Dealing With a Knee Injury & Anxiety

(The reason I’m writing this post is so that people who, like me, are too quiet to actually ask the doctor about how the injury and recuperation will progress, have an idea of what comes ahead, and need not torture themselves with assumptive scenarios like I unfortunately did)

Hello! This is going to be a long post. It’s partly a way for me to write it all down (and better assess what I went through), and for others to get to know about knee ligament injuries. If you don’t want to read my emotional ramblings, just stick to the portions I’ve put in Blockquotes, and you should be fine.

Let me begin by saying, IT ALL TURNS OUT FINE IN THE END.

In February 2014, I suffered from a Knee Ligament Injury while on a college trip to Kerala. It happened in a freak accident (foot got stuck in bus seat, got twisted from the knee) and at that time, nobody really knew what to do.

I knew it was bad the very second I tried to stand up, and couldn’t, because my leg wobbled like jelly and refused to hold me up. As I collapsed back on the seat, crying out in pain, I knew this was not just a bruise or light muscle pull.

At the hostel where we were staying, someone got me  a electric hot water bag (first mistake. Any muscle/ligament injury needs COLD compresses, not hot) and my friends sat around, chatting, while one held the bag to my knee, worriedly. No one at this moment thought it was that bad. The topic of conversation was light, based on the conversation we and fellow participants (we were at a Social Work convention) had been having on the bus, and the conversation (or antics) which got me kind of flustered and made me want to rush off the bus, leading to the freak accident.

There were countless moments in the following months (even now sometimes) when I was lying in bed, remembering that moment in the bus, trying to will my past self to go slow, pull my foot out carefully rather than wrenching it out, and then cringing when I think of how ungainly I must have looked when I couldn’t stand up and fell back on the seat (hello anxiety, old friend. How nice of you to keep reminding me of this).

To cut a long story short, thankfully it was the last day of the trip, and the next day, I was taken to an Ayurveda doctor (Kerala is world renowned for it’s Ayurveda practice) who checked my knee and said I needed at least one month of rest, before she wrapped my knee up in herbal oils and gave me a tonic (it was so bitter) and three types of pills to take over the next few weeks.

The doctor didn’t explain what had happened to my knee. I cried at the pain, my friends looking at me worriedly, as she gently rotated my leg. I was scared.

The train journey home was…difficult. I couldn’t bend my leg, so I sat with it propped up on the opposite seat. Someone had to help me whenever I got up. It hurt.

When I got back home, my parents were understandably worried. They took me to an orthopaedic doctor in the evening. While I told him the whole story, he made me lie down, picked up my leg, and moved it around at the knee. He said it was a ligament injury and I would need one month of complete bed rest. He also said that if it was a simple ligament injury, then I could get away easy. But if it was a meniscal injury/tear, it might need an operation.

I spent the next month with my leg strapped in a knee immobilizer (it lives up to its name, people) and lying in bed all day. The biggest challenge was going to the washroom, because sitting down on the porcelain throne without bending one knee should be a well-acknowledged Olympic sport, that’s all I’m saying!

The next order of business was to figure out how I would make up for one month’s worth of classes and fieldwork. I called up one professor (in hindsight, I shouldn’t have called her because I knew how pessimistic she could get) to ask about how I should go ahead. She told me all about students who had to drop a year when they had accidents and couldn’t attend classes for a while. She said how one girl had to repeat a year even though the faculty tried hard to help her out.

Bloody hell. This was bad. I really didn’t want to lose a year. As someone who gets anxious easily, this was not a thing I wanted to hear.

I talked to some other professors, one of them being my first year advisor and the only professor who went with us to Kerala. He assured me something would be worked out. I talked to my second year advisor, and she told me the same thing. I might have cried a few tears of relief. And now, I can tell you the first major thing –

For managing issues which may arise from the long period of recuperation (missing classes/work), talk to the people who you know are empathetic and would genuinely want to help you, in whatever way. Avoid talking to pessimistic people.

Sometimes, people don’t know how damaging their words are when they feel like they’re just being transparent and trying not to give you unnecessary hope. Sometimes, a person may need a bit of hope, to avoid constantly worrying about the worst things that could happen.

Once the excitement about the classes was over (I didn’t have to repeat the year; my professors were very understanding, and my advisors made sure I made up for the missed fieldwork), I had nothing to do now, except stay on bed rest.

And this is when the lovely, anxious thoughts began…

…will my leg ever be the same again?

…will I be able to run?

…will I limp a bit?

…will it become stiff?

So everything from probable stiffness to limp-for-life was given a thought. And all because I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about this with anybody. So, next point to remember –

Talk to your doctor to find out what to expect in the next few weeks. Stop assuming worst-case scenarios, and just ASK

I ended up going for the weekly (and then fortnightly) doctor’s appointments, getting told what to do recuperation-wise and physiotherapy-wise, and leaving, without ever discussing the fears my mind had started torturing me with.

Another thing I didn’t remember, which stumps me now, is that,

there are so many people who go through this, and they are perfectly fine afterwards.

Knee ligament injuries are common in sports, and they definitely don’t end the sportsperson’s career or anything.

Also,

Google is not a friend. It is the pessimistic, overly-cautious hypochondriac, who would lead you to believe that every ligament injury will need surgery, which is NOT TRUE.

Coincidentally, a fellow participant at the Kerala convention, was also on bed rest during the same time I was, though he actually went through an operation. It was strangely helpful to be able to talk to someone else who was also forced to stay in bed and didn’t have anything else to do. Because, let’s face it – there will be visitors in the beginning, and you will feel touched and important. But soon, it will just be you and your family (or whoever you live with). This fact caused me a lot of pain, something I blogged about too, and while the sadness made the anxiety lower, it was bad. Kind of left me depressed (I say ‘kind of’ so that people don’t feel I’m trying to be dramatic and treating depression lightly).

Yes, it sucks. No, it isn’t immature/selfish of you to feel bad about it even though it’s a simple injury (and oh so many people have it worse). And yes, you will come out of this just fine.

The knee immobilizer gave way to a hinged knee brace, and that gave way to just a simple crepe bandage on my knee for a while. I started going for classes after one month’s bed rest, and everything progressed smoothly thereon.

When the doctor finally told me that I could stop putting the bandage and only use it while sleeping, it was a momentous occasion. And then one night, when I mistakenly tied the bandage on the wrong knee, I suddenly realized that my body was already beginning to forget the strange experience it had gone through. I still remember the happiness I felt at that moment.

The first time I folded my leg (by mistake, once the knee brace was off), it hurt like crazy. Like, oh-my-god-pain-shooting-through-my-whole-body kind of thing.

After that, I focussed on my physio a lot more.

With time, everything became easier. Muscle memory took over, and bending my leg, squatting, climbing stairs, everything began happening effortlessly. Now I sometimes have trouble remembering which knee I had hurt.

Now, nearing two years after that harrowing time, I can safely say a few things –

  1. My knee works perfectly well, just like before. If anything, I tend to get conscious and stiff sometimes, anticipating difficulties, but its all fine.
  2. I can walk, run, cycle, trek etc. just like always. And squatting is also fine.
  3. My knee used to be a bit wobbly for a while, but now even that has stopped.
  4. All is fine with the world!

The point of this post was simple (though yes, it took a lot of words to get across) –

I want to put the message across, that even with such injuries, everything will turn out alright if you follow the doctor’s orders, stick to your physiotherapy, and take it slow.

And, I know anxiety is the worst friend to have, so whenever it starts feeding you assumptive scenarios, best thing to do is talk to some experts about the facts. It’s seldom as bad as our mind may make it out to be.

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2 thoughts on “Dealing With a Knee Injury & Anxiety

  1. Well said! It can be quite difficult to write this kind of a self-reflective post but this was really good :)

    This part:
    “Sometimes, people don’t know how damaging their words are when they feel like they’re just being transparent and trying not to give you unnecessary hope. Sometimes, a person may need a bit of hope, to avoid constantly worrying about the worst things that could happen.”
    is so true.

    Hahaha at putting the bandage on the wrong knee!

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