After sustaining a serious knee injury it was concluded that I’d need to undergo a double level derotation osteotomy, tibial tubercle distilisation and medialisation and MPFL on both legs to regain my capacity to walk. I have decided to document my recovery. Click here to read part I, here for part II and here for part III.

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

This quote by Oscar Wilde has kept me company during the past couple of weeks. Weeks I predominantly spent in bed, with broken bones and a wandering mind. The words fascinate me because they seem to ring true and untrue in equal measure.

It is easy to identify cases in modern society of individuals who, cloaked in anonymity, dare to speak out in ways that might otherwise be considered immoral or unpopular. Freed from the glaring eyes of the public, it feels safer to shun societal standards. Hidden from public scrutiny, it feels easier to challenge the status quo. It is, after all, more difficult to shoot a masked messenger.  

Artists, similarly, can invent characters to express things they themselves may have thought but would not say out loud. Protagonists with admirable convictions or unspeakable notions. On a blank canvas it is possible to express whatever haunts the mind, because no one will ever be able to unravel which part of the fiction is the truth an author holds on to.  

But it is also easier to lie when disguised. Inner darkness can be filtered out. Vulnerabilities can be covered up. You can arm yourself against the insecurities that threaten to pour out of your soul at any moment. Wearing a mask, you can be what you are not, but what you think you ought to be. With every step, that armour grows tighter and tighter, until it locks you in with no room to spare.

With every step, the iron suit strangles you a bit further until you have no choice but to stop feeling. The numb front you present then is no more than a façade. A deception that you may grow to believe is the truth.

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

During my recovery I caught myself enhancing reality to make the experience more tolerable. When I passed out in the hospital hallway and had to be hoisted back into bed, I saw myself as an actress in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. When I tentatively started moving, the initial disconnect between my mind, nerves and muscles felt logical because that’s simply how cyborgs function.  

Later, I found myself locked in a state of limbo. No one there, just myself and a series of projections created by my mind to help me through. The surreal landscape in which I dwelled offered me warmth, security and courage. A pretty powerful display of deceit that convinced me to stay strong.

Yet, no matter how successfully enhanced a situation… illusions never last. As they fade away, lethargy takes over and with that comes the inescapable feeling that it was all a lie.

Projections will never be real. Whatever is said anonymously can never fully feel true, because what is the point of a truth when it cannot be linked to reality? Masks can provide temporary protection or relief, but they have the capacity to destroy when used too liberally. And when they dissolve you are left alone in isolation.

Masks are a trick. Treacherous tools to help you for some time. What they project can help tame deliria, but it’s the presence of reality that helps you heal.

The visits of people that care, the messages of friends from everywhere. The meals cooked with love to help you get going, the arms that hug you tightly when you feel broken and defeated even though you don’t have the courage to say that out loud. Words that help you remember that you are so much more than the scars you wear, that you are loved even when the pain and isolation make you feel insecure.

  • Because I responded poorly to the anaesthetic I was given during my first set of surgeries, I was given an alternative. After two hours of surgery I woke up feeling quite alert and without nausea.
  • For the first 1.5 day I felt great, almost euphoric. I celebrated my birthday with my mother and the nurses on the ward, but by the time I had physio the tide turned. After taking a few steps in the hallway, my world turned black. Ten seconds later I woke up on the floor, with eight worried heads hovering over me.
  • After my fainting episode I kept having problems with my blood pressure which caused me to feel faint and violently ill whenever I moved. Eventually it was agreed I’d be allowed to go home if I promised to be very careful and have my brother and mother guard me whenever I’d move around.
  • This time my friend the Physiolab ice-machine awaited me at my temporary home. Once again we became inseparable.
  • The pain increased rapidly when I got home, but my mind felt less foggy. This was partially because I had been given slightly different medicines to prevent me from fainting.
  • In a matter of days my leg transformed from pale, but swollen, into extremely swollen and black from hip to toes. The amount of bruising was unbelievable compared to last time. I had no idea why and the bruises on my foot confused me utterly.
  • The bruises made it difficult to lie comfortably, but aside from that the pain was less intense than it had been on the right leg. Sleeping was tricky, but I had the Harry Potter audiobooks to guide me through the night and a bundle of Scottish poetry to distract my mind.
  • It was easier to look after myself this time around after my mother left. This was in part because I had figured out before how to best go around and in part because my pain levels decreased more quickly this time around.
  • My wound didn’t close as quickly as anticipated, so I was given a week of antibiotics. This sadly made me feel quite nauseous.
  • Wearing the brace was an ordeal because the pressure of the straps really didn’t work well with the bruises. I also started experiencing pain in my back and pelvis area, a consequence of being confined to my bed.
  • Towards the end of this period I was able to start with physio and hydrotherapy.
  • On day 110 my x-rays showed enough healing to allow me to stop wearing the brace. I nearly cried tears of joy.
  • Though my leg feels very sore, it’s also stable. I have had some problems with nerve pain again, but not nearly as much as before. Oddly, my calf muscles hurt terribly.
  • Physio and hydrotherapy are tough, but enjoyable. I’m making good progress, but I start to sense impatience and a strong longing to re-join the living. This poses a mental challenge because I’ll be confined to the house longer now that the corona virus holds the world in its grip.

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