1. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape.
2. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
As someone who has owned her own business for the last 15 years, grew up with people that I love addicted to drugs and alcohol and endured various adversities, I’ve always fancied myself pretty resilient. Furthermore, I have never, ever neglected my physical health- it is a core value. Recently, keeping more physical health has meant something entirely different. Not moving. Allowing my body to heal and my tissues to repair. I was speaking this week to one of our students who is a retired physical therapist about the angst I was feeling about my VMO not contracting to my satisfaction. Many positive things came out of that conversation but one thing I wanted to share was how we both felt that an injury like this is such a gift. I’m grateful for all that I’ve had to navigate emotionally, physically, psychologically from the healing process.
I’ve always believed in the beauty and intelligence of our amazing bodies but as a goal oriented person, I mentally set myself up to be rehabbing at 6 weeks. At 6 weeks, my wonderful orthopod checked out my knee, reviewed my MRI and X rays and gave me clearance to start PT. That was a Friday morning. Friday afternoon, I immediately got to work, liberating my hamstrings to get my knee to straighten only to be met by frustration that, while I could passively get my knee straight, my whole quad, namely my vastus medialis that creates the last bit of straightening and draws the kneecap upwards, would not fire. I had PT on Monday, and my patient and attentive PT listened to my theories on form closure and arc reflex and began myofascial release. It worked!! I was able to do some cable loaded terminal knee extensions there and when I woke up the next morning I could contract my whole quad in bed. It was so satisfying to have the waking stretch of all my limbs reaching end to end! I had hope. But when my feet hit the ground and my body had to manage any kind of load, it didn’t work, no VMO. I literally cried. I didn’t actually listen to my body in the next few days as I was determined to get it to fire. It wasn’t until it hurt and started swelling that I resigned myself to (sadly and reluctantly) practice patience and be more soft to my approach.
At my second PT appointment, I said, "look, it isn’t sticking, we need a new approach. My knee has not extended since we last met." I am grateful that he can deal with an annoying body aware, know it all patient..... After MFR and electrical stim it worked until my foot hit the ground. This man who just met me did say, “slowing down and not forcing is going to be your best approach.” I jokingly said, did you read my last blog?” How quickly desire overode reason…. And I temporarily forgot the wisdom I has 3 weeks ago! Luckily I have people who I get to spend time with helping their personal fitness to throw ideas at regarding my recovery. It was my matter of fact, retired orthopod client who went on to tell me (with lots of examples, science and case studies) that my knee isn’t ready. My retinaculum in the joint capsule is making a judgement call to turn it off. Alaya’s inner dialogue, “Intelligence of our amazing bodies, slow incremental changes, let your nervous system find the way… don’t you say that all the time Alaya? Grrr!!” Applying this to myself only took 4 experts, 3 days of forcing and a swollen knee to curb my tenacity for big VMO contraction and accept the subtle teaching that I intellectually know needed to happen and it is happening. Today I can get a bigger VMO contraction than yesterday and I know tomorrow will bring progress as well. I just need to be present to the process and whisper instead of shout at my knee.
I identified with the following definition from Psychology Today as I continue to recover. "Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on." I feel blessed not only with this outlook but with my physical strength and resilience. I think that my mental AND physical resilience has given me the opportunity to become a deeper, more confident and more accomplished person. The phoenix is rising!
Turning troubles into growth, bouncing back from difficulties and believing that the future holds the promise of sunshine change any perceivably negative situation. My physical and psychological resilience has made this a very positive experience and I’m coming out of the clouds into the sunshine with a skinny left leg. Tempering my drive and desire that can come with resilience has been the most important part of my recovery. Listening to others to help me listen to my body and practicing patience and presence fills me with hope and excitement to get on my super sweet bike that has been collecting dust and get back to the barre with vigor. I also think it is important for all y’all to observe this process of my atrophy and slow springing back to to strength when you feel your path to strength requires some patience. It is a virtue I've been given the opportunity to practice.