Naming Our Trauma
A couple of years ago, I tore my ACL. Of course, I didn’t know that at first. All I knew was that my knee hurt very badly. It was a sprain, I told myself.
The next day, I could barely walk. It’s fine, I told myself. It’s always worse the next day. It’ll be better tomorrow.
And it was, a little bit.
A couple of weeks later, I was still limping pretty badly. But I told myself I was fine. It was our wedding anniversary, so we went to Hilton Head, SC. We stayed with my cousin and her family, and on the third day, we did a walking tour of Savannah, GA – which is usually my favorite city in the US.
Here’s the thing: I don’t recommend a walking tour of Savannah, GA when you have a torn ACL. It’s significantly less enjoyable.
After that trip, my wife finally made me go to the doctor. I saw an orthopedic surgeon over in Rockwall. He looked at my knee and said, “Oh yeah, it’s a torn ACL.”
I blinked at him.
He said, “We’ll have to run an MRI to be sure, but I see five of these a day. Sorry, man.”
I got the scans, did the follow-up and scheduled the surgery.
Long story short, I have a new ACL and walking tours are fine again. But I couldn’t get there until I admitted I had a real problem. A problem that wouldn’t go away by ignoring it. Something I couldn’t fix by myself.
Why did I wait so long to see a doctor? Maybe it’s partly because I grew up in the “rub some dirt on it and walk it off” generation. I think a lot of it was that I knew I was hurting but didn’t want to admit it and go through the disruption and cost of a major surgery.
But I was never going to heal on my own. I had to name the pain and ask for help. That didn’t make we weak – it actually made me smart. What was dumb and weak was limping around like I didn’t have a problem, when every single person who saw me walking around could tell I had a big problem.
The reality is that we’re all hurting.