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How My Knee Injury and Mental Illness Are Similar (But Different)

Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

So, I recently had a little mishap while picking up my luggage from the baggage claim carousel. It’s been diagnosed as damage to the meniscus of my left knee, which they suspect will heal itself in six to eight weeks.

In essence, the treatment for this injury is to just do what I can to promote healing. This includes:

1. Being gentle and patient with my knee. (Admittedly, patience is not a strong suit for me. It’s a struggle.)

2. Wearing a knee brace for extra support to prevent any further damage when I am out and about on my feet.

3. Taking an anti-inflammatory medication when necessary to keep down swelling and pain.

Notice how there is absolutely no shame in any of this. Every single person I’ve talked to about this — and when you’re wearing a knee brace, people do ask what happened quite frequently — has done nothing but encourage me to do all three of those things. I write this without any hesitation.

Now, let’s take a trip down memory lane. Back in the late 90s, when I had an “injury” to my mental health, I had to do three things:

1. Be gentle and patient with myself.

2. Use therapy, friendships and so on to provide extra support when needed.

3. Take medications to keep down any further complications.

The details in those three things are different, the timing of healing is different, but the ideas are basically the same. My childhood trauma was an injury I needed to heal from. It was causing mental health issues, and it required some work to heal. While that was happening, I needed support systems and medication to prevent further injury while going through the healing process, and to manage the pain involved.

Just like my little knee injury, except there’s no one out here telling me it’s “all in my head,” or to “just get over it” or suggest I’m weak for needing support and medication. I’ve gotten nothing but helpfulness and support from people I’ve talked to (despite my own lack of patience). Imagine if we could get to a point where we treat people with mental health problems the same way?

A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.

Getty Images photo via busracavus

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