I’m sitting here with an injured right knee. I injured it in the stupidest way possible – extending my leg from a bent position while sitting on the floor. That’s it. I just lifted my leg to straighten it out and felt like it “slipped out of socket,” although I didn’t feel anything move. It took several seconds to work the pain out and I was able to stand and walk on it, but there was a sharp twinge of pain every few steps.
That was yesterday; today is much worse. I can hardly bend it or straighten it. It aches when at rest and “lights up” with pain when I try to move it. I can put weight on it, however, and that makes me grateful, because it means it’s most likely just a tendon stretch or pull and not meniscus damage.
But I’m still mad. I’m mad that I got injured in the lamest, stupidest way possible – not doing anything! It would be one thing if I were injured from an accident or something, but just straightening out my leg? How stupid is that! Ugh!! And then it makes me angry at my body for being so weak and out of shape; especially when I’ve made so much progress over the last few months to increase my health and fitness. This just feels like I huge setback and I’m angry. I’m angry at myself, my body – everything!
And yet… I feel like every physical system has some mental/emotional component attached to it. A “broken” knee means I’m most likely afraid of something – afraid to move forward in life; it can also mean stubborn/inflexible pride. I know I have my moments in struggling with pride, I’m human – after all, but the fear of moving forward is something that resonates with me. I feel stuck in a job I don’t really love – although it’s a good job. I feel like I’m stuck by not really having anything I’m truly passionate about pursuing in life. I’m absolutely stuck in knowing which romantic relationship to pursue and feeling lonely most of the time!
Since I was laid up in bed anyway, I decided to do some guided meditation to see if I could understand what this particular injury is trying to tell me. I was all over the place and saw many images I couldn’t quite piece together. But a few things stood out in particular.
I saw myself at about the age of 9 or 10. This was the age when several things changed in my life – I was molested for a second time, I practically doubled in body weight, I required glasses at that age and I recalled that my knee would occasionally pop out of socket. I remember how much it hurt the first time and how panicked I was. But as it happened from time to time, I eventually grew to expect it and even though I was already not that active, I became truly sedentary, so as not to aggravate my knee further. (I as probably 17 or 18 the last time it happened.) I suppose I thought that not using it was healing it because I never really had a problem with it after that; until yesterday, that is.
What was truly strange was not that I saw myself at 9 or 10, but that when I saw myself, I was lying on the ground, on my back, lifeless – no more than a doll or a puppet – which made me think of Pinocchio; or rather, something like a reverse-Pinocchio. I saw myself as a lively human boy made of flesh (a Carnocchio, I suppose!), but after enduring some traumas, I became lifeless – I turned into nothing more than a puppet. No longer capable of facing life; I shut down and retreated to a place inside myself where I was safe – but unable to fully interact with the world.
I believe that several physical conditions changed as a result. For example, I believe I got fat as a way of protecting myself (fat is a cushion and a barrier, after all); I believe my eyesight deteriorated because I could no longer see a future where I mattered, or where my life could mean anything; I think my knee failed me because I was afraid to move forward to a future that held no promise for me, where I no longer understood what it meant to be a man.
In my imagery, I sat down next to my “lifeless” self and scooped him up into my arms. I held him and cried over him – perhaps I was crying for him. I told him how sorry I was that he had been through such hard things. I told him I understood why he would have shut down and lived a life of hiding his true self from constant fear. I told him I loved him and that he didn’t have to be afraid anymore. It struck me how my younger self had never felt emotionally supported and as I did so, I felt a sharp pain in my knee. That told me I was onto something.
I told my younger self that maybe my knee was initially damaged out of fear and that I haven’t had a problem with it because I’ve lived for so long in that fear – that I couldn’t tell that it wasn’t strong. I told myself that maybe this time, through attempting to improve my health and fitness, my knee became re-injured – not because I’m afraid, but because I’m ready; ready to move forward. But I can’t move forward on broken beliefs, just like I can’t move forward in fitness with a damaged knee. Maybe it’s as if my knee needed to re-break (i.e., break old belief systems), in order to re-set and heal correctly (i.e., “move forward” in life with new, healthy thoughts and beliefs about myself).
This may be a lot of hokum to some people – and maybe it is, but my point is that this experience helped me to reframe my injury. Rather than being mad at my body for breaking down again – this time, I could see it as my body trying to heal from past traumas and helping me to reset my foundation to something healthy and functional. It didn’t take the pain away, but now when I feel the pain, I can tell myself that this is a necessary step on the road to true recovery – physically, as well as mentally and emotionally.
I want to become “a real boy” again – alive, healthy, vibrant and able to direct the course of my life, instead of passively watching it go by, with someone else pulling the strings.