Knee Deep: Fighting the ACL Blues

A friend and colleague recently sent me a link to an article about ACL Depression Syndrome.  In five simple words, he warned me, “Alyssa, for you to avoid!”

I thought it was an odd note, considering I don’t know many people who would categorize me as someone who is easily struck by the blues. So I was surprised he thought I was enough of a candidate that he felt compelled (or fearful enough) to send me a warning.

The specificity of the syndrome also struck me. No one ever warned me about “broken ankle depression syndrome” or “rotator cuff depression syndrome” — and recovering from rotator cuff surgery is no stroll in Central Park.

So I read the article, and then I fell down a depression rabbit hole. According to a recent study, 40 percent of people who undergo ACL surgery experience clinically diagnosable depression. Clinically. Diagnosable. Depression. And the folks who are most susceptible are, according to Dr. Kevin R. Stone of San Francisco’s Stone Clinic, “athletes who begin as driven, healthy, fit, and life-loving people.”

An ACL injury interrupts all of that. For a really, really long time. I am FINALLY scheduled for surgery on Monday, and that will reset my rehab clock at 0. I’m about to lose most of the strength, flexibility and range of motion I worked so hard to gain during the three-month period since my injury.

But so far, I’ve avoided spending time feeling sorry for myself or wallowing in what I cannot do. I visualize myself, a few months from now, stronger than I was before my injury, think of friends and family who are going through much harder times and wake up every morning thankful for my health. I make sure, every day, that I find a way to move. Right now, that means riding the spin bike, going for walks, lifting weights with my upper body and two hours of PT four days a week.

Next Tuesday, that might mean stretching my hamstrings and crutching around the house. But I get my blood flowing knowing how good I’ll feel after a little boost of endorphins. Also: I sleep. Nothing is more important for healing.

I am also focusing on cultivating interests and activities that often lose out to more physical pursuits. I’m reading more, practicing the guitar, watching movies and working on side projects — like writing this blog. If I can’t strengthen my body for the next few months, at least I can strengthen my brain.


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