The time is 1:28 a.m., Wednesday, July 7. “Disraeli Gears” by Cream plays on my speakers. I am sprawled atop my battered old queen-size bed trying to decide if the rumbling in my gut is just gas or if I really need to go to the bathroom.
This thought normally would not burn much brainpower, but I have a seriously jacked up left knee.
Something happened last Tuesday. I moved to let my friend Sarah into the apartment. It exploded in pain. I ended up with my first ambulance ride to the emergency room.
I see a specialist Thursday. He’s a surgeon. I don’t like the sound of that. Surgeon. It relates too closely to “surgery,” which I would like to avoid at almost any cost.
But movement is a mess. I stand, which succeeds only slightly more often than New York Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman.
Then I use my right leg, which has its own arthritic issues to take a step, drag the left leg even, and repeat the process until I get to where I’m going.
I’ve failed at self-care since the emergency room visit. The doctor prescribed pain pills to be taken every six hours and rest.
My best friend, Memphis Paul, was making a visit for the first time in two years. I wanted to be a good host.
And, frankly, I wanted to have some fun.
It’s been a crap couple of years: Lost Aunt Janell in 2018, my job in 2020, Grandma Lois in October, and every little thing feels like a fistfight uphill naked in a snowstorm.
Didn’t follow instructions
So, I didn’t take the medicine. I drank margaritas mixed by my friend Sarah. I sipped gin and tonics with my friend Paul. We went to the pool. The comic store, and a couple restaurants.
I tried to be mindful of how I used the leg, but in the end, I ignored the doctor’s instructions because I wanted to ram and tear rather than rest.
We made it to Parents 2.0’s annual July 4 picnic, but by then my knee hurt so bad I couldn’t even enjoy the delicious ribs smoked by my Uncle Jim, the grilled turkey, baked beans, or my very favorite, Mom 2.0’s outstanding potato salad.
I left the party early and retired to a chair in the house to convalesce until it was time to take Paul to the airport. Mom 2.0 brought me a dish of homemade pineapple sherbet.
The homemade ice cream is the dinning equivalent of a fireworks display, the last great and spectacular moment of a joyous day.
Back to reality
I dropped Paul off at the airport at about 4 p.m. I went home and took my pain medicine, showered, and collapsed in bed.
The pain was so constant and so great that even when I was safely ensconced in my cool apartment, I sweat as if I were under the sun at its zenith.
About then, the “what ifs” started to creep in.
What if I need surgery?
What if I can’t walk to my classes this fall?
What if I can’t teach because of these goddamn knees?
Anxiety and depression redux
And that chorus was joined by the usual portents of rage, anguish and self-loathing.
This is all my fault. I’m too fat to live. This is how it ends, slow breakdown until I’m riding a scooter and being mocked by people in internet memes.
I actually said to Mom 2.0 on the phone late Sunday night: “How can you stand to look at me? I’m a whale. I’m hideous.”
I felt bad for saying that. It hurt her more than it does me. She just wants her son to be safe and happy. I’m wounded and beating myself up. That’s a tough load for a mom to carry.
These aren’t really my thoughts. They’re the canned reactions dialed up by chemical imbalances in my brain called depression and anxiety.
Adverse childhood experiences created a series of survival behaviors that while effective at the time have long since become cumbersome to living life as I would choose.
These are things I learned in behavioral therapy. The chemistry was jumbled in that moment and every thought turns into a parade of horribles.
So, I did what I always did.
Breakdown the problem.
What can I fix now and what must wait for more information?
The best I could do is take my medicine. Try to relax. Drink some water and rest.
I’d figure out the rest later.
Like Bob Dylan sang, “The only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keeping on.”