Here we are, almost five weeks post-hip replacement and I’m walking – albeit no more than 2km at a time and quite slowly. I’m careful, but not cautious. There’s a subtle difference…
I am in awe of how little pain I am in, how quickly I am ‘back on my feet’. It’s a different way of being back on my feet though. It’s moving without fear.
Pre-operation there were certain movements that caused me excruciating pain. Even small, basic ones. In a yoga class that I attended weekly we would often start on hands and knees, moving our hips around in the smallest of circles to “lubricate the joints”. Unfortunately you need an agent to lubricate a joint, that agent being cartilage. There would be a point in my circle where a shooting, sharp pain would radiate down my left inner thigh.
Only now do I know that that pain was not muscular, that was arthritic pain, that was bone rubbing against bone.
I wanted to believe it was muscular. And sure some of it was, not all of it though. I wanted to believe for a long time that I could change that pain, completely eradicate it all. That I could control it and fix it – yet still continue my normal activities. Activities such as dancing and yoga; movement has long been a creative outlet for me.
Then I stopped. Because it hurt. I stopped dancing. I stopped certain yoga movements. And in a way, my creativity started to fade. I replaced the joy of creative expression with the joy of GETTING SHIT DONE. Something I’m very good at but maybe became too good at it. Perhaps to counteract the loss of creativity, I pushed even harder. Kicked more goals. Achieved more. A dopamine fix in itself.
But now, I can do that movement (and many others) without pain. Oh how happy I was when I first realised this! My downward dog isn’t lopsided anymore and quite frankly, I can open my legs wider than I’ve been able to do so in recent memory.
There is still pain when I overdo things – like yesterday, because I walked a bit too far for my recovering body. But that’s ok, I understand it’s temporary. It’s not chronic, it won’t be there tomorrow. As long as I’m careful.
Careful. Care-full. Full of care. Different to moving cautiously. Caution is motivated by fear, by a need to avoid a negative consequence. Moving carefully is motivated by care, by kindness to self and others.
So my approach to movement is changing. Instead of push-push-push it’s slowed down, it’s more responsive to my body. You can’t avoid listening to your body when you’re trying to settle a new hip – overdo it and suffer lower back or knee pain. You have to do it with care. Care for the new joint, care for your mental health – as chronic, physical pain has a detrimental effect on mental health (and vice versa, poor mental health often shows up physically). Physical activity is not and must not be the only coping mechanism when faced with difficulty. Our bodies aren’t made to last forever.
Can you be careful yet still push your limits? Sure. Can you be careful yet still dance, ravished by the music? Sure. Just not all the time. And I know I’ve still got to do the work – the rehab exercises, the swimming, the weight training to get specific muscles to fire again after years of dormancy.
Recovery continues. Patience. Care. And of course, a generous serve of fun (or perhaps creativity) along the way too.