW EW I am so sorry for how gross knees are), and she showed me how to do multiple types of self-massage and desensitize my overfiring nerves. She explained that all of our quad work that needs to happen to get me cane-ready and more stable is aggravating that spot. And, she said that if it will make me feel better to see the doctor to get peace of mind I definitely could, but just hearing anatomical information in ways I could comprehend made me feel a bit calmer. 

Medical PTSD:

But just a bit, because as I explained how much I hurt, I then proceeded to verbal-vomit a whole bunch of trauma into this lovely lady's unsuspecting ears. I explained that I worry about tiny percentage things because I am a tiny percentage kind of person and my medical history can be summed up as "A Series of Unfortunate Events" to borrow from Lemony Snicket (google it, great books). I sobbed as I spilled tons of medical history tea and listed the ectopic pregnancy from IVF (where they PUT the EMBRYO in my UTERUS but it had ill-fated WANDERLUST), the hyperstimulation/OHSS that resulted in a paracentesis procedure to tap my abdomen of an insane amount of fluid, difficulties from the hysterectomy because I had undiagnosed adenomyosis (which was also why my endomyometrial resection surgery in 2016 failed spectacularly in 2019, which led to a hysterectomy ANYWAY). Some of my fears are anxiety, but also... I have a bit of a track record. 

Loneliness and Feeling Dependent: 

I have also been feeling pretty isolated. I have phone calls and texting and am wayyy active on the Facebook, but there's been a lot going on for all my humans (end of school year crazy! death in the family! going on trips for fun! Etc!) and so I haven't had the chance to talk with or visit with people I would have seen daily at school. I have had visitors, wonderful visitors who have made my day when they come, and so many generous humans have come bearing food and coffee and flowers and things to occupy me like puzzles and magazines. But I can only handle about 1-2 hours of visiting at a time, and there are days on end where no one comes (because life is busy and I am not the center of all things). It's been a rough transition to go from the insanity of school existence where you have constant interaction and come home and just crave silence and alone time, to absolute silence and alone time and not a lot of change in scenery. Maybe if I could get out on my own volition that would be different, but my biggest solo adventure has been going with my walker to the mailbox at the end of the driveway, and I typically need a nap after that. Sigh. I have absolutely loved and appreciated any and all visits, but there's a difference between choosing to lay low and have solitude and having that being the only option unless someone comes to the house. (And of course Bryce, who is wonderful and amazing, but he has things he has to do too and he can't be my only source of social entertainment.)

I am so done with being dependent for every little thing. I still cannot SHOWER by myself. I need help in and out so I don't slip and fall. I'm good on the shower chair once I'm situated, but having to schedule showers around Bryce's work schedule is less than ideal. And because I have curly hair, nighttime showers aren't great -- my hair takes forever to dry and then I get some stretched-out curls, some right-angle curls, some really tight curls, and then a load a frizz to boot. I don't mean to be vain, but I don't want to look like a freak even though I'm not so public-facing. I worry that Bryce is going to resent me for all the care I require and keep requiring far longer than I anticipated. He assures me that he doesn't, but anxiety tells me stories all the time about how I am a burden and he's just being nice and he can't wait to get out of the house and away from my sorry ass. I want to be able to drive and I want to be able to do things for myself and that's damn near impossible with the walker still in play. When I try to do more I pay for it in pain and exhaustion, which is part of healing and recovery, but it's frustrating. 

Pitfalls of the Book of Face:

I mentioned that I've been on Facebook more lately, after a few months where I really tried to not do a whole lot. I dislike social media for the harm it does and the insincerity and misuse of the phrase "best self" that gets put out there constantly. It is often a veneer of reality, not actual reality. If comparison is the thief of joy, then Facebook is an Oceans Eleven, an Italian Job, a Bullet Train. And if you feel like you're missing out on experiences because you're stuck at home, then GOOD GOD it can feel terrible. Upside, it is allowing me a way to interact with other humans, even if it is superficial. Downside, I end up beating myself up because it seems that everyone has a knee replacement story and I'm getting a lot of "wow, I never had that kind of pain" or "why is your recovery so crappy, [insert person]'s went so much faster/less complicated/less painful" and then I feel like WHY AM I SO BROKEN? What's WRONG with me? It's yucky, to say the least. 

New Discoveries About My Identity: 

I also made a discovery that I am in the process of solidifying officially that explains SO MUCH of who I am and how I operate, and why I have had certain experiences that weren't the best, going back to childhood. It is INCREDIBLE to me that I am 47 years old and only just discovering this thing about myself. I always thought it was just me being weird, annoying, and physically disorganized, and that it was chalked up to anxiety alone.  So, finally getting medication for that in 2017 was good, but didn't "fix" all the things. It turns out this is because I also have ADHD Inattentive Type. So much of it goes back to how most research is done on boys and men, and women present differently. Because of societal pressures and "good girl" nonsense, we are trained to hide our true selves, so it's harder to see the struggle. I have been hiding who I am for a very long time. I have a lot of deep-seated shame about pieces of myself that have always been difficult and now I know why. I am going down a deep rabbit hole but that is actually causing me more anxiety, but it's good because I'm realizing how much I've compensated and how many things are systems I've created to help myself and how many tools can help me now that I know... But it's overwhelming.  More on this later, it deserves its own post, but it's fun to realize that one reason why I love teaching the kids I teach is because... I'M ONE OF THEM.  It's revelatory and exciting and exhausting and unearthing a lot of shame and trauma. 

Allllll of this piled up and built up until today, I dissolved into a sobbing pile of goo in every kind of pain imaginable. It reminded me of 2017 when I hit my limit with adoption. That was not a particularly awesome time.

Physical Therapists Rule the World:

What a gift though, to have my PT lady come today. She was amazing. She helped me with a tapping thing to calm my nervous system so I could communicate. She validated my feelings but also gave me a clearly-communicated, rational explanation and tools to help my physical pain. But better than that, she helped me with some anxiety strategies. The tapping was amazing and I know there's a name for that but truly, what a deceptively simple way to exit a spiral (but with repetition, once didn't cut it). Then she introduced me to Dan Harris and Ten Percent Happier.  I downloaded the free app (and then after doing some of the guided meditations I signed up for a membership, because ALL OR NOTHING, that's ME and my ADHD), and WOW. Everybody says how amazing meditation is. I have sucked ass at it. Every time I try I'm like "woo hooo, another self-care thing I fail at! Yayyy" I can't quiet my mind. The racing doesn't stop. I just feel like a failure, which is less than relaxing. BUT THIS IS DIFFERENT. More later, but wow. I think I may actually be able to become someone who meditates! And it is a really great approach to calming anxiety and not vanquishing the beast but inviting it in, albeit tamed. (So reminds me of my favorite anxiety book so far, First We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson.) There's a book, too, which I will read at some point when I'm not so totally overwhelmed. 

My physical therapist was an Anxiety Angel. She gave me a hug, a real one. She recommended I watch Bridgerton, which I haven't yet (yes I know, last person ever not to watch it), because it's delicious candy in every possible way. 

She left and I felt so. much. better. But also still horrible. So I took a 3 hour nap and then froze some spoons to attempt to de-frog my eyes (nope), and then did Day 1 of two of the series in the Ten Percent App, and felt calmer and like there's hope that I can feel more in the realm of a human-like-substance.

It was a really, really hard day. But it will get better. This is temporary. And I am so, so grateful for all the support during this recovery and while I struggle through this additional spirally gooey moment. I am going to be a HORDE of butterflies with all this messy time in transformational goo. 


  1. Oh Jess, sending huge but very gentle hugs across the oceans and around the world. I totally understand the "tiny percentage" worries. Ectopics do that to us - as do a whole host of other complications, infertility, hysterectomies, etc etc. (((((HUGS))))) It's why I've worried about covid. Why I worried that we went on our trip without updating our Wills. Why I can never feel that the worst case scenario won't happen. We lost our "blissful ignorance" a long time ago, and although that can at times be helpful, when we're feeling low, that really sucks! And of course our wounded psyches like to play on that, damn them.

    Yes. I'm a huge fan of physiotherapists too. Yes. Fbk has its ups and downs. Especially when everyone is out and about. (I contributed to that angst last month - this month I'm home, poor, AND in the middle of winter) I'm so sorry you're getting people who are smug about their own knee replacement recoveries. Yes, I understand the showering angst. (For six weeks with my leg in a cast, DH had to be around when I showered (and had to help me wrap my cast in a plastic bin liner!). Yes. Watch Bridgerton. Yes, you are allowed to feel that everything is crappy, it's not fair, and you didn't deserve this. Because ... well ... all of the above.

    Yay to feeling better. To looking after yourself. To discovering the beautiful butterfly that will emerge after dissolving into goo. The one thing infertility/adoption losses etc gave us is the knowledge that we learn more about ourselves - that can only be a good thing - and that things get better.

  2. OOPS - and I meant to add. Sending much love.

  3. Oh gosh, that is a lot. I much empathize with enforced isolation/lack of independence/physical pain and weakness contributing to emotional crisis. Try to celebrate the small victories each day and remind yourself as much as possible that this is TEMPORARY, not forever (but easier said than done when you are in pain, I know.)

    Interesting about the ADHD. My friend and former co-teacher was diagnosed as a adult. I think she found it helpful in to have that self-knowledge. She did try medication briefly, but it didn't work for her. With counselling she has reached a place of acceptance, I think, and appreciation for how she copes/thrives. I have sometimes wondered if I might be a bit on the autism spectrum, as I really enjoy students who are ASD, but I'm not sure I'd want to know. Also I'm okay with just appreciating people, without an explanation for it!

    Hang in there, lean into your recovery (without comparisons to others), and savour those moments of peace/calm/distraction when you can.

  4. Thank you for this post. I learned so much from you about the patient's perspective and experience. I am so sorry for the terribleness!

    About the pain pills? Just take them. You're in pain. You had surgery. I always tell patients, if you're taking them because you're bored or you like the way they make you feel, that's not it. Otherwise, you want to stay on top of the pain. You *just* had surgery.

    Medical PTSD is real. Loneliness and feeling dependent sucks. Other people's miracle baby/surgery stories are irrelevant and unnecessary.

    I'm very proud of you for feeling your feelings. It's so hard. I'm very glad for your PT. <3

    You, my friend, are INCREDIBLE!!! (And such a good writer!) Keep on doing what you're doing--healing is happening.

  5. I'm waaay late to this, and I'm so sorry you were feeling all these overwhelming things at once. I admit I laughed at you being a tiny percentage kind of person, because I love the way you put that, and I don't think you'd mind that I found it clever. But also, not fun.

    I'm reading a book now about C-PTSD and how this woman treated herself. I wonder if you might like it, too. "What My Bones Know" by Stephanie Foo.

    I hope by now you are feeling better in all the ways. xo