Whilst at hospital after surgery, doctors, surgeons, and nurses will continually tell you that recovering from ACL surgery is a long road because the healing process is so complex. They tell you about how “rest is key, and to not push yourself”. They tell you “it will get better, you just need to be patient”. And then you leave the hospital.
What isn’t mentioned is the mental health side of surgical recovery.
ACL surgery is a bitch, and will most probably affect you mentally in one way or another.
You probably will get ‘cabin fever’. Theres no doubt about it, this surgery will keep you house-bound for weeks. Please don’t expect to be up and about going out everyday, doing your normal tasks. Not only will the pain and immobility physically stop you from doing this, but you will be exhausted. Your body is putting in so much energy to healing your knee, that you won’t have any left to do anything else. To put it into perspective, the hospital gave me a sick note for a whole four weeks! They expect you to be out of action for at least a month. And this can get too much, very quickly. Trying to find stationary things to do for weeks on end is difficult. You will get bored. Theres only so much TV you can watch and books to read until you genuinely feel like you are completely wasting your day. You feel like you’re just waiting until the day when things will be better. And everyday you spend waiting, the further away it seems to get.
You will cry. A lot. And for no reason. The pain will be too much sometimes- this is the time to inhale all the painkillers. Also, there will be times where you will be at the bottom of the pit. You will have periods of acute depression. Don’t be alarmed, it won’t last forever. But i’ll be surprised if you still have you happy-go-lucky attitude after sinking into your sofa whilst watching hours of monotonous day time TV. This surgery will take it out of you. And its hard because you can’t just get up do what you like. You constantly have to be weary of your knee- you have to think about every single step you take, all whilst using energy draining crutches. The concentration as well as the physical side of it will wear you out. And when you’re tired, you get frustrated. And when you get frustrated, you will pity yourself. And when you do that, you will cry. This is a vicious cycle.But not everyday will be like this. Some days will be good, and some days will not be so good.
My advice for anyone waiting for this surgery, is to prepare yourself. Make sure you know everything you can possibly know- there is no harm in being ready. I think that was my mistake, I thought that this would be okay. I knew it was going to hurt and the pain was going to be intense, but I didn’t know what it would do to me mentally. One, because I was never told, and two, I’m stubborn and impatient. And its hard being told “it will get better” because you KNOW it will. It has to. But it just doesn’t feel like it.
I am just under 3 weeks post op, and I am still experiencing all of the above. My bad days are definitely out weighing my good days at the moment. I guess one thing that all of us that have knee issues have in common, is that we will never take a functional knee for granted ever again- we know how it affects us, physically and mentally.