I think that even the luckiest of us encounters times during our life which feel like a neverending uphill struggle. Through treacle. With ankle weights on. Carrying a bull elephant.
My uphill struggle was having tilted kneecaps (Interestingly, I automatically used the past tense there, even though my knee problems persist to this day and have a heavy impact on my life, which gives me a neat opportunity to say that this is not a woe-is-me type post, so please don’t read it as such).
Having tilted kneecaps means that they rub whenever you move. This is something I would have had from birth, although I don’t remember experiencing knee pain until I was 16. Pain levels gradually built up over the years until they reached Absolutely Excrutiating status. The best way I can describe it is that it feels like someone has lit a sparkler under your kneecap: an extremely intense firey kind of pain.
Physiotherapy ceased to have any beneficial effects, steroid injections did nothing for me, and I found myself on the waiting list for surgery to have my kneecaps straightened. I was on crutches for over a year, crawling off my bed to try and struggle through a day’s work (in which case I was invariably in tears of pain by midmorning, and I’m not particularly wussy), crawling back onto bed the second I got home, and barely leaving my bedroom at any other time. Unsurprisingly, it was a deeply depressing time.
A huge turning point for me came on New Year’s Eve 2009. By this point I was under the Pain Clinic at Poole Hospital, and had decided (somewhat rashly) that I wanted to walk the 5km Race for Life (see my R is for post) in memory of a friend who had lost her uphill struggle against breast cancer. I was a little more mobile, having managed to build up my walking ability to around 1km, but still felt quite miserable about all the things that I was unable to do, and all the things I’d missed, having been crippled throughout my twenties. Whilst enjoying a few drinks with a friend and her sister, and discussing the start of a new decade, the sister turned to me and asked “What have you done this decade Jay?”.
I thought back, and I’d graduated, qualified as an Optometrist, bought my first house, bought my adorable little dog Max, travelled to New Zealand, had my knee surgery…. That moment suddenly crystalised the fact that I had achieved far more than I’d realised, and had so many things to be thankful for.
The following day I decided that I was going to buy a charm bracelet with my Christmas money, and add a charm for each achievement or memorable event in my life since the millenium. Any time I felt miserable about my situation, I would wear my “positivity bracelet” and it would remind me of all the great things in my life.
You know the best part? I never wear it. I never need to!
The moral of the story
My knee problems changed me no end. Having been so unbelievably immobile has given me the kick in the ass to get up off my butt and go out there and live life properly. Having always been quite a shy person who would have thought “I can’t possibly!” when faced with a new and daunting task, my new philosophy is invariably “Bring it on! What’s the worst that could happen?”. I’m far more adventurous, and confident than I ever would have been in the past. I’ve recently had a knee relapse, and am back to suffering fairly constant knee pain and am only able to walk a few hundred yards again, and I can honestly say I am the happiest I have ever been, and wouldn’t change my knee problems at all.
What I’m trying to say (very longwindedly!), is keep going. Strap those ankle weights on, seize that bull elephant, leap gleefully into that treacle and force your way up that damn hill. It may well turn out to be something you’re truly thankful for.