8 May 2017 by victoriaknowe
After a nasty bike accident and a ruptured ligament, I had an operation to implant screws in my ankle. Their function was to hold the bones in place while the ligament healed. After 6 weeks, these screws were removed in a harrowing and surreal episode where I lay fully awake (although thankfully with local anaesthetic) on a table and tried not to look while the surgeon cut into my ankle and then used a kind of hand drill to remove the screws. Just in case I missed any of the fun, he was kind enough to announce (in English too) what he was doing so I had a vivid mental picture to go with the various types of pressure I could feel. Luckily it was over very quickly, and I had the dubious honour of being presented with the screws that had once been in my ankle. What a souvenir!
Two weeks later, both the stitches and plaster cast were finally removed and I was almost back to normal.
I say almost… as a result of not putting any weight on my right foot, the muscles in my right calf had atrophied. In comparison, my left leg was much stronger because I had spent two months standing on one leg. In short, there was a noticeable size difference between my right and left leg. Just in time for the spring skirt weather.
Aside from the wasted muscles, the joint was also very stiff. Partly due to the newly healed ligaments and partly as an inevitable result of not moving my foot for 2 months. I was still dependent on crutches, which was frustrating, when the visible parts of the treatment were over.
When I first injured my ankle and the different treatment options were explained, it was obvious that an operation gave me the best chance of full recovery. Here is how the doctor explained it to me:
“So you would have an operation to implant the screws in your ankle, we would leave them there for 6 weeks, and then remove them. After the removal, you would have a cast for 2 more weeks… …and then you will be able to walk again!”
It was obvious from the start that this “and then you can walk!” sales pitch didn’t quite ring true, but there must have been a very optimistic and emotional area of my brain that latched onto that promised timeframe, and which was very disappointed when the time came to remove the cast and it turned out that I couldn’t magically spring into action on my poor damaged foot.
Thinking about it logically, it was self-evident that I would need some more time and physiotherapy to regain my walking mobility, but our expectations are often based on what we want to happen, rather than on what is most likely to happen. It’s almost like there is a mental block that stops the hopeful, emotional side of our brain from connecting with the logical side. So we hold onto our unrealistic expectations and inevitably get disappointed when the things we hope for fail to come to pass.
I can relate this to days when I plan to be extra productive and get lots of things done. All too often, I am over-optimistic and try to pack more things into the day than are humanly possible to achieve. I then feel downcast when I fail to complete all my planned tasks. But it’s harder to plan in a realistic way, because it means that I plan to do fewer things – and my emotional side falsely equates that with lower productivity.
Which is worse, the dissatisfaction of realistic planning, or the pain of disappointed expectations? I can’t decide. However, I think it’s a good thing to recognise that failure to achieve what you planned is the result of unrealistic expectations, rather than a fault of your productivity. My short poem to that effect can be found here.
To return to my famous foot, I have now completed a few physiotherapy sessions and things are progressing well. I can even walk short distances without crutches. It will be a while before I’m found back on the salsa floor, but at least my ligament has healed well, and things are headed in the right direction.
I am purposely not thinking about a date for when I might be able to dance again, just in case it turns out to be unrealistic. Maybe the solution to unrealistic expectations is to avoid having any expectations at all? (and good luck with that!)
Until next time!