In May 2023 I published my “comprehensive guide” to suffering an ACL tear and all the fun that ensues. My partner had torn his ACL a month prior playing basketball so I wanted to share the resources I had from a patient’s perspective. We thought it wouldn’t take long for him to get into surgery since it was a full tear.
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.
Enjoy this month’s article from Martial Journal! After taking a year and a half off to recover from two knee surgeries, I’m back in taekwondo and feeling great. Returning to your sport and avoiding re-injury takes some thought and planning that is well worth the time and effort. Click the link to read my tips on returning to your sport, and of course, consult with your healthcare providers.
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.
Two weeks ago I saw my orthopedic surgeon for a six-month check up. We wanted to see my progress after I’d returned to taekwondo training, took up strength training (not the first time in my life, but the first time since my injury), and continued deep tissue massage treatment from a chiropractor. The possibility of a third surgery to remove additional scar tissue still hung in the balance.
He was so happy with my progress he shook my hand and all but released me from care unless I just wanted to visit the office again.
The following week the counselor I’d been seeing shared she was leaving the practice and wondered if I needed to continue sessions with another counselor. We’d gotten down from sessions once a week to once a month, and I admitted to feeling much better overall about my personal and professional woes. I still have lingering depression sometimes, but I am much better at recognizing and addressing it.
We decided to end my therapy knowing I could always come back if I needed help again.
Today I saw my chiropractor for more torment–I mean treatment, and he reduced our visit cadence from every two weeks to once a month.
In that post I wondered if the “down for maintenance time” was necessary for rest and renewal. I spent so much money on healthcare last year that I was able to get a tax break. Was it worth it?
Nearly a year after I wrote that post I have to appreciate how far I’ve come: I DON’T need another scar tissue surgery and am finally seeing more movement with knee extension and flexion–scar tissue build up has been the bane of my existence since ACL reconstruction in July 2020. I don’t hate my job or my life any more, and when I do feel down I have better ways of coping. I’m NOT starving myself any more and pretty much kicked the habits of a thirty-year-old eating disorder.
Life is good. I’m doing well and am able to fully enjoy being back in taekwondo. Third dan test, here I come.
You guys…for the first time in eight years I forgot to do my anniversary post!
My blog turned eight on April 15, 2022. Since I began my blog I have made new martial arts friends, shared both my triumphs and struggles, and have been able to promote my first book and many media appearances!
I also started writing for the online magazine Martial Journal–you can find links to all my featured articles here.
Thank you all for your support.
As is tradition, here are my ten favorite posts from the past year:
Some time in late November, my publisher advertised a webinar focused on preparing authors to give a TED Talk or TED Talk-like speech.
“I want to give a TED Talk!” I thought. Why not? My book is interesting; talking about mental health is very timely; and I have ten years of public speaking experience.
The problem was…I wasn’t really living my imaginary TED Talk. With my memoir and various articles and podcasts I’ve told a compelling beginning and middle of a story, but I find myself further from the end (or a picturesque “happy ending”) than I thought I’d be.
Dear Reader:For the remainder of 2021, to continue celebrating the release of my first book Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts, I will be posting a monthly bonus chapter. While these stories didn’t make the final cut, they were still important moments in my life and in my black belt journey.
Enjoy the final chapter in this series!
[Note: This would have occurred after the Epilogue]
In early 2016, I had a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic doctor to check on my hip and hamstring. As I waited in the brightly lit and comfortable waiting room I grew more and more excited to tell him about how well I was doing in therapy. By that point, unless I pushed extra hard in taekwondo or had an unusually long commute, my aching right hamstring stayed fairly quiet. My physical therapist added more advanced exercises like stepping up on a box to jump with one leg or squats on an upended Bosu ball, so I’d gotten a lot stronger over the past month. My hip and sometimes the back part at the top of the hamstring still popped and clicked, but there’s something oddly satisfying about that feeling.