Between the ages of 13 and 15 I blew my knee out twice. I’d like to say they were sports injuries, although I was actually playing sports when it happened, but they really weren’t. As the doctor explained it to me, I was growing so fast the ligaments that hold your knee in place were not keeping pace with my bones and my knee simply slipped out of place when stressed.
You can imagine then that I spent most of those two years on crutches. If you’ve never had the pleasure of navigating a two storey, turn of the century house with a narrow, steep staircase with an immobilized leg and crutches, don’t wish for it. It is not a pleasant experience. Especially trying to get in and out of a clawfoot bathtub.
The whole experience did teach me something very important about crutches, be them physical crutches, emotional crutches, or psychological crutches. Crutches are a wonderfully simple invention. They help the infirmed get around during their recovery, they’re simple to make, and are generally durable. The thing about crutches though is that you can’t go through the rest of your life using them. Eventually they start to put a strain on your shoulders and back and your armpits start to hurt. At some point you need to decide to get a stylish cane, progress into a wheelchair, or walk on your own. By the second time I blew my knee out, I was a bit hesitant and skittish to get back walking on my leg again. I’m not really a high pain tolerance kind of guy and if you’ve had your knee out of joint for any amount of time you know the special kind of fun that can be. The first time I was fairly quick throwing away the crutches but the second time I was a little more weary of the process. The problem of course was two fold; I believed somehow my actions could control a future I had no control over and (more perniciously) the crutches actually worked. As long as I had them I didn’t have to test my leg (and thus not reinjure it) and they actually got me around in a moderately acceptable fashion.
The problem was that full mobility would only be acquired by throwing away the crutches and testing that leg, knowing that it will probably hurt and the chance always exists that I’ll reinjure it. I think that’s the problem for a lot of us heading out on our own journey of discovery, be it Paleo or something else. When we first start out we get some crutches; books, videos, trainers, or whatever; and they really help us at the beginning. They orient us, get us off in the right direction, and help build the habits that will keep us going. At some point though we need to cast off the crutches and walk on our own legs. This is the hard part for me and the hard part for most people. We are so unsure of ourselves that we can’t quite cast them off and there are a whole lot of people in this world who’s job is to make sure we buy more crutches instead of kicking them out from under us and sending us on our way. There’s no money in that you see. You don’t get repeat customers if you tell someone they’re ready to walk on their own and send them on their way with a smile. There are a lot of people who claim to not to want to be gurus and then put out another book for you to buy.
I think I’m finally at the point where I’m ready to test my own legs. The crutches are starting to hurt my arms and I’m finding them very limiting. It’s a natural progression and I’m ready. I’m still open to advice and I’ll still read a lot but it will be up to me to find my own path amidst it all. I hope you’ll be ready to cast off your crutches soon too. You’ll know when it’s time to test that bad knee just like I did. If you stay on your crutches forever, you’ll never stand up for yourself again.