Disclaimer: I am not a medical or health care provider of any kind. These articles are written from the perspective of a patient. Please follow the instructions of your health care provider.
So it happened to you. The infamous “knee blowout” they talk about in sports or dance movies but never show in detail. You felt the pop in your leg and were on the ground before you knew what happened.
You have a torn ACL. Now what?
Congratulations! You’ve now joined the elite club of ACL Warriors.
April is Stress Awareness Month. Something we heard a lot during the pandemic was “jUsT bE reSIliENt” as if we could magically change how we felt overnight. Sometimes the sentiment came with support. Other times it came as threat from those who refused to budge. Either way, building resilience in a healthy way is possible.
Out of the vast hellscape of the pandemic came a cry for authenticity–in our workplaces, in our homes, and in our hearts. If you’re a practicing martial artist (or have any kind of hobby, passion, sport, etc.), the power might already be within you. In this month’s article for Martial Journal, I describe how practicing martial arts can help you find your authentic voice.
Part of my ongoing journey to authenticity and emotional growth involves reflection on lessons learned and observing where I was at a specific point in time.
About this time last year I was still in a deep depression, severely hating my job, and feeling irreparably stuck in life. When I found myself sobbing over Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg’s performance at the 2022 Super Bowl, I realized I had sunken into an odd mid-life crisis. Here were people who had pursued what they loved, and decades later, they were still going strong. I mourned the loss of my creativity and my supposed failure at resurrecting it through writing.
I mean, some might argue that I still am, but I was worse.
After a refreshing yoga class last Saturday, I reflected that my pervasive perfectionism had at one time made its way into something I’ve done for the last twenty-five years. Before my injury and eating disorder recovery I had to look thin and fit in the mirror at all times. I had to be the most pliable person in the class. I had to do the poses perfectly. And blocks? Those are for people who aren’t as good as I am at yoga.
Give me a break. Now I never go to class without at least two blocks ready to shove under my legs when my right knee feels tight.
And don’t get me started on Body Combat. I’d wriggle my way up to the front row and throw in spin kicks, jump back kicks–I was a show-off. Thank God my ACL didn’t blow out there or I’d never be able to show my face at the gym again. These days when I occasionally take a class I’m happy doing a light jog when others are doing jumps, and I keep my kicks grounded.
That show-offy-ness? That purported gracefulness? All of that came from a place of deep insecurity and body hatred. I couldn’t even appreciate the healthy, strong body I had because I hated it and myself so much.
So when I was knocked off my feet with a serious injury I learned to be more patient with my body. It also helped me be less judgmental about other people’s bodies and abilities.
I also recovered from anorexia in 2021, and, due to not severely restricting food for years at a time, gained a certain amount of weight. While that might sound troubling at first in our diet/looks-obsessed culture (and I had my moments of doubt) I’m fine with it: (1) My body was finally being nourished properly and amazingly, my mental health improved (2) I had way too many clothes to begin with so it was nice to do a closet purge of items that no longer fit me and (3) I had the hard realization that I’d put way too much stock and value into my looks and the supposed value that gave me. I still very much enjoy putting together a fashionable outfit, but I just don’t care about how thin or perfect I should look. That’s incredibly freeing and much more respectful to my poor mind and body that I had abused for decades.
So yeah, I’m heavier, I’m slower…and I’m a lot happier.
Be careful, folks, it’s culty out there! Martial arts breeds loyalty, respect, and a sense of community. These are all great things, but when taken to the extreme people can be taken advantage of. In this month’s Martial Journal I share my martial arts cult experience and share some warning signs of when martial arts can go from good to bad.
I don’t mean physically, although after having two knee surgeries and gaining weight as I recovered from anorexia, that’s partially true (in a good way). I mean my determination, drive, and hunger seem muted.
I miss doggedly pursuing a goal. I miss the hunger of seeing something on the horizon and working until I reach it. I feel like my brain has been on pause for the last two years.
A few weeks ago I was telling a friend about my weekend, which included my partner and I walking from our urban condo down the road to a fun little pub (and adjacent taco truck).
“I wish I lived close enough to walk places,” she said wistfully. She lives in a nice-sized home with a pool in the suburbs.
Lately I’ve been wishing I lived in a big house with a pool in the suburbs. I dream of big houses almost every night and wake up feeling disappointed.
Several months ago a friend remarked on Facebook that her daughter desperately wished they lived near a Target and Home Goods. They live in our rural west Texas hometown. I live within a mile of Target and Home Goods and would love to move back to a small rural town. Every time I drive to the Texas Hill Country to visit my parents I threaten to leave the metropolitan area where I live and move to one of the little towns along the way. (Ideally to a big house with a pool.)
I know successful authors and content creators who speak longingly of health insurance and retirement, which I get with my corporate job. Meanwhile I dream of being a successful full-time writer.
You see where I’m going with this?
There’s nothing wrong with having aspirations, but you also have to make sure you don’t get into the trap of never being satisfied, of thinking the grass is always greener.
During my Great 2021 Depression, I hated everything about my life: my job, my home, my “writing career.” The only things that remained steady were my close relationships. Therapy helped, but so did getting back into taekwondo. It gets me out of my house and out of my head. I’ve also cut WAY down on my social media time.
I don’t have a long-term solution to that nagging feeling of FOMO or dissatisfaction, but a hobby certainly helps, and for me, I can count on taekwondo.
And tonight, my partner and I are going to enjoy the HOA-cared-for pool at my paid-off condo and walk to a restaurant. Sounds like a good time to me.
I had a great weekend using my reconstructed and rehabbed knee. My partner and I swam in our pool Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Saturday after my first post-op Body Combat class, we walked about half a mile to a local pub to play pool, have drinks, and eat delicious street tacos, and we did strength training on Sunday before our afternoon swim. Unlike this time last summer, I was not recovering from another arthroscopy. I haven’t reached 100% flexion and extension, but I’m so much closer than I was a year ago.
Despite the current state of the world, I’m feeling more relaxed and optimistic about my future than I have in a long time.
I had plenty of moments of feeling pretty bad, but overall I did take the advice I shared in last year’s article. I learned to be patient with my frustration and not get caught in an emotional spiral. I worked on what I could control. I very slowly let go of the need for everything to be perfect and “right.”
The most helpful and yet most infuriating factor: time. I just had to keep doing what I could do to stay sane and get more physically fit and let things work out in time. The deus ex machina I prayed for never came other than a big change at work, and even then, that has required several months of learning and adjusting.
My old therapist Ramona, who is mentioned in my memoir, used to say, “One day at a time…It. Will All. Work. Out.”
So, how to get unstuck? Go back to last year’s article and read the tips. Do what you can, give yourself grace when you can’t, and be patient.