Hands down, once again

My hands, my hands. They hurt; they hurt a lot. Writing hurts. My elbows, especially hurt, both right and left. I’ve never understood this bilateral alliance. My fingers burn; my right index finger even has blisters along its thumb-side track. How is this possible, when my writing input stylus does not land there? I don’t grip my stylus where I have blisters—what’s going on? Probably shingles, likely activated by stressed nerves.

I have an RSI—a repetitive strain injury. RSIs are also called Overuse Syndrome. It is absolutely amazing, once you get one of these, how little use it takes to ignite overuse symptoms. Writing hurts; picking up a 6-ounce cup causes severe pain in my elbows. I’ve downsized my purse, but when I can, I jettison the loot and use a waist pack. So far I can still manage the zippers.

My first debilitating RSI took me off keyboards forever in 2008. The pain I experienced in my arms was like high voltage from my fingers to my elbows. At times, the pain became so exhausting that I cried. My then-doctor referred me to a neurologist for nerve testing. I passed it—I could feel all the needles. Good thing, too: I hadn’t known he was testing me for ALS until he cleared me for it at the end of the visit. It seemed so far-fetched—ALS!? But that’s how severe RSIs can be: they can present symptoms consistent, at least superficially, with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The 2008 injury never resolved, but the pain gradually subsided, in the sense that it has gone from constant to situational. I have never been able to resume using a keyboard. Strangely, touch screens hurt just as much; I feel the high-voltage sensation through my fingertips and it blazes up my arms, crunching my elbows like lightning bolts.

I used DragonSpeaking for four years, and I hated the beast from Day 1 till Dragon Defenestration Day. It never mastered my diction—maybe because I’ve lived in so many parts of the country, mimicking and melding local dialects along the way. The program was so frustrating that I finally deleted it from my computer. By the happiest providence, handwriting technology was just gaining accessibility in the summer of 2012.

My Samsung Slate computer looks like a tablet, but it has a 164 mb processor, and I operate Windows 7 Professional. I run Microsoft Journal, inputting my handwriting with a stylus. My writing appears as text as soon as I point to the insert tab. It’s very cool.

From the beginning, I felt as though I would be able to write with the lightweight stylus forever, but cumulative nerve damage has taken its toll. I have to rest. My hands go numb. So does my brain, when I get into the ungrateful habit of resenting my limits.

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