I have a trick knee. I have no idea where that expression came from; it doesn't make any sense. My knee doesn't do tricks. There is nothing amusing or amazing about my knee. After it does its trick I don't 'oooh' or 'aaah' or wonder how it did it. It just hurts. A lot. Really bad.
I spent an entire life playing hard with my brothers, participating in a wide variety of athletic activities, hiking, biking, and running in formation in the Army and I never had a serious injury. Then I took up Racquetball, which I really liked. My knee, however, did not. One day I went to the right to hit the ball and my knee went to the left. I collapsed, or my knee did and the rest of me followed suit. The pain was indescribable. It was about as bad as pain can be without being childbirth.
I am an admitted stoic. I come from a family of stoics. When I was a kid we got hurt fairly frequently playing one kind of crazy game or another, but the family credo was no whining, no whimpering, and no stopping unless you were bleeding from a major artery or your bone was sticking out. Pain was meant to be overcome and ignored. When I hurt my knee I was playing with my oldest son and my other kids were watching. Naturally, I had to suck up and deal and pretend that I was not seeing spots before my eyes. It's just what we do. I went to the doctor who informed me that I had ripped tendons or ligaments or something equally horrific. He told me to put ice on it and stay off it. Right, no problem. I was a single mother with two teenagers and a toddler. Stay off my feet. Who was he kidding? He sent me home with a knee brace.
I have had doctor's suggest surgery for my trick knee, but I have rejected the idea. Other than those getting total knee replacement, I have never met anyone who had one knee surgery who didn't later require at least one or two more. My knee got better, but if I wear the wrong shoes or stand in one place for too long, it will ache. If I do something really stupid, it will do its trick thing and I am back on the trail of torment until it decides to stop drilling pain holes in my brain. I am good at doing stupid things. This time, I had my arms full of stuff while going down a flight of stairs, stepped down onto a rickety step, and the knee went with a vengeance. Bad, bad, and badder. It is taking a longer time than usual to snap out of it, despite the brace and ice and heat and anything else I do to it. I hate the ice almost as much as I hate the knee. And of course, being a stoic who does not believe in taking powerful drugs for pain, I am not currently taking anything stronger than ibuprofen.
The thing about pain is that you can control it to a certain degree with your mind. I practice meditation. Before you decide that I am all new-agey or something, I assure you that I do not believe in the power of crystals, the existence of fairies, or the value of applying tree bark, ancient runes, or peanut butter to my knee. I just try to get on top of the pain enough to isolate it in a mental file under the letter 'P'. It works enough to make it possible for me to walk across a room and depress the clutch in my car without screaming or begging for death, which is sufficient to my needs. The problem is that when I am focusing on mentally pushing the pain away from my conscious mind the rest of my brain goes seriously haywire. I forget things, misplace things, and generally behave as if half of my gray matter has leaked out of my ears. Poor Chuck spent a half an hour searching for a ball of yarn I had misplaced only to find it in the side pocket of my yarn bag. Duh. I forgot where I put it. I also forgot to call to confirm his dental appointment and how to how to figure out what 30% off of $20.00 was. I don't usually need a calculator to figure out such an easy equation; right now I need a calculator to figure out what time it is.
A very nice lady with whom I work kindly asked me how I was walking around in such excruciating pain. I asked her what gave me away. We stoics don't like being found out. She said that it might have had something to do with the fact that my eyes were glazed over and unfocused and I was panting like a puppy in labor. Good call. I spent the rest of the day forgetting the names for things, how to do stuff I had done a thousand times, and what I meant to do in the first place. I went to show her that if I disconnected the lower section of my key lanyard from the rest of it, it revealed a hidden flash drive. Cool, right? Only, I said, “Look, I have a whosiwattsit in my thingamajig.” She gave me a perfectly blank look.
“What???” I asked.
“I read somewhere that when confronted with a person heading into a psychotic break, it's best not to do or say anything to upset them,” she replied. Sound advice. I was definitely in danger of something breaking, or breaking something, whichever came first.
She told me I was a stupid Spartan. Maybe, but how come I don't have the cool red cape and the great abs? Life is so unfair.