Nine weeks out from my hip surgery, I wish I could say I’ve learned to pace myself. My recovery seems to be largely about taking it slowly, treating myself gently but alas, I’m still learning that, and all kinds of other things:
Listening to my body. This is what my surgeon told me to do at my six-week check-up when the brace came off (hurray!). He said that “the hip clings to inflammation and therefore, pushing through pain is not what you should do. Listen to your body. If an activity provokes pain, back off.” So I’m stumbling along, trying to figure out what listening to my body means because of course, this recovery isn’t linear. It’s not do A and then B happens. I’m forever guessing whether the pain one day is due to me sitting too much, or whether I stood too much, or whether it has nothing to do with whatever I did.
Backing off instead of pushing myself. This is so totally not how I usually operate! I love completing what I started! Finishing a project, that’s my thing! These days my thighs are screaming with pain after sitting at the office for three hours and I simply have to drop everything, go home and lie down. Thankfully I have lots of flexibility in my job. A shopping trip to Costco (where I’m pretty much just trailing my husband) can wipe me out.
Learning to live with pain. I did figure out that the anti-inflammatory drug I was taking gave me the blues, and so I decided I wasn’t going to add that to my ailments. I prefer pain to living under a dark cloud. But that aside, I’m pretty much dealing with some pain in my middle section at all times, and so I’m constantly shifting around to find a position that’s the least uncomfortable. When I was describing this to a friend yesterday who’s gone through her fair share health challenges, she summed it up nicely: “You’re basically uncomfortable in your own body.”
Letting go. I mentioned this in my first post-surgery report, and it’s still what I have to do. Lots of things are left undone. For example, I didn’t manage to send out my usual Shana tova (Happy New Year) email before Rosh Hashana. Now that I’m back to my day job, a lot of energy gets sucked into that, and it turns out if you have to lie down after each hour of being at the computer, you get a lot less done. It still irks me that I have so many projects piling up around me that I’d love to tackle, but I have had to admit that I simply can’t do them now. I have to trust that eventually, God willing, I will be my old active self again.
Not getting disheartened. This is the hardest part! You’d think it would be living with pain but no, it’s the sheer endlessness of this condition. My husband and my physical therapist keep reminding me that I’m progressing nicely. Each week I can do more but so many things are still so far out of reach that it’s hard to keep my spirits up sometimes and believe that I’ll get back to normal at some point. We consulted five surgeons who do this kind of surgery before I had it, and all of them told us it would take a year for me to be 100% again. They weren’t joking. (Side note: Telling myself that things could be a lot worse doesn’t always help.)
I don’t want to end on a mopey note, so here are some good things about this whole surgery recovery thing:
An empty social calendar. I’m not going to the theatre, nor to a soccer game, nor to any other social function. And you know what? I like being able to say “no” categorically; it simplifies my life a great deal. Usually I’m stressing out about all kinds of social engagements, i.e. having to go to this reading or that event, or wanting to see that play, or this movie. These days, I just can’t do it. I can’t sit in a restaurant for any length of time, nor can I sit or stand at an event. Instead, my husband and I are home watching old TV shows (currently we’re into Northern Exposure, which we never really watched when it was running and boy, it’s way better than we thought it would be!) or we invite friends for dinner (at home I can disappear for a few minutes to lie down). Life is cozy…
Not having to do household chores. This is truly grand, and I am thankful to my family, mainly my husband, for picking up the slack. Thankfully, I can take care of my own body again (yeay!) but I’m not running errands nor loading the dishwasher. Well, sometimes I am, but no one expects me to. I guess this is the true benefit: no expectations. I do miss cooking, though, and it was mighty odd not to be in the kitchen for hours, cooking for Rosh Hashana as I usually would have been. My one contribution to the holiday meal was making the broth for matzo ball soup as the caterer had forgotten to send the soup, and I can stand for about 20 minutes. My daughter had to make the matzo balls, though…
Appreciating the most mundane things. Oh was I happy when I could take my first bath after the brace came off! And these days I can put on my own clothes, and I can walk up the stairs swiftly and without holding on to the banister. All things I never thought about much until I couldn’t do them anymore.
Happiness lies in the small things, doesn’t it? So, I’ll keep appreciating the small things and I’ll keep trying to learn the big things like pacing myself, which really would be a good life skill, right?