No one ever prepares you for the emotional aspects of going through any type of surgery or injury. You tend to learn and deal with these things on your own as they come. Needless to say, emotionally, I was a disaster when it came to my knee surgery. I am not ashamed or afraid to admit that “Yes, I struggled”.
My surgery was on a Thursday, and Bobby went right back to work the following Monday. He had to get back to work with these companies booming. Typically, I would wake up with him in the mornings since morning and evening were the only times I’d get to see him. Not to mention, this was all during Ironman Triathlon prep, so we were waking up at 4 a.m.
You may be wondering “What in the hell am I going to do all day waking up at 4 a.m.?” This was my exact thought every single day! LOL. Luckily physical therapy (PT) was twice a week, so I took that opportunity to get out of the house, stop at Starbucks, get myself a coffee, come home eat, and hang out with Luna. But let me tell you these days were long!
The strange thing about it is that the more I actually started doing the more I was a mess emotionally. My mind was so far ahead of my body. I wanted to do so much more but leaving the house for physical therapy in itself kicked my ass. The first ten weeks were like Groundhog’s Day. I was still on crutches and had a full-length leg brace. My daily routine was to wake up, do my exercises or go to physical therapy, elevate my leg, ice my leg, sleep, and repeat the next day. I can't even remember all of the Netflix movies and shows I watched or pictures I colored. I couldn’t shower for three weeks until my stitches came out.
Bathing first started with me giving myself a sponge bath and washing my hair in a sink. I remember in the morning I would sit on the bathroom floor and just cry while struggling to get around and wash myself to feel somewhat human. I am always hard on myself that is just how I am. I would get frustrated with myself when I struggled to get dressed. Or when I would try to carry a million things while using both crutches and end up dropping everything. LOL.
I wish I could say my lack of emotional control was short lived, but I struggled up until the end of January 2021. There were so many ups and downs during this recovery. Periods of increased pain, swelling, more limitations than usual, and having to take steps back in physical therapy.
On top of that, I was inconsistent with keto and basically lying to myself each time about doing the right thing for my body. Ultimately, I had to stay off keto until I was past that six-to-seven-month mark. Six months post anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery is usually the prime healing phase of the ACL graft and the healing of the bones. So my macronutrients as well as micronutrients were important during this process.
Yes, I gained weight and ate emotionally at times, but it's not that I gained a significant amount of weight. I still wasn't feeling “fit and lean” like I did prior to surgery, so that messed with my head even more. I had a significant break down at the end of January 2021 when I shut down completely.
I stopped talking to Bobby, I withdrew myself from socializing, and I would have severe changes in my mood within seconds. One second I was happy and then literally two seconds later I was so angry and miserable inside. I stopped caring about what I looked and felt like thus I ate poorly. The biggest and worst thing I lost was the love for myself. On the inside I hated myself and I hated everything about who I was at that time: my looks, my hair, my skin, my life, my husband, my house, and literally everything!
I think I may have mentioned before about how stubborn I am and how I hate to feel vulnerable. Well, there comes a time when feelings and emotions like this are so high and excessive the only way out is to break. I remember calling Bobby one day hysterically crying. He came home and sat with me and I just let everything out from inside about how I was feeling about myself, my life, our relationship, my knee, and literally everything. I am so thankful for him for being patient with me. It was time I relearned how to love myself and regained purpose.
I may have not suffered from a significant traumatic event or have a known existing mental illness. But going through any type of mental struggle is no joke for anybody. Recognizing symptoms, finding a support system, and seeking help in itself can be life changing to some. I cannot stress enough of the importance of communication between your loved ones or those that you confide in emotionally.
Feeling vulnerable is okay it is not a weakness nor are you any less of a human being for showing vulnerability. I mention this to all of you because I am a normal human being. Sure, I portray a healthy and active lifestyle as well as having a wonderful loving husband and dog, but I am not better than anyone else out there. I am simply a human being, and along with that I have my own struggles.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. A mental illness can be of mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. Mental health varies person-to-person as well as the degree of an illness. Mild, moderate, or severe illness in all degrees can be debilitating to someone's well-being. A mental illness may include anxiety, depression, bipolar, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and so forth (National Institute of Health 2018).
Believe it or not there are over 200 classified forms of mental illnesses, and so many of those surrounding us suffer without us evening knowing. It is not necessarily that they hide it well or cope with it well. Mental illnesses are characterized by constant ups and downs, good days and bad days, and sometimes coping mechanisms work and sometimes they don't. It is estimated that 44 million American suffer every day.
Symptoms may include but are not limited to:
The ability to seek help for mental illnesses is not as easy as we think it is. There tends to be many individualized beliefs, stigmas, and attitudes towards mental health treatment; thus the majority of the population with mental disorders remain untreated (Mental Health America 2021).
There are some tips and tasks we can do to help cope and improve these emotions we have inside. These can be done individually or with the help of someone whether that's a friend, a physician, or a loved one. Self-care should always be at the top of the priority list with improving our mental state. Eating a healthy diet and fueling your body properly will aid in self-care along with exercising, movements, and proper sleeping habits.
Reducing the use of social media and electronics to disconnect from what is forcing us all to believe in what is “normal”. Engage in activities that have meaning to you and not because someone wants you to do something. Participation in reflection, meditation, and mindfulness can all aid in feeling more relaxed, calmed, and having the ability to connect with yourself in a deeper emotional state. Seek help whether that is through family, friends, or other support systems as well as professional help. The most important thing to know is that you are not alone (Borenstein 2019).
Again, I only had knee surgery so to some it doesn't sound so bad and isn't as traumatic as you would think. However, we are all different and mentally this got to me. First, I needed to accept the fact that feeling vulnerable is okay and communicating with Bobby every single day was a must. This communication was good for both of us. Between his work, training, and home life the communication was just necessary.
Another thing I began incorporating into my daily regimen was self-reflection and mindfulness. Bobby and I would remind ourselves that life is good for I am breathing, walking, talking, and able to pay our bills. Our family is healthy, and we are healthy. In the midst of a breakdown, life seems as if it couldn't get any worse.
But once you sit there, reflect, and write down what it is that's truly “bad” then you may find that you sound silly for complaining. I would also reflect in the mirror daily. I may not be as lean and fit as I was before surgery and my body composition may have changed. But I would point out the beautiful things I see and feel as well as speaking positivity about the things I may not necessarily like.
As a woman, I know it sounds silly but it's important to love yourself in all ways, so do some self-reflection with minimal clothing on in the mirror. See yourself for who you are, embrace, and be proud of what is right in front of you because no one else can be you nor should you want to be anyone else!
In the gym, I began focusing on the things I knew I could do fully and safely to feel good about the type of workout I did. No, I cannot run on the treadmill or do squat jumps in between sets like I normally would do, but I knew I could bench press a bar with some forty-five weights on it. I embraced all the things I could do, and I improved on them!
I got to the point where I was able to strict press more weight than ever with my overhead shoulder press. I even nearly hit my one rep max on the bench press all with a knee injury and focusing on what I was good at. I finally was feeling good and accomplished after each lifting session. I was back to loving weight training and being strong!
“Fall in love with taking care of yourself. Fall in love with the path of deep healing. Fall in love with becoming the best version of yourself but with patience, with compassion and respect to your own journey.” - S. Mcnutt
Borenstein, J., MD. 2019. “Everyday Mental Health Tips.” Brain And Behavior Research Foundation, February 2019. https://www.bbrfoundation.org/blog/everyday-mental-health-tips?gclid=Cj0KCQjw9_mDBhCGARIsAN3PaFPHl2DvQAE5-tvmMkfScQEI6gyAH9qvCnocTSAnCs_mK6DSRnUFDFgaAgzQEALw_wcB
Mental Health American. 2021. “Mental Illness And The Family: Recognizing The Warning Signs And How to Cope.” Mental Health American. https://www.mhanational.org/recognizing-warning-signs
National Institute of Health. 2018. “Statistics.” National Institute of Health, January 2018. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/index.shtml