Thursday, 29 September 2016

A Misfortune, and my struggles to turn the setback around.

I struggle to blog nowadays. I never thought something like this would happen to me. I'm too sad to pretend to be uplifted. Each time it crosses my mind, there is this wave of despair that swarms over me. I've decided I can't move on without blogging about it. But each time I'm reminded of how I'd have to live with it for the rest of my life- at the sole age of 21, it breaks my heart.

People ask, "Why?" and I would open my mouth, crestfallen to find myself in a tussle to gather the appropriate words. I don't know, would be the accurate response, but instead I'd lamely brush off their stares by saying, "It's a recurring injury, since last year..." Then I'd silently thank the person who happened to switch topics, because recalling the painful memories remains agonising, but having to tear open the wound and expose it to the world who probably can't and won't fathom, takes it to a whole level of torment.

I LOVE sports. Those who knows me well personally would vouch for that. I love, love, love sports. When I was younger and achingly timid, sports was what lured me to take part in social activities, to make new friends, to speak a little bolder, to hold my head a little higher. I fell in love with sports eventually and never looked back. Basketball, netball, running, hiking, swimming... Just a handful of the exercises that I love best. Team sports were easily my favourite because I absolutely look forward to playing with my teammates! Training is made a lot merrier because of all the jokes and laughter we would crack.

But as I go through awkward stages during my adolescence, weight gain, weight loss, dramatic changes to my body, mingling with people made me anxious and terribly self-conscious, and at times it was not easy to find a partner to play with, so I'd resort to yoga and running. I still returned to team sports whenever I have the chance, my fondest memories are Form 4 and 5, where by then I had slowly regained my health and weight from a nasty, ugly eating disorder episode, and rediscovered joy playing sports and running with the most accepting, kindhearted, gracious, understanding teammates. Sports Day, RIMUP... Ah, those days were the best time of my life.

The tales in between are long, and complex, so to recap, I have stopped all weight-bearing exercises for the past 2 years, which means anything that involves jumping, running, hopping... It sucks. I don't wish to pinpoint a particular event, but it was going to the UK when things went downhill.

I'd love to share about it one day. I have a few loose pieces of stories I had documented, but I would prefer to wait for the time when I'm more comfortable to share my experience with you. I don't want to live in the past, but it's necessary to mention briefly to get to the reason.

Amidst a year long of emotional-eating, unhealthy sleeping pattern (involuntarily), and the countless failed attempts trying to cope with stress and tension, one of the detrimental impacts was my knee injury.

With an alarming weight gain (by alarming I'm by no means exaggerating. I was too depressed and embarrassed to weigh myself but I wouldn't be surprised to find myself at least 20 kg heavier than I was prior to going to the UK. It was dreadful. It was no longer a concern of appearance but health.

But I didn't know how to put an end to this overexercising to-compensate-for-my-overeating cycle. So that meant I would sign up for classes and exercise 4 hours continuously. Yoga, Aerobic, Zumba, Body Pump. Vigorous exercise, yet not enough muscle mass to withstand my increasingly heavy body weight. Eventually my knee gave way.

I lost weight gradually upon returning from the UK, but things have not been looking good for my knee. The damage has been done and there's no repairing at this point. The MRI scan and the doctor visits confirmed that my knee is at a stage of what I understand as chondromalacia patellae.

I'm no specialist, but from what I deduced based on the doctor's words, my cartilage tissue has softened unreasonably and that led to the grinding of the bones against each other, causing the wearing off of the tissues, which leads to the burning irritation.

Weak smiles before entering for a MRI scan. Little did I know, the results revealed days later would appear to be so foreign and scary...

Having to juggle academics and visiting the rehabilitative centre every 2-3 days is no joke, coupled with the fact that I have to carry out these quadriceps strengthening exercises routinely everyday can be tiring and wearisome mentally and physically. I had just only completed my 5 sessions of injections on my knee (to provide lubricant but the effectiveness of it differs according to individuals and sadly, so far I have not notice any improvement but I'm not giving up) and let me tell you, injections on some of the muscles you engage most in is no fun. The discomfort that follows the injection puts me into a funk and my mind often feels dilapidated just trying to fight the cramp and twinge.

Post workout, my muscles would tremble in a manner that shocks me, and ache in places I never knew could. I clock in a minimum of 90 minutes every time I'm at the rehab just exercising (minus the traveling time), and if I'm not, I try to workout by myself at the gym. I like to joke that the sight of eye candies there adds much colour to my workout regime and fuels my motivation to workout, but if I were being truthful, those are lame humours I pull only to make myself feel better and look less pitiful when people would throw sympathetic looks at me- I appreciate them trying to make me feel better (hearts <3 ) so I try to avoid casting their spirits down as well hence I would put in that extra effort which sometimes includes biting my lip to prevent doleful tears from rolling down my cheeks.

I won't lie. I have not been accepting my circumstances in the most rational, sanguine, and promising manner that a reasonable man (<-- what too much of law studies does to you ha ha) my age should. I would blame myself, cry, wince, complain... Because of my knee condition, I had to miss out on the recent Youth Fellowship Games. It breaks my heart, and as though the cut wasn't deep enough, I felt as though a knife was plunged through my heart as I was made aware that one of the Games committee doubted the seriousness of my injury and implied I had faked it just to withdraw from the game with a seemingly valid excuse- what. the. heck. It was utterly revolting to the stomach to hear of it. Fake my injury? Man, would you like to take my place? I'd gladly give it up to you.

For someone who grew up playing various sports, my knee condition means that there's a huge uncertainty on when I can actually return to playing badminton games with friends, or hiking with my family or hop, jump or skip. And would that be at the price of a surgery, I can't answer that yet, and it drives me up the wall. It's as if a huge part of my ability has been bluntly and brutally ripped away, and my heart bleeds each time my knee would hurt at the simplest act of walking down the stairs or chasing after a train. It's not even a high technicality sport! And I'm only 21...

I miss our adventures of forest wilderness with the best company.

I would catch a glance of the glimmering Tokoh Dynamik (Dynamic Leader) Award erected proudly on the shelves that I had received from my high school's graduation ceremony for my outstanding performance in curricular activities and feel like I have failed myself. It drowns me in  shame because I couldn't help but wonder what my high school mates would think of me now. Fat? Overweight? A failure? (<-- Yeah, that's how easily the comparison trap kicks in for me and how important it is for me to address my negative feelings).

I had compared myself with a disabled, and in my lowest and worst disposition told my mum grimly : "Is this what being diagnosed with cancer feels like, because I feel as if my world is over..." My current slightly more levelheaded self would like to clarify a few things: Firstly, cancer is NOT incurable, it's NOT a venereal disease (there's still hope!), and secondly, being diagnosed with such a condition can barely amount to the end of the world, and although feelings are subjective and everyone is entitled to feel the way they do... I recognise and acknowledge, those words of mine blurted out even at the most dejecting period of my life, were, of course, insensitive and cynical. I forget how easy the challenges in life can make you a cynic, and I want to remind myself to focus on what I can change, what I can take control of, and how I can bring positivity and light to counteract whatever tragedies and darkness.

My happy place may be out of the woods during this tough time, but I'll come back some day. 

Stretching or posing? I intended only the latter, but the photographer took so long because I voluntarily held the pose for too long, I ended up seriously stretching.

Pondering about life's greatest questions. What's for dinner later? Certainly not these bamboos. 

I realised I spent too much time turning down the idea of keeping myself optimistic and physically active, mainly because my social activities are now even limited than it had been prior to my unfortunate diagnosis, that meant spending a lot of time by myself, and with my parents (my brothers are not at home), and it can get boring and mundane sometimes, and I am one to eat out of boredom and anxiety, though thanks (<-- Na-uh, not being sarcastic, trying to look at things at a different perspective) to my injury, a proper diet and exercise are aspects in life I can no longer afford to be reckless or ignorant about.

Not so much as it is on strengthening my muscles, but also about maintaining/ losing weight. It has been for the longest time, I would associate weight with appearance/ beauty. It now seems to me that in order to survive (i.e. walk without pain!), I'd have to ensure that I'm at a healthy weight, and not tip the scale over limit. How insane it is that weight seems to be a battle I had dealt with since my early adolescence-hood, and oh, the irony- where I once had no choice but to put on weight in order to continue breathing. I couldn't help but wonder if the lack of nutrients/ calories at that point actually contributed to the weakness of my cartilage. 

So how have I been taking it in these days? I don't want to paint a beautiful picture. Because it's the furthest thing from what my life looks like lately. Yet I don't want to go over the board on the bad at the same time.

Let's put it this way. I still have days when I feel completely and hopelessly grief-stricken and heavyhearted. I still have days when the thought of my knee condition dampens my spirits and I would resort to food for comfort. I still have days when my physiotherapy sessions get so physically and mentally demanding that I would just lose it and drop to the floor. I still have days when I wish I could be out there running, jumping, skipping... yet my knee, could not even last a minute without surrendering when I squat down to use the toilet (public toilets, sorry if this is TMI).

But in the thick of these worrisome parts of life, I would look up at the skies (quite literally ha ha), take deep breaths, and count my blessings. I am beyond lucky that I have the most amazing support system.

My parents, my cornerstone, my backbone... the ones who care for me, take care of the medical bills, and lift me up in every way they can. I love them so much and I am the most fortunate person to be their daughter.

My friends, who gently, and some fiercely (because who are we kidding, they know I love them so they take that they have the permission to yell at me ha ha but ultimately, they do it out of kind intentions- I guess :P) remind me to take good care of myself, and not to jump (a tendency when I grow too excited), and even offer to help me carry my books (Thanks Sonia :)).

I shall do my best to perform my part, because the doctor whom I have a crush on and whom I kept telling my family I want to be with had I been 10 years older hahahahahaha could not have made his points clearer before he went off for his 6 weeks holiday break (for the workload he undergoes, he deserves it!) : It is conclusively the efforts that come from myself that can help my body.

To work with my body instead of against it, was the message he had successfully gotten across. I don't intend to take another gap year, which means my studies may get neglected, because of the time and energy devoted on physiotherapy, but it all boils down to priorities- if I have to choose, my health must/ will/ shall come first.

I know there are people who may think otherwise, but it's my faithful ol' legs that will carry me till I'm older... I mean, hey, if I were to live till I'm 80, that means 60 more years of having to depend and rely on my feet to bring me around the world. I can't give up on it, I must, must persevere. This is another reminder for me to never, ever take my health for granted.

I'll settle for cheerier, merrier things to share with you in the next post, because life goes on.

My chest now feels a thousand times sharing this piece of news with you. Thanks for hearing me out.

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