Although the most pain from an ACL operation occurs in the first few days, I found that my lowest point emotionally came several weeks into recovery.
The analogy I would use is the children of our friend Lisa. A number of years back, when they were very small, they looked forward to the holidays (Hannukah in their case). When New Year's Day rolled around, with snow and ice everywhere, they turned to their mother in perplexity: The holidays are over, where's the springtime?
When I was first recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery, my mental attitude, to the extent I could think through the pain, was the equivalent of uttering some choice Anglo-Saxon words and vowing, "I am NEVER going to do this again!"
But pretty quickly I could see progress, which was so encouraging. The pain didn't end right away, but it decreased, and I could do things with my leg like raise it or make visible quad muscles tighten. I enjoyed going to PT and getting good feedback on my progress. One PT intern told me she would always remember me because I was her first patient who was zipping through ACL recovery.
But then I hit a point three or four weeks after the operation when I was ready, like my friend's kids, for springtime: I wanted things to be back to normal. I had been working so hard, and hurting so much, for weeks, wasn't it time for me to be able to do normal things normally again?
It was at that point when I realized that, yes, as I had read, ACL recovery does take a very long time, and even though I had worked really hard, I had a long time and lots of work left to do. My ACL winter would last a long time, and then it would be spring.