Knee pain, both mental and physical, dampen July 4, vacation

This is a healthy knee. Mine doesn’t look like this.

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.

Limited movement

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.

Regroup.

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.”

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
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