My Brain Doesn’t Get It

So since my hip surgery and the recent (2 weeks ago!) pronouncement from my surgeon that I have no restrictions, I’ve felt very sad. I can’t figure out why. I also don’t understand why I’m not just OUT THERE trying things, hiking trails, taking my bike out of the garage, everything. I’m in good condition. I don’t know why I am sticking with the patterns of rehab I developed and that worked.

I was thinking today as I rode the Bike to Nowhere that the last time I had no restrictions, I was in my early 50s and my most frequent hiking pals were three boys in their 20s who had, at one time, been my students. Two of them were professional athletes, one a surfer and one a weightlifter. For the weightlifter, I provided un-boring cardiac training, and we had so much fun together running up and down the Laguna mountains, hiking long distances fast.

The surfer had no idea that dry land was fun, but he learned, and at least once a month you could find us on a dusty trail going up a hill or a mountain. When he went to Europe to hike the Camino de Santiago, he took a jaunt to Morocco and climbed up one of the High Atlas Mountains so he could take a photo of himself on the mountain for me. When he came back he said, “I don’t why, but it was hard to breathe up there.” It was over 10,000 feet, but he had to have good lungs from surfing…

The third was my most reliable hiking friend — he wasn’t as extreme as the others, and he lived nearby. We hiked often. Our thing was finding new trails and different times of day. We both liked late afternoon/evening/night hikes. We had a lot of fun together. He joked around about the other two because all the hikes usually ended with lunch or dinner in the little cafe in my town. “She (the waitress) probably wonders how you end up here with all of us hot boys.”

But it was great. A couple of years into this wonderful routine, my right hip started to go south. The weightlifter thought (and I thought) it was an injury but it wasn’t. And after that, it seems to me now, my life just went dark. That was 14 years ago.

It’s not dark now, but I’m not where I was last time it was light. Honestly, part of me doesn’t know where I am. I’m going to have to take a big, brave chance, and I sense that my best bet is not a hiking trail. I think a X-country trail on a snowy golf course might work best to bridge the years. I know it sounds absurd and maybe self-indulgent, but anyone else who’s had surgery like this experience post-rehab bewilderment and sadness over the next step?


23 thoughts on “My Brain Doesn’t Get It

  1. Yes. Its an interesting thing after surgery to rebuild one’s sense of self and possibility. Particularly after a certain age. I had ankle surgery at 18, and while it slowed me, my sense of self wasn’t altered, probably because I was in that late adolescent space of invulnerability–bad shit happens to other people, not me, and coming back from surgery was fairly easy.

    After my shoulder surgery, now almost 4 years ago, it was much slower. Takes longer to get the confidence in one’s body and durability. I think it may also be related to length of impairment prior to surgery.

    There also can be a grieving process for the old self (even if less healthy), and it occurs to me for the missing bone. It took a long time for my shoulder to feel “right” again (not like its pre-injury self, but an integral part of my body).

    Getting used to the light again takes time, and I would agree with your sense of gradual progression. Go to an edge, pause, wait for the emotional waves to move through, and then continue on. Somedays will be advances, others retreats. Suck it up and forcing yourself is unlikely to be useful. That said, challenge to show up for 1 to 10 minutes doing something scary and then giving yourself the option to stop or continue. Possibility is important.

    Hope this makes a little bit of sense.

  2. It sounds to me as if your mind and body are attuned to a goal of no restrictions — now that you’ve met that goal, there’s not a new goal to step up to. A sort of “now what?” reaction.

    • I definitely feel that “Now what?” I’ve lived in a pretty limited world for the past year with everything very clearly set out for me. That’s not the case now.

  3. Well YEAH. There’s an element of grief built into the healing process. The doctors never say anything about it of course. If it persists, go talk to somebody adept at helping you through this ‘what now” process. But in my experience, it fades. You find what things you can accomplish vis a vis exercising and over time? You probably will be strong enough and well enough to hike again if you wish. But your surgery is relatively recent, and the body (especially the ‘older’ body) takes time to heal fully. And. My opinion (after two hip replacements and one knee replacement) is that the regimented lifestyle is addictive. We get hooked (if you will) on having everything planned out for us, not having to make decisions about meals or what exercise if any we do in a day. Depending on your level of independence and your regained strength, you’ll find one morning that the feeling of loss has vanished. I promise.

    • Definitely. The certainty of the regimented lifestyle is addictive. I feel that. It really wasn’t that long ago that things hurt a LOT and I had to find a way to live that minimized that so I could work toward this moment. But when this moment would arrive? Who could say?

      It arrived sooner and more positively than even my doctor predicted. I was happy when he said, “Go run up a mountain! Go skiing!” but I also knew I don’t know how to run up a mountain anymore. Sometimes I think I need a coach or a personal trainer. Sometimes I feel like I’ve awakened bewildered from a bad dream. I’m very glad to read that in your experience it happened and it went away. Maybe I need a bit more faith and patience. ❤

    • We do but when I tried orienteering (years ago, thinking it would be great) I found I really hate being told where to go or competing with others to get there — too much like life. 😉 The upside would be meeting people. I’m going to try to force myself to attend meetings of the Cross Country ski group in my town. I sometimes HATE being shy, well, I often hate it.

      • Let’s hope you meet a couple of nice people. Worth a try. Maybe.

        PS. I found orienteering very relaxed and inclusive. Lots of people walked the course. And I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of using a map and compass. They probably use GPS these days. Takes all the fun out of it.

  4. Garry is a bit depressed and I’m a bit exhausted and we SHOULD be thrilled because he can hear. Instead, we are … I don’t know where we are. I think maybe when we look forward to something so hard and with such urgency and determination that when it happens … we feel kind of lost. I haven’t made sense out of us, either. We should be really “up” and instead, we’re limping around feeling mostly tired. It doesn’t make sense. Maybe it doesn’t have to make sense. Where you were 14 years ago is not really relevant to where and who you are now — and I’m sure if this ear thing had happened to Garry even 10 years ago, we’d be reacting entirely differently.

    Or maybe we’re just weary from the rain that never stops.

    • I don’t think where I was 14 years ago is irrelevant to where I am now. That’s the last time I felt like myself, That’s VERY relevant. I feel like myself now, again, but I’m not in the same place, don’t have the same life and no longer have those friends. I feel like Rip Van Winkle.

      I definitely think working so hard to get to this place — you, Garry and me — leaves us now that the whole thing is realized with a big let down feeling. Like slmret wrote, it’s about not having a goal to work toward. I can see that as something I can do to get through this moment. Melanie B Cee wrote that it won’t last — I think she’s right, too. Patience is probably important. And I get Stephanie’s point that there’s mourning involved and a discovery of who I am now.

      I guess we don’t think that this thing we’ve done is really as big as it is in so many more dimensions than we thought. I just thought of walking again without pain. Garry might have thought being able to hear again wouldn’t be such an immense change — but of course I don’t know. It seems like it’s a kind of post-holiday blues in a way, like you say, looking forward to something so hard and with such urgency like a kid looks forward to Santa, almost. ❤

      • It’s not related to post-surgical recovery, but I’m going through something similar. A couple of months ago, I suddenly realized that the numbers had changed and I might not be able to afford the move I’d been planning, and excited about, for several years. I researched other options — financial and different housing options — through the summer. I think I may be able to do the move, but suddenly I’m not sure that’s what I want to do. Partly because the dates keep being pushed back (it’s now June at the earliest), and partly because there are SO MANY options, I’m suddenly quite confused as to what I should do. I’m feeling that all the parameters changed, and now I’m waiting for them all to settle back down so I have a solid basis for my decision — this is not my usual m-o with a big decision, and it’s leaving me very uncomfortable!

        • It’s a big relief when we know what we’re working toward. I felt kind of lost as you describe before I found my surgeon. How would I know I found the right one? Once I started my search, I knew the wrong one when I met him and the right one was equally obvious.

          One thing I liked about communist China was that there were no choices. You could either have bread (it was there) or it wasn’t. Pretty much everything was like that. It was very relaxing. It’s nice to just know where you’re going, why and what the goal is.

          When I retired and moved here I felt much as you describe until the housing market in Colorado changed and my limited income meant I had to find a small town somewhere in an impoverished rural area with a low cost of living. That sounds awful, but it hasn’t been. It’s been magical. I have no traffic stress, my town is beautiful, the people are nice, I’m surrounded by mountains, my house is perfect for me, it’s really home. I had never been here until I came to look at houses. ❤ I hope you find that place, too (and maybe you're already there).

      • I’ve definitely found some options that are possible alternatives, including staying right where I am and fixing it up a little (a coat of paint, a couple of ceiling fans, and new carpet would make it almost new again). With your comments about China, though, you hit the point of my comparison — that now you feel better there are so many alternative directions to travel that you’re a bit overwhelmed. Once you decide on an activity, you’ll find a new goal and life will be back to something more normal!

      • I didn’t mean that how you felt then was irrelevant, but that you won’t be going back to that place because we can’t go back, only forward. I’m not sure what we were expected. To be younger maybe? I’ve gone through a LOT of recuperation, but this sense of exhaustion is different. The doctor says I’m vitamin deficient, especially D, but also B12 and a couple of others which could be the problem. And I still think Garry hasn’t fully come free from all that Fentanyl they doped him with.

  5. It’s adjusting to the amazing change that has occurred. Your free and you haven’t been in a long time. I’d say it take some adjustment for the brain to translate and accept the new you!

    • I think you’re right. I feel like I need a really good long cry to release 14 years of being trapped one way and another so I can see where I am now. ❤ Thank you.

      • Your precious, Martha! We’re divided on the pooch. HE’s doing this hack snort thing which he’s never done, and he’s refusing to eat. He’ll eat the cat food when he can so we’re of a mind he’s being stubborn. Today he was outside romping came in and ate HIS food because he couldn’t get to the cat food least being slow and old I can’t move fast and he often times gets a taste of it. Now he can’t so he had to eat his food and he gobbled it all up. So far, so good.

          • Porsche is a brilliant cat and black and Loki is a brilliant dog and black. They are learning to accept each other, it’s taken longer than Abbey the tabby who tolerates him well, and is such an instigator. She gets him in trouble then when he is sent to his room slides her paws under the door, nanana boo boo but yes, he’s an amazingly smart dog. He caught onto sit, lay come and his name in 24 hours. You say the name of a toy though it’s been mentioned once, he looks right at it. His bone, his cong, his ball. He’s astoundingly smart.

Comments are closed.