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How My Knee Pain Helped Me Out Of A Tough Situation

Updated: May 13, 2022

Ever committed to something and quickly realised you didn't want it after all? But you have to stick it out because you don't want to let people down, be criticised or look like an idiot? This was me when I got a dog.

I'd wanted a Rhodesian Ridgeback ever since I first saw one while on holiday in Cape Town when I was 17. They are magnificent and having a dog would mean that I was a "grown up".

So in July 2016 I decided that it was time. Life was reasonably stable, I had the time and money, plus support from my housemate and boyfriend so thought, "why not?" I shopped around and found Jackson.

From the first week of having him, however, I knew I’d made a mistake. Granted he was a puppy but I quickly realised that the demands on my time and energy were too much. It was harder than I'd anticipated. Uh oh.

I considered returning him, like a pair of jeans, but I overrode my intuition, telling myself things would get better. Moreover, I was afraid of being judged by the breeder, friends, family and far flung people on the interwebs as irresponsible, cruel and selfish. I didn’t want to admit defeat, and worse - prove lots of people right that I wouldn't cope.

But things didn't get easier. Despite amazing help from wonderful people, I struggled to juggle work, dog, & movement practice. To top it off, Jacko developed separation anxiety. Christ almighty. I just wanted some time and space and couldn't bloody get it. Or if I did, I felt guilty about leaving him at alone. Twice I came home to a destroyed sofa.

To make things worse, 5 months in Jackson developed an appetite for hunting, so every time I took him for a walk he'd disappear in pursuit of squirrels and I wouldn't see him again - sometimes for up to 2 hours. He'd be off having the time of his life and I'd wonder around the park pretending everything was fine. Except I wasn't fine, I was mega stressed. Several times I was late for work because I couldn't find him.

I got some great dog trainers to help but got so bamboozled by different opinions and methods that they just compounded my stress instead of taking it away. I got overwhelmed by the monumental amount of work required to train him.

To add to my stress and frustration, my knee, which had been sore since before I got Jackson, was getting steadily worse. Walking him exclusively on a lead (one of the trainers' suggestions) was frustrating for both of us - he wasn't getting enough exercise and having a tug of war on the lead was driving me to despair and irritating my knee.

My knee pain continued to worsen, to the point where I couldn’t do parkour, yoga, or even walk. (I could just about do handstands). I was miserable. I felt trapped in the bed of my own making. In my mind, my knee pain was a separate problem to the dog stress.

So I persevered for 18 months, hoping it would all get better, and dreading the barrages of criticism I would receive when I hinted at rehoming him.

At the height of frustration about my knee pain, and depth of my despair, my coach asked me ‘how is your frustration about your knee helping you?’

That question unlocked everything. I was at the end of my tether. Jackson had to go. (Plus some other significant changes). I suddenly no longer gave a shit about anyone else's opinions. In fact, the outside noise stopped because for the first time I finally started listening to myself. Subordinating to other people's opinions had made me AND Jackson miserable for too long.

Until that point I'd been oblivious to the connection between my knee pain and dog stress. But in hindsight my knee pain had been screaming at me to make the change.

So I found a family for him and two weeks later he went to his new home. And guess what? Two weeks after that my knee started feeling dramatically better!

Now Jackson and I are much happier. A family in Essex were looking for a dog just like him to be a companion dog for their son with mild learning difficulties. So he’s living there with their other dogs; the mum is a dog Walker so he gets all the exercise and company he needs - hoorah for him! They found brilliant ways to channel his energy and entered him into a doggy triathlon! (No surprises that he won😆😆).

When you subordinate to the opinions of other people you can end up doing things you hate. It can affect your health too. Your body might give you feedback in the form pain or illness to let you know you need to change something. It will scream louder until you listen.

You set yourself free when you transcend people’s judgements and do what’s right for you. Then things fall into place and you can heal. My knee pain helped me to override outer authorities and listen to myself. Jackson helped me realise just how important movement and work are to me, and that all the experts in the world can cause more harm than good when the answer really lies within you.

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