If you are anything like me, failure isn’t an option. I hate being incapable of doing something and I hate letting people down. I will relentlessly push myself even if that means doing more damage, which now, it usually does. I wasn’t allowed to cry. I wasn’t allowed to complain (I manage to complain anyway, quite frequently if I’m honest). If I didn’t feel good, I still got up and went to work. Snotty nosed and feverish, I’d still push through. This my friend, is not the mindset one with a chronic autoimmune disease should have.
I was on the basketball team in junior high. It was what I lived for and I was the only one in my grade on the starting varsity team. It was a big deal for my 13-year-old self. My knee had been hurting me for a while and the swelling would get worse after every practice. But Coach was my idol so I kept the pain to myself and continued playing. I couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing him.
The time came for us to play one of the best teams in the league and my big sister and her boyfriend at the time, was coming to watch me play. Everything had to go smoothly. Big sis was there and Coach and the team were counting on their Shooting Gaurd. I didn’t give my leg the rest it was craving and on the night of the big game, I blew it. Not just my knee. No, I sucked on a whole new level. Right up there next to shoot yourself in the foot, run into a glass door in front of your crush kind of way. I blew major rubber balls on the court and my knee was now worse than ever.
Coach at this point noticed something was wrong and in practice the next day, he called me over and had me roll up my pant leg (calm down kids, I was only flashing a little knee). My left knee had swelled up to three times the size. He told my mom, mom then took me to the doctor and Bam!. Out for the season. Turned out, a partially torn ACL has now ripped through. My knee, which had spazzed out and locked in place, was completely shot from the unnecessary pressure and lack of care to my leg.
I had my first surgery at 13. Sucks for a plethora of reasons, the obvious being I was too young to appreciate the fun drugs they gave me, but really, I didn’t play basketball after that and I still have issues with that knee to this day. Lesson being, aside from my induction to opioids, if I would have admitted to myself that I was in pain and that something was wrong, I probably wouldn’t have had such a bad injury. If I had just rested when my body was so clearly begging for it, maybe it’s possible I could have prevented a pretty large hospital bill and a full sweaty leg cast through summer.
One of the hardest parts of my new-found illness, for me at least, is admitting when I can’t do it. My mind may be ready and able but my body is asking for a break (though I do wish she’d ask more nicely). I’m jumping back upright after every surgery, taking the minimum amount of time to recuperate, then right back to work. I spend hours commuting and running around, working on my feet in a very intense environment and I expect my body to be able to keep up. When it can’t, I have mini meltdowns on subway platforms. Lucky for me, everyone in New York is crazy so I don’t draw too much attention.
Giving your body what it needs is OK. taking some time for yourself is OK. Admitting you need a break, YES, that’s ok too. You may not be able to stop a moving train but you are a superhuman in a whole new way. Being strong enough to know what’s most important (your health) is a pretty rare gift. I still struggle with that EVERY DAY. Take a look at where you started. Where you are now. What you accomplish on a daily basis. That my friend is already more than most will do in a lifetime. Once you realize how kick-ass you already are, you might feel a little less guilty the next time your body is craving bed and a Netflix binge instead of hitting the gym.
So listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Focus on what’s important. Get yourself healthy and your body operating at its optimum ability. Take this lemon and use it for all of its benefits. If you’re healthy enough to do so… make it a twist, add some vodka, and sip in your glory while you relax in your bubble bath (and have one for me!).