Femoral Acetabular Impingement

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Femoral Acetabular Impingement
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    Kylee Grace Schmuck

    My Symbolic Tattoos of Mental Illness, Femoral Acetabular Impingement

    I am seriously afraid of needles. Yet, I have two tattoos. I worked through my fear of needles as best I could, although I’m still terribly afraid, because I wanted these tattoos. I tackled that fear, not because I wanted a tattoo, but for what my tattoos would represent. My two tattoos represent the battles with two defining factors of my life: mental illness and femoral acetabular impingement (FAI). I have battled both for the majority of my life and will almost definitely continue to battle them the rest of my life. These two battles have taught me the most invaluable and necessary lessons. While not the ideal way to learn, these lessons have been the key to my survival. I wanted a visible, tangible, permanent reminder for myself. I wanted a way to symbolize and canonize these lessons. So I tattooed them on myself. My first tattoo was a semicolon on the inside of my wrist, which I got in 2013. This was the year that Project Semicolon, a non-profit movement committed to inspiring those struggling with depression, suicide, and self-harm began. A semicolon is used in literature when a sentence could end, but the author chooses not to end it, but continue. A semicolon is a pause, a moment that necessitates choice, a choice to end or move forward. Tattoos were never an explicit part of the movement, but once seeing the symbolism behind the semicolon, I knew I had found a representation of my battle with mental illness. For me, the semicolon was more than my battle with depression, suicide and self-injury; the semicolon also encompasses my battle with my eating disorder. I have struggled with anorexia and bulimia for a number of years. In 2013, I entered treatment and decided enough was enough. I chose to pause, I chose to continue, I chose recovery and moving onward with my life. I tattooed the semicolon on my wrist because every single day is a day I choose to move forward. Each morning is a new chance, a new sentence in the story. My second tattoo is two years in roman numerals on my left shoulder blade: MMXI.MMXIV, 2011 and 2014. These are the years of my first two hip surgeries to fix/manage my femoral acetabular impingement. I plan on adding the year of my third surgery, 2015, soon. These are the surgeries that have shaped my life. The years, the surgeries that simultaneously destroyed and saved me. These surgeries were not easy, as they often contributed to my struggle with my eating disorder, but they were vital in saving me from even more pain. I may still deal with chronic pain, but without these surgeries I would be in even more pain and the FAI would continue to destroy my hips with its side effects. These battles have taught me some of the most important lessons of my life. Here are the three most important lessons they taught me: 1. It’s OK to cry. In society, the belief that crying is a sign of weakness sadly still prevails. Crying is not a sign of weakness; crying is a release of emotion, a sign that one has been strong for too long. A natural reaction to sadness, to pain. Crying is not wrong or bad. Crying is not the end of the world, but a sign of humanness – a representation of the emotion that connects us all to one another. 2. Not everyone will understand what you’re going through. One of the hardest lessons I have learned from the battle with both my mental illnesses and FAI/chronic pain is you have to accept that some people just will not be able to understand the pain and struggle of these battles. One of the worst feelings in the world is loneliness, and when dealing with battles such as mental illness and chronic pain, you so often crave the comfort of someone who can understand the pain, understand the struggle. Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to, and that is something that I have slowly learned to accept. Learning to seek comfort and solace with only those who truly understood and not causing any unnecessary pain by craving understanding from those who cannot give it is a tough but invaluable lesson. 3. Never give up. A cheesy, cliche lesson, but cliches are cliches for a reason. I used to give up daily. I used to give in to the pain, both emotional and physical. I used to dream of giving up for good. But giving up is the easy option. Giving up is a period, and I needed a semicolon. I now choose to continue each day instead. Learning to cultivate the strength you need to fight is a long process, but each day makes you stronger. I learned to never give up or give in. I learned to fight. Finding a way to have a visible representation of the lessons my struggles have taught me has helped me tremendously. When I’m struggling, in pain or on the edge of what feels like a breakdown, I look down to my wrist and I’m reminded. I’m reminded of my strength, of the lessons, and the fact that even though it may feel like it, I’m never alone. I urge anyone struggling to find their own reminder. It certainly doesn’t have to be a tattoo; it could be a sticky note on a bathroom mirror, a mantra you put as your phone wallpaper, etc. The options are endless. Find a representation, a reminder that works for you. And remember, never give up. This post originally appeared on Kylee’s blog, Coffee and Reflections. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

    Kylee Grace Schmuck

    Femoral Acetabular Impingement: Reactions of Disbelief and Denial

    “I just have bad hips; I’ve had three surgeries but things are mostly under control,” I respond when a new coworker asks about the grimace on my face as I get up from my desk. I am most often then pummeled by a response of overwhelming shock and disbelief. Why? Well, I am only 23 years old and most people under the age of 50 don’t have much to worry about when it comes to their hips. Not me. I have struggled with hip pain since I was 14. After spending four years in search of a diagnosis and an explanation for my excruciating pain, I got one: femoral acetabular impingement (FAI). I have since been officially diagnosed with FAI in both hips, three labral tears on the left side, two on the right, chronic trochanter bursitis and hip flexor tendonitis. FAI is a birth defect in which damage is caused to the hip joint because the femoral head and acetabulum rub abnormally causing intense friction. There are two types of FAI, cam and pincer types, and I have both. FAI is associated with: Cartilage damage Labral tears Early arthritis Hyperlaxity Sports hernias Lower back pain And much more For reference, I have danced since the age of 3 and participated in a variety of sports over the years. The pain began during a dance workshop my sophomore year of high school. The four years I spent searching for a diagnosis were brutal and contributed to my struggles with mental illness. I saw a variety of specialists and doctors who all told me in varying degrees that they couldn’t find anything wrong, and in most cases, they told me they didn’t believe me. Disbelief plagued my life. Fast forward nine years. I have had three surgeries to fix the impingement, repair and clean up damage the FAI caused. I have three labral tears on my left side and two on my right. Surgery number one was on my left hip in December 2011, my freshman year of college. Surgery two was the left hip again in June of 2014. My most recent surgery was in June of 2015 on my right hip. I have early signs of arthritis and have since been diagnosed by my doctor with chronic pain. After my surgeries, I had foolishly assumed that since there was concrete evidence of injury and pain, I would no longer be plagued by the disbelief of others when I shared my story. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Disbelief and denial are reactions I know many with chronic pain, mental illness and other invisible diagnoses are used to. I have browsed online forums, talked to others and tried to find resources to see how others cope with disbelief and shock in response to their stories. What I find most helpful in these situations is having a mantra I can repeat in my head. Mine is: You have FAI and your pain is real and valid. The goal here is simply to remind yourself that others cannot invalidate your pain. You are the one living in your body and experiencing these symptoms; no one else can tell you you’re not experiencing them. Your experience is 100 percent real and valid. Disbelief is a tough response, but staying grounded and connected to my experience has helped ease the sting of the response. Other tactics I find helpful: Deflecting with jokes (a personal favorite of mine – I tend to go for Grandma jokes about life alert products) Providing education about your diagnosis Using metaphors and other language to try and convey your personal experience Walking away from the situation or changing the topic Using self-soothing techniques to combat any anxiety during or after the conversation Just remember that no matter the response you may get from others when you disclose a diagnosis or struggle, you are the one who gets to control the conversation. It’s your story, your diagnosis, your pain. It is no one else’s, so do not let anyone write your story. Choose your own narrative. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .