I feel as though I've been increasingly falling out of touch with my friends. I also feel that, given that I seem inclined to use this journal as a means of halting that slide out of touch, I'm not posting nearly enough about what's going on in my life. Accordingly, I'm going to attempt to post more, not because I feel guilty so much as because I feel like I've been letting fear of people reading this journal and thinking less of me interfere with my posting to the journal as much as I want to. Don't expect "I just had a tasty sandwich" type posts, still; you can follow my twitter
for that stuff, although I may activate LoudTwitter so that stuff gets copied here as a more permanent record of what's been going on in my life on a moment-by-moment basis (in daily summary form). I do hope there will be a bit more of the "here's what I'm thinking about" variety, as well as more of the "here's what's going on in my life on a large scale" variety. Of course, the issue I want to talk about today, my hand health, will probably still serve to reduce my post frequency.
My hands. Still the big thing in my life. For anybody who doesn't know, my chosen career path is programming computers, which requires typing, and many of my hobbies involve spending time at the computer keyboard. For years I've been struggling with pain in my hands and forearms, and it's currently seriously interfering with my ability to work (I'm not currently working), my social life (I used to regularly have 6+ active windows open on some sort of instant messaging client and possibly 2-4 chat rooms as well. I'm now lurking on about 8 IRC channels, but rarely comment, and there are probably only 6 people I've spoken to at all
over some form of IM in the last two weeks; I only have two conversations open with serious regularity.), and all sorts of aspects of regular life (I often need help opening jars, shoveling the driveway is seriously painful, and the like). Fortunately, I still get plenty of time when I'm not consciously aware of my pain, and plenty of time where it's only a dull ache, but it's become a major factor in my life now.
What started 10 years or so ago as a highly localized sharp pain in the tendons of my wrists (diagnosis: tendonitis) has now spread pretty far through my body. I'm not honestly sure if it's the same thing or something different and related, or, at this point, if there's only one thing wrong with me. I still get the tendon pain when I type for an extended period of time or if I try to write more than about two sentences, coupled with pain in the muscles across the bottom of my forearm. Working also sometimes leads to pain throughout the back of my hand, in my fingers (particularly the pinkies and ring fingers), and in the muscles up the back of my forearm. Sometimes I also get pain in my elbows (right in the cubital tunnel; the "funny bone" where the ulnar nerve passes through the elbow), and sometimes numbness in the last two fingers of my hands and extending up into my forearm. I have constant tightness in my shoulders under my scapulae, and I've been noticing both tightness and mild pain in my upper shoulders and neck.
As I said, most of this is usually at the kind of dull pain level, but if I, say, try to spend a day typing, it gets noticeably worse. When I've been working regularly, it starts getting to the sort of point where the pain in my arms makes me feel sort of metaphorically as though my brain is on fire, and I have a compulsion to throw things across the room and stop doing anything with my hands immediately.
Needless to say, this makes me somewhat unenthusiastic about any activity which will involve my hands extensively. This of course competes with the fact that almost everything I'm excited about doing involves my hands extensively. There's also the reasonable supposition that this a repeated strain injury, so continuing to do the things which cause the strain will exacerbate the injury.
In medical terms: I have the old tendonitis diagnosis, a more recent diagnosis of "RSI", and tests have demonstrated bilateral ulnar neuropathy (both of my ulnar nerves have been damaged, presumably due to being compressed in the elbow).
In the last couple of years I've tried all sorts of lifestyle changes, including a number of ergonomic improvements, behavioral changes, physical and occupational therapy, massage therapy, reducing the amount of typing I do, taking occasional periods of disability leave from work, losing my job, spending months doing pretty much nothing except watching TV (sometimes supporting the weight of a book and holding it open puts noticeable strain on my hands; TV is one of the only things I can come up with which is physically undemanding and at least somewhat mentally stimulating). The rest stuff seems to help in lessening the pain. The pt didn't have any discernible effect on my ability to work.
We're now talking surgery to relocate the ulnar nerve, hoping that will reduce future damage and maybe allow some things to heal; but we've been talking that for a while and it's been very slow to manifest (though it may happen soon now). The good news is that I've started seeing a new PCP, and so far (a week), he's actively giving me referrals which insurance seems to be good about honoring, so we're exploring new avenues again. It feels good to be moving forward.
I have the nasty habit of assuming people mean the question and answering honestly when someone asks how I am, which means anybody who's done so has heard some subset of the above, probably in a comparably complaining tone. It's a fact of my life right now: my hands (and arms, and shoulders, and neck, and back) hurt, a lot, and it's seriously screwing with everything I do. I try not to dwell on the pain, or the frustration, but...it's pretty central right now. Along with the looming monetary difficulties due to losing my job and not being in a good place to start a new one. And the frustration at being rather halted in my career path right now.
Plenty of stuff is going well, too. Maybe I'll talk about some of it the next time my pain is mild enough I feel like I can write a couple pages of text without it being a serious strain.