Arthritis Unmasked: The Silent Mental Battle

Way back at the beginning of 2023, I started to experience discomfort in my right knee. There was an annoying click and a sensation like something was grinding inside. It wasn’t painful, just peculiar. However, I had also begun to notice a dull ache deep within my left thigh muscle. I would sit there at night, unconsciously rubbing the outside of my leg, trying to ease the ache.

Rhona suggested that I make an appointment with my doctor, so I did. Eventually, I got to see my doctor. She immediately recommended that I go for an evaluation with the physiotherapy team down in Dover. The physiotherapist I met conducted various tests, mostly by moving my leg in different ways to determine the issue. Without delay, he stated, “You have advanced osteoarthritis of the left hip joint.” I was taken aback. With that, he sent me to the X-ray department to confirm his diagnosis.

Two weeks later, I returned for a follow-up consultation with the same therapist. He showed me the X-rays and confirmed the presence of arthritis, and ultimately, he mentioned that I would need hip replacement surgery! I explained that I wasn’t in much pain, but he assured me that this arthritis is progressive and won’t improve without surgery at some point. So, I began doing the exercises he prescribed and carried on with my life.

Occasionally, my leg would become quite sore, but a few paracetamols usually did the trick. I made it through the summer and into early October before I began to notice an increase in the level of discomfort I was experiencing. My knee is fine; it was an injury caused by my body compensating for my hip or something like that. Anyway, I switched from truck driving to a van for crop protection delivery duty. This lasted for three weeks, but by the end of those three weeks, I was in agony. Perhaps it was the heavy lifting and being in and out of the van and chemical stores on the farms, but to be honest, the pain had already started to affect me before this change in my working day.

So, in the middle of October, I called my doctor again, explained that I was in a lot of pain, and asked for guidance. She requested that I come to the medical centre to see the practice physiotherapist. He explained to me the next day what had happened. Essentially, the ball at the head of my femur had begun to change shape, causing slight movement within the socket. This movement led to inflammation of the surrounding tissue, resulting in pain. The muscles around the area had started to compensate, leading to further muscle aches in my buttock area and the small of my back. I was advised to stop working and rest. That was nearly 7 weeks ago. The pain is still there, but I was given pain medication to reduce the inflammation. However, they upset my stomach. So, they provided me with medication to alleviate that, but it didn’t do much and only upset my stomach more. Therefore, they increased the pain medication to codeine, which did help but made me very drowsy. Around the same time, I began using a walking stick to assist me in getting around. Once I got used to it, I found it very helpful.

Just last week, I received the initial appointment to see the musculoskeletal physiotherapy team, the professionals who will guide me on the path to recovery. I’m uncertain whether I’ll be able to drive a truck again. I can manage to drive a car with relatively little discomfort, but I need to plan my journeys around taking pain medication so that I’m not impaired at all. My workplace has been very supportive and is doing everything they can to assist me. I have a welfare meeting with HR and my line manager tomorrow, so hopefully, I can find out what resources might be available to me.

The thing is, I’m worried about how things will turn out. Several times, I’ve awakened in the night, panicking about what may or may not happen to me and how it will impact the people who depend on me. This lingering sense of anxiety has begun to affect me daily. I sometimes become irritable and often contemplate how my life will look in six months. I feel like I’m letting everyone down, including the company I work for, but most importantly, my family. I know they love me and care deeply about my health, but I can’t help feeling insecure. Part of me thinks I should tough it out and soldier on, but then I might end up causing more harm by doing something my body isn’t yet ready for. I find it challenging to discuss; I’ve spoken to a few people about how I’m feeling, and they agree that the worst thing I can do is rush my recovery. Time is the greatest healer, both physically and mentally, so I’ll do my best to follow the guidance I’m given and work diligently to regain a level of fitness that allows me to work and play like I used to. I will not be defeated.

Until next time, adieu!