Winter is coming. I can feel it in, well, my knee.
I find myself wondering, still, if it’s ever going to feel ‘normal’ again. Not stiff. Not tight. Not sore. Not tender. Not fragile. Not half numb. Because as of right now, it’s still all of those things. It’s almost nonsensical how susceptible it is to pain. The other day I was moving a cabinet in our garage and its door swung open and hit my knee right where the hardware is – and it was like lightning shooting through my leg. It was an impact that would have gone unnoticed on my other knee.
In the months immediately following surgery I was frustrated and frightened, wondering if I’d ever be able to walk normally again. Would I be able to bike? Hike? Run? Walk without a limp?
Huge strides have been made since then. I can bike and hike, albeit not for as far or as long as I once could. I still do not run, however, and there are still times when I catch myself limping, subconsciously favoring that leg because it feels stiff or sore or simply because it feels fragile.
About a decade ago, my right lung spontaneously completely collapsed. I drove myself to the hospital (because I’m a stubborn, stupid male) and subsequently found myself admitted. I spent a week there, the doctors trying to get it to inflate and stick. I had two chest tubes put in and suffered nerve damage in the process. For the next year or so my chest felt what I can only describe as fragile. It felt tender and sore and not-at-all strong. I was in constant fear of another collapse, but I also hated feeling terrible all the time. I eventually started cardio exercise. First walking, then stationary biking, then treadmill running. Eventually I was running 5 miles, and started bike commuting to work, a 21 miles round trip over the rolling hills (and deadly traffic) of Atlanta.
In the end that lung collapse may have been a blessing, as it set me on a new path. Perhaps that’s what the knee will do for me as well. It is hard to motivate, and the encroaching cold of winter only makes it harder.
I also suffer from a malady called SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. It’s like IBS on steroids. Over the years I’ve run the gamut trying to tackle it. I’ve done conventional medicine, thousand dollar specialty antibiotics, all the way to acupuncture and even cupping. You name it, I’ve tried it. Nothing’s out of bounds when your stomach feels terrible all the time and no one can seem to help you fix it. I have at best learned to manage it – sort of – just like everyone else who has it (if someone tells you they cured SIBO, ask them about their diet. I guarantee it’s strict, and if they deviate from it their symptoms return. They haven’t cured it. They’ve simply isolated the foods that exacerbate it and have excised them from their diet).
When my knee isn’t sapping my energy, SIBO is. I also struggle with depression and anxiety. This all adds up to a pretty interesting mixture to manage. For a long while it seemed like at least one thing would let up when another flared – if my knee hurt, my SIBO gave me a break. If my SIBO acted up, my knee would chill out. But then I got a sinus infection and was put on antibiotics. Any SIBO sufferer will tell you that we avoid antibiotics like the plague. It causes the bugs in our intestines to go apeshit, and getting them back under control can be a months long process.
I suspect I still have a sinus infection, despite the antibiotics, and now my SIBO’s out of whack and my knee’s troubling me. It all adds up to mean that sometimes I’d rather not get out of bed in the morning and, when I do, sometimes I can’t wait to get back into bed as soon as possible.
This Too Shall Pass, I tell myself. I also remind myself to count my blessings, as innumerable people have it far worse than I do.