I've been through some painful things in my 40 years:
Childbirth. A bone marrow biopsy. A chemo drug that made my veins burn. Mantle-field radiation. Being required to read A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court in 10th grade.
And I feel I can say, with no exaggeration or hyperbole, that physical therapy following rotator cuff surgery is, if not at the top of the list, a very very close second. To A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
The first two weeks of therapy were splendid. Honestly. After being warned by at least a half dozen people, who had either had the surgery or heard about their best friend's cousin's neighbor going through it, that it makes grown men cry and call out for their mothers, I was pleasantly surprised by how good it felt to have my shoulder stretched and exercised.
"You are a pain champion!" I told myself. "You are going to rock and roll this therapy and show everyone that you are a tough little warrior princess capable of leaping orthopedic centers in a single bound with one arm!"
That was before the pulleys. If me prior to the third week of therapy was rainbows and unicorns and Pharrell's "Happy", me this week has been more thunderclouds and porcupines and Samuel Barber's "Adagio For Strings."
If the pulleys weren't bad enough, my physical therapist followed that up with 15 minutes of manual stretching so intense I was pretty sure I started to go into shock. It didn't feel like she was just working muscle and tendon. It felt like she was stretching my bone marrow. Possibly my soul. I got cold, developed the shakes, and began to mildly hyperventilate.
"We doing okay?" she asked.
"Yes," I said with my mouth.
"WHAT THE F&^%$ DO YOU THINK? I'M BREATHING THROUGH CLENCHED TEETH AND AM ABOUT TO LOSE BLADDER CONTROL DOWN HERE. I AM NOOOOOOOOT DOING OKAAAAAAAAAY!" I said with my brain. And then I punched her in the face.
Not really, for she is a sweet young lady and she means well and this is all for the greater good and all that horseshit.
I am usually not at a loss for describing anything, but I cannot fully capture what having a surgically repaired tendon stretched feels like and why it hurts so very badly. You wouldn't thing such a thing could cause so much pain. Childbirth pain makes sense because in labor a woman's cervix and a baby's bony head meet and pass and it all nearly defies the laws of physics. Gunshot wounds make sense. Crushed bones make sense. The near-blinding pain caused the first time you raise your operated arm with your non-operated arm with a pulley? It should not make me weep in my car after. But it did. And probably will again. Ad nauseum. I would have preferred five minutes of labor to five minutes of pulleys. Maybe. Probably. I don't know, maybe I should think on this one. Can I get five minutes of sitting-on-a-white-sand-beach-with-a-margarita instead?
The goal with the pulleys, so I was told, was 90 degrees of motion. I haven't had geometry in a while, but I know that's a lot of degrees for a freshly repaired tendon to handle. I got to 85 and begged for mercy, was told unenthusiastically that I'm doing great, and had a bunch of stuff hurriedly typed into my permanent medical records.
I'm guessing my file now says, "Underachiever," "Wimp", and "Low pain threshold." Seeing as how I was always a straight-A rule-follower and game-player, this is hard to accept. But accept it I must. For I feel at this point the only other options available are:
1. Be okay with my physical therapist making like Chewbacca and ripping my arm out of its socket (I know we never see this on screen, but Han says Wookies do this when they lose, and since Greedo shot first we know for sure that Han Solo is a good guy and never, ever tells a lie.) (Sigh.)
2. Take enough Percocet before each appointment to lapse into a hazy halcyon hallucination where pain doesn't exist and HOLY CRAP! Ninjas! (This is lost on you if you haven't been keeping up and don't know that narcotics make me fight ninjas in my sleep.)
So I don't really know what to do except show up, do the best I can, and cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you.
Because shoulders are bitches.