What a strange and surreal feeling. It is almost that time again – time for me to have another joint replacement surgery. I have a little less than 5 weeks before I go into the hospital for a total knee replacement surgery on my right knee. I have had this kind of replacement before on my left knee so I am aware of what lies ahead for me. It was 25 years ago and has been a highly successful joint replacement that gave me my mobility back. Now my right knee is ready for replacement and I find myself with mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I am in so much pain that I feel ready to get the new knee put in so I can start to feel and walk better. On the other hand, I dread going back to that post-surgical place of prolonged intense pain and dependence on people and pain meds to help me as I heal from the surgery. I call this the dark place because it is like I fall into this deep dark pit when I have a joint replacement surgery. From the moment I wake up in the recovery room at the hospital, I start my climb out of that dark place. My goal is to get back to the light of my daily life.
Those first days after the surgery are the most difficult. I feel like each little step I make to climb up, is followed by a slide back down to the ground of that pit. I look for any hint of improvement each day to motivate me to keep pushing through the rehabilitation. Is the pain a little less? Can I bend my knee more today? Is it easier to walk? Can I put on my own shoes? Can I get to the bathroom on my own? It is the little things that we all take for granted that mean the most when you are recovering from a major surgery. Nothing feels better than getting your hair washed when you are on a sponge-bath only restriction!
Eventually, I start to feel sustainable progress being made in my physical therapy. I am climbing out of that dark pit and feeling stronger. I go from feeling frail to feeling my inner (mental) strength and my outer (physical) strength building. There are little setbacks and frustrations here, but no more sliding back to the ground. I am gaining more independence and more stamina. I focus my energy on healing and stay dedicated to my physical therapy, even when it hurts. It is hard work to rehab from a knee replacement. You get the best long-term outcome when you grit your teeth and do the hard work every day. I did it once before and I can do it again.
It will take me about 6 weeks to climb out of that pit and then another 6 months to feel really strong again. My hope is that my surgeon will be able to make my leg straight again with this knee replacement. I would love to walk with two straight legs for the rest of my life. That is what I visualize every day now.
Over the next few weeks, I will begin ‘nesting’ - getting my home ready to make it easy on me as I recover AND building my inner fortitude to tackle this recovery head on. This is the time I need to tap into my inner strength. I painted this particular mandala on my 42nd birthday and the question I had asked was: “where does my inner strength come from?” The yin yang is at the center of my mandala, showing a balance of energies at my core. My strength comes from this balance of energies. Even if everything is chaotic and swirling around me, I can tap into those energies at my core. I can tap into the silence at my core. As I make my way through my healing journey I can always tap into that strength at my core. I am rooted in this strength. It has been with me since I was a child.
Where does your inner strength come from? Remember to tap into it when things seem out of balance in your life.