Why can't I cry about this knee surgery even though I feel like crying?
February 7, 2019 11:57 AM   Subscribe

I had knee surgery 4 weeks ago and though frequently feeling on the verge of tears, can't seem to have a good old cry. Why? And any ideas to get me going?

I had arthroscopic knee surgery 4 weeks ago to treat a torn meniscus, clean up arthritis, etc etc.

I have recovered as expected since then, with steady progress and feel physically ok, though I don't really have any expectation of ever having the strength and ability I had before tearing my meniscus.

Since the surgery I have often felt the pricking of tears and often felt very emotional. There's no mystery here to me....I've experienced a lot of pain, presumably my body interpreted the surgery as some sort of trauma though it is recovering, I feel rather sorry for myself sometimes and I grieve my pre-injury ability.

I'm perfectly willing to cry, but usually the beginning of doing so happens in some setting where it wouldn't be appropriate, like with my doctor or physical therapist, last week while having lunch with my mother in a restaurant. As I hold back the tears I think, "I'll have a good cry once I get to the car" but then once I'm alone.....nothing.

And even though I have felt the tears coming on even at home alone and am ready.....it's like my mind wanders and I just....don't.

Any ideas what's going on??
posted by Jenny'sCricket to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Put on a cry movie. Or Thai commercials.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:02 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]

Cut up some onions.
posted by Rash at 12:07 PM on February 7

Can you start writing about what was hard and painful throughout this whole long process for you? Try to think about what at PT was super rough and almost made you cry. Try to remember what at lunch with mom was coming up but got squashed.

If that isn't doing it, get into every thing you can imagine Would be difficult about such a surgery, for anybody. It might help to think of this writing not as a journal entry (though that might work), but as a letter to your most caring, sympathetic person, the one you know would say it's ok to cry and encourage you to get it all out (if they need to be an imaginary version of older you or a character from a book, do that - whatever works!).

If none of that works, maybe try reading about someone else's suffering, surgery-related, if possible. See if something resonates.
posted by ldthomps at 12:15 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]

(if it helps, I had miniscus and ACL replacement 5 years ago. I feel it's been a 100% recovery - still do the same exact things I did pre-surgery, so your expectations of strength and ability may be low. Actually going through PT, I likely ended up in better shape than before). And, maybe that belief (of not thinking you'll be back to 100%) is feeding more of a depression than something that you'd get out with a good cry. different emotions/situation.
posted by rich at 12:19 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]

Maybe it's the New Yorker in me, but I wouldn't hesitate to cry in a doctor's office or restaurant. If you can let go of whatever embarrassment you're holding about crying in front of others, I say just go ahead and cry during the "inappropriate" times. You will not be the first person to cry in front of your physical therapist or doctor, and I'm sure your mother has seen it before too. Sometimes it helps to have a caring person around opens up your vulnerability, especially if you're trying to be very strong for yourself most of the time.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 12:30 PM on February 7 [8 favorites]

Maybe sometimes you have to feel this way for a while until the tears come? Think about the parts of you that are still trying to be strong... what parts of you feel that way? For me, that can be certain parts of my body that are still tense and tight...

When I acknowledge how hard things have been on various parts of my body, and me... and pop on an emotional (for you) song then the tears might come.
posted by catspajammies at 12:44 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]

Are you on painkillers while you recover? I’ve read a few articles lately (on the internet so... who knows if it’s true?) that meds designed to deaden physical pain can deaden or minimise emotional pain as well. Could have something to do with it?
posted by pazazygeek at 12:53 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]

Try yelling? Like, throw on a hardcore band and scream along with them. Or find some other reason to yell. It could go a long way.
posted by East14thTaco at 1:22 PM on February 7

Put on the Disney/Pixar Movie "Coco", watch it all the way to the end and I defy you not to be in floods of tears for the rest of the night.

I am not a crier, and neither is my husband, and it was embarrassing how much we both cried at that movie. I was a legitimate mess of a woman!
posted by JenThePro at 1:42 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]

When I was having trouble letting go with a big sobby cry that I really needed, it was Lurlene McDaniel to the rescue. Or sad movies, music, etc. Sometimes you just need that extra little push to let loose. And that's okay. There's a lot going on in your body right now and it makes sense that it's all a jumble.
posted by Gray Duck at 2:08 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]

Well. I got to crying and I think I know why I wasn't getting there.

Sort of pushing together ldthomps idea of writing about what I was feeling and rabbitbookworm's idea of just going ahead and crying in front of a person, I ended up imagining my very nice doctor asking me how everything was going and letting the feeling of tears arise and also I was in the car driving while doing this, so kind of neutral territory (which maybe even my empty house isn't) and got to really wailing crying

and that brought up the last time I was really really crying hard which was when my brother killed himself so there was a lot of crying about that too

and I've never come across the idea anywhere that crying itself can be a trigger for past trauma, not even now that I've figured it out and googled it, but it's obvious now that I think about it.

Thanks for your help guys
posted by Jenny'sCricket at 2:32 PM on February 7 [11 favorites]

...though I don't really have any expectation of ever having the strength and ability I had before tearing my meniscus.

FWIW, based on things you've posted here, you're right around the same age I was when I had arthroscopic meniscus surgery 3 years ago (removing a chunk of the medial meniscus that had torn and flapped over). After 16 weeks of PT, I had back almost all of the strength and range of motion I'd had pre-injury. The only things that were problematic (and still are) - I can't run on concrete for long without pain, and I have pain when I plant that foot when I bowl.

Keep up your PT routine and you should be ok.
posted by hanov3r at 3:06 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]

This happens to me every time I'm on opiates. The feeling of needing to cry and being emotional and not being able to. It comes in waves and then it all comes out at once and then builds again. So, if you are taking any opiate pain medication (or were right after surgery), be prepared for this cycle to repeat again. Good news is that now you know it won't last forever.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:02 AM on February 8

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