I was playing basketball in the 35 and over men’s league. In the fourth game I tore my ACL and needed surgery on my knee. It was disappointing, but after processing the emotions of not being as young and vibrant as I once was, I started feeling like it wouldn’t be too big of a deal. I told my wife, “I can handle this.”
It would definitely be some extra effort for my wife as I would be in bed for a week and after that on crutches for several more. She would have to bring me meals in bed, fill up my ice pack for me, and get me whatever else I needed. Also, she wouldn’t have me to help with the kids and the house. I thought that would be the main source of stress for her. Overall, I was thinking this would be no problem at all. I would just be content in my room watching movies and working on my computer and not bother anyone.
I had this fantasy that my wife would love taking care of me because she loved me so much. I, as the patient, would be so grateful and appreciative. And there would be heart shaped clouds floating above the bed.
Spoiler alert! It was not quite so blissful. The following are the 4 main things I learned from this that might be helpful for you to consider if you are ever in a similar situation:
- Don’t underestimate the emotional symptoms of being sick or injured
I had sort of accepted the fact that my knee was really going to hurt after surgery, but what I didn’t anticipate was how exhausted, irritable, frustrated, disappointed, and moody I would be. I think about the character Dr. House who lives with chronic pain in his knee and is forever in a bad mood and irritable with everyone. That’s sort of how I felt.
- Your brain might trick you into thinking your partner just isn’t trying hard enough
This is related to number one. When you are not able to cope with stress and feel irritated all the time you aren’t able to put things into perspective. There was one time when I had asked for ice cream from my wife. She said ok, but was busy doing laundry, taking care of the kids and doing a million other things. All I could keep thinking was, “why is she doing this to me?”
- Your brain might trick you into thinking your partner is bossy
I felt like I couldn’t control anything in my life while I lay there in bed and couldn’t do anything. On top of that when I would get up to crutch over to the bathroom, Andrea would say, “why aren’t you wearing your brace?” or when I wanted a fourth helping of potato chips, “why are you eating so many potato chips?” This made me feel resentful and I had to remind myself that she was just trying to help me get healthy and was taking care of me.
- It is normal to feel guilty for being hurt or sick
After the first couple of days and several movies I started feeling guilty for the fact that I was just laying in bed the whole time. At one point I convinced myself that I could go to the grocery store with Andrea and the kids. This was a mistake. It is ok to rest and accept the fact that you just won’t be able to help for a while.
One of the most important things to remember is that your body just got ripped open and torn apart and needs to heal. You will be exhausted. You will be stressed. You will feel helpless. You will lose focus. You will feel useless. And that’s ok. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Right now you just need to rest and listen to your wife.
Shane Birkel is a Counselor in Dover New Hampshire. He works with individuals and couples to improve and explore their relationships.