Unplanned time off

Well, after over 20 years of spending hours a day at a computer keyboard (albeit a more ergonomic one), it’s all finally caught up to me. This week, out of nowhere. Typing, or doing most anything, has become painful and I need to give my arms a rest for a bit. How long? I have no idea, but at least another week or two.

This is at once frustrating — after all I eke out this livelihood by writing, not to mention staying connected with news and friends through this keyboard interface — and revelatory. It’s forcing me to stop, breathe, reconsider my habits and priorities. I do all the things I can think of that don’t involve my arms — long walks, baths, reading, conversations in person with friends who I never get to see often enough. Sometimes I get bored, and that’s a novel feeling and a weirdly productive one.

I’ve been rethinking my work, also, figuring out what I can pay someone else to do, what tasks to collaborate on. It turns out that to keep working but use my brain rather than my fingers, I need to scale up rather than down. You’ll be seeing some signs of that here in the next couple of weeks — most visibly, some guest posts are in the works, and I’ll be working with a talented guest editor for the next issue of my zine. It’s exciting. And it needed to happen anyway.

Another mixed blessing of this injury is being able to fulfill my wish to be less constantly connected to the Internet. I quit Facebook and try to take regular days off. I was inspired by Disconnected, a documentary about a group of college students who tried to go a month without a computer. You can watch it below the jump:


This is more than I should have just typed, but this is my one bout of text production in days (just because it’s doing me some good to give it up doesn’t mean I don’t miss it badly). Also, I’m soliciting advice: if you’ve dealt with repetitive stress injuries, I’d love to hear how you coped, how you got better, and how you kept it from happening again.

And finally: What on earth can one do without using one’s arms? I’m beginning to run out of ideas.

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7 Responses to “Unplanned time off”

  1. Richard Masoner January 27, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    I make my living typing so I sympathize, and I have felt your pain before. Get well!

  2. Nick January 27, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    A few years back, after an intense weekend of typing, my hands started to hurt. It slowly got worse and finally plateaued, then stayed relatively constant. I saw a doctor a couple times, got referred to specialists, and nothing appeared wrong. He basically said that I’m over-sensitized, and am feeling pain for no good reason. It sucks. I should probably get a second opinion, but going to the doctor feels like a chore, so I just continue to mildly suffer.

  3. Alexis January 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Link to my description of my experience : http://www.lyspeth.com/blog/rsitms/

    I don’t use any adaptive stuff or put limits on my use anymore, and that’s after being virtually disabled for a few years. Check it out.

  4. Julie January 27, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    again, i am so sorry, elly. and, i imagine that perhaps your body is telling you in it’s own loud and agonizing way that you need this break. while writing my dissertation a few years back i developed something akin to carpal tunnel AND tennis elbow. typing AND writing long-hand were excruciating. i ended up taking two weeks off from writing, and then slowly, wearing wrist and elbow braces, icing in the evenings, and resting, i started feeling better. when i started typing again i did use an ergonomically-appropriate mouse (that evidently was the main culprit) and took more serious breaks. that was four years ago…no problems since (knock on my wooden desk). btw CONGRATS on leaving FB. i signed off for the last time about 7 months ago and have never looked back!

  5. Elly January 28, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Thanks, you all. I am definitely taking this as a sign to take some time and *relax*. Not such a bad idea anyway, eh? Glad to hear the success stories.

  6. Brian January 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Hey, I hope this doesn’t sound too culty or anything, but you should really look into the Alexander Technique. A good Alexander instructor will show you how to re-learn all your daily movements (typing, sleeping, sitting in a chair, walking, running, biking, picking up a book…everything), so that you stop hurting yourself. I found it really helpful when my back walked out on me, and I’m really not the type you might imagine — I don’t like yoga and do really like caffeine. Seriously, give it a shot. Good luck!

  7. Elly January 31, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    So I’m (rather conspicuously) typing again, with lots of breaks. Have gotten many good pieces of advice, not least here (I’d never heard of the Alexander Technique before and now am reading about it and thinking of my collarbones in a whole new light). Thank you all! Don’t let your kids grow up to be writers.

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