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My introduction: seven year computer injury

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Weston, Mar 10, 2013.

  1. Weston

    Weston New Member

    Hello all.

    I'm halfway through The Divided Mind, and have just started following the wiki-based program -- have a 'Day 1' thread in the forum for it, but I figure a more general introduction would be best here.

    When I was a teenager I had pretty bad acne and things were going poorly for me socially. Being a 'computer guy' was always part of my identity/reputation since I was a kid, and I really delved into this aspect during these hard teenage times. Particularly from when I was 17 years old to 20 years old (I'm 27 now), I spent something like 60-80 hrs/week programming computers, becoming so involved in what I was doing that I would forget to eat: consequently I weighed 115lbs starting my sophomore year of college, though I was 5'9". I loved programming and was very good at it.

    Towards the end of my 19th year I felt the first pain at the keyboard -- still remember the moment clearly. I think over the course of the next two minutes I already assumed my aspirations as a computer programmer were history, but I don't think I remember having an acute emotional reaction at any point. I saw some doctors, but received little help (half-hearted CTS diagnosis first, then, "RSI is as specific as I can be -- probably tendinitis" from a work-related injury specialist). Tried a bunch of different stretches, but none helped and the pain seemed to be worsening, and I'd read on the internet that continuing to use the injured area was the worst thing I could do for it. To give an idea of the impact this has had: I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes last year, but it is nearly insignificant next to this injury.

    So I quit programming and dropped out of school, and got a job in a bagel shop instead. Being something of a perfectionist I figured at best I could be a handicapped programmer eventually, and I'd prefer to move to another field rather than have any sort of limitation in the one I loved. I didn't know what it would be at that time, but felt sure that programming had been taken from me permanently. I also stopped because I didn't want to associate pain with computer-use, should I find out how to resolve my injury one day. Unfortunately this has happened to a certain extent, but it's something I'm hopeful I can reverse.

    During the time since, I've had periods where I would focus on fixing the injury, or where I'd accept it and just deal with it -- but for most of the time I've been avoiding computers as much as possible. I've gotten in the habit of doing certain stretches for my arms/hands so routinely, throughout the day, that I do them all the time without even noticing unless someone asks me what I'm doing, but they've never lead to significant improvement. Tried things like professional massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, too -- nothing helped of course.

    About a year ago I got an idea for some software I could write that would let me program using motion sensors instead of mouse/keyboard, and I've spent the past year writing it. The pain has made it unpleasant, but there has not been any steady decline like I was fearing (but maybe I'm just keeping that at bay with stretching/breaks?). The software I wrote caught a lot of people's attention and a very nice job across the country has opened up for me, which I plan on taking even though it will require heavy keyboard/mouse usage: so I'm pretty nervous, and once again in a mode of proactively trying to resolve the pain I have, excited about the likelihood that it is TMS.

    I have a personality type where I'm extremely reluctant to inconvenience anyone (and my definition of inconveniencing someone seems to encompass a lot -- writing such a large passage here is already bothering me!), and I seem to have a bordering on pathological need to improve myself: spent the past two years working three days a week in a grocery store while studying mathematics and writing the software (mentioned above) the other four days, almost never taking a day off (and always feeling guilty if I did). I think I worry excessively and remember doing so since I was ~12 years old.

    Also, I think about the injury constantly. A large proportion of my thoughts every day for the past 7 years have been related to it and my life has been structured around it. I have also thought, for most of the time, that it has impacted me emotionally surprisingly little; but recently I've been wondering if I'm not really as happy as I've been traditionally, these past 7 years. I don't seem to have fun anymore.
  2. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Weston - I already said "glad you found us" on your Day 1 post - but I'll say it again here - I'm glad you found us, because I think you will find what you need to start your recovery. The great thing about acknowledging and accepting TMS theory is that it can help a little or a lot - but it will help one way or another, because it's likely a part of the psyche of every human being, so understanding it will bring about positive changes in ways you might not have even envisioned.

    I appreciated your comment about feeling guilty for writing a long introductory post - or rather, it made me smile - because yep, guilt and goodism and putting others before ourselves - those are all the hallmarks of the classic TMSer. But I'd like to point out something really positive about this post, which is that you moved very quickly from a brief description of your symptoms, to talking about the emotional fallout from dealing with the symptoms. This is really really good! The less you focus on the symptoms themselves, and the more you focus on your emotions, the more open you'll be to the suggested reading and writing exercises, and the more quickly you will progress. I'm sure of it!

    Here's one of my favorite forum items for you: http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/threads/a-word-about-outcome-independence.562/#post-6366

    So again, welcome, and keep us posted!

    Forest likes this.
  3. Weston

    Weston New Member

    Hi Jan -- I like what you have said about TMS theory helping a little or a lot. There have already been small findings that I'm sure will be permanent takeaways, even if I had no further improvements.

    I think it's interesting that you linked me to the outcome independence thread: I came across the idea somewhere else on the wiki, and had internalized it as something that would likely be central for me. I understand it like this: monitoring the pain directly is the wrong approach, since how much pain I perceive is also dependent on how much I'm monitoring it. Instead, I should monitor how much concern I have for the pain and work on reducing that. Understanding that the cause is harmless on a physical level, and that my arms aren't damaged in some sense (as I've been thinking of them for many years), has already reduced my concern some -- though this effect does tend to wear off as time passes after I have a moment of understanding (and as my proximity to a computer increases!). I guess time and focus will help move me from 'knowing' the pain is harmless (which I see as more superficial), to really understanding that that's the case.
    Forest and JanAtheCPA like this.
  4. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    There are a lot of similarities between your story and my own. I too wanted to be a programmer, but gave that up due to my symptoms. To some degree, the worst part wasn't even the pain itself, but the amount of time I spent worrying about it. I avoided doing so many things due to my fear of hurting myself and creating more pain. This only made me more frustrated, which in turn only increased my symptoms.

    The most important step for me was overcoming that need to monitor and care about my symptoms. I found that it wasn't really what my pain level was that bothered me. Instead, I focused on what activity I could no longer do because my pain was at a certain level.
  5. Weston

    Weston New Member

    That sounds like exactly what I've been doing Forest... I'm set on turning it around now though!
  6. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    Weston I really recommend watching Forest's success story video I still watch it and I have eye pain not RSI arm pain. The similarities are pretty striking especially things like the more you worry, the less you can do. You start out being able to do 8 hours on the computer, then its only 6 1/2, then 4 hours, then 1 hour, then 30 minutes, the nothing anymore. I found this in my own circumstances too. As doctors told me things like "well you wont be able to look at near point things when you get off work (I work full time as a web designer), that scared the hell out of me. The more and more you read about it the more you get frightened. I remember when the pain started I only associated the pain with the computer. This was conditioning I thought the computer was causing the pain so I only got it when I was on there. But over the course of time, I couldn't watch TV without getting pain anymore because I read an article about TV and eye strain. I used to think books were the way to go and I didn't get eyestrain reading them but then I saw another forum post or article about people getting eye strain from reading books. Guess what... I started getting eye strain from book reading too. The list goes on and on which is why I stopped reading about this crap.

    You can literally scare yourself into symptoms if you read about somebody else having them. It's very contagious especially if you trust the person. I remember reading somewhere I forgot where two women were working in an office and one had wrist and arm pain. One of the women started getting wrist pain too and the first woman said "just wait till it spreads to your arms". It wasn't 2 days later and then she started having arm pain as well. When people say things like that it plants a thought in your head that "hey if I do this the same thing is going to happen to me." In my opinion I think computer vision syndrome is becoming the new RSI or carpal tunnel syndrome of this decade. All of a sudden you see this stuff on the news when before you didn't. With the rise of smartphones and tablets now everybody seems to be getting eye strain issues that the American Optometry Association is saying almost 90% of people using the computer for more than 2 hours today gets symptoms of CVS.

    Before ever getting this eye strain pain. I worked on computers for 4-8 hours a day playing games and designing and never had issues. It was only when I started worrying about it that it became an issue. Here's another example: A couple years ago I started getting wrist pain and I started following the same steps I did with the eye strain I have now. First it was looking stuff up about it, then I got a different mouse, then I got wrist braces, then I iced my wrists and took painkillers, it kept getting more and more elaborate until one day, for some reason, I just stopped caring about it. Maybe my eye pain was much intense that day and I didn't care as much about the wrist pain but the wrist pain eventually went away. It was because I stopped worrying about it that it faded away on its own and this I believe is the main catalyst for TMS. If you fear the pain, it stays with you. If you can find a way where you dont care anymore, it will go away on it's own. The harder you try to get rid of it, the more it stays. Forest did a video on "Can you try too hard at doing TMS work?" I recommend watching it because it's true.
    gailnyc likes this.
  7. gailnyc

    gailnyc Well known member

    Dabatross, I hardly have anything to add except to say this is so, so true. I have foot pain, not wrist or eye pain, but my progression was similar. Last summer when it developed I had pain but could easily walk around wearing any shoes I wanted. However, because no one could tell me what was wrong with me, I got more and more scared of the pain. I could walk less and less. Soon, there was only one pair of soft shoes I could wear. Eventually, I could not even walk around my block.

    I have been building myself up by walking more and more lately--I am up to ten minutes, which feels like a lot compared to where I was last September! But it's hard to get rid of the fear and conditioning. It's truly astonishing what the mind can do.
  8. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    gail i have had chronic foot pain since march 2005 as well which the doctors called plantar fasciitis. I tried everything you can possibly do for that as well except surgery and still to this day even though I dont walk on my feet hardly at all I experience pain when I stand for a decent period of time. the progression of pain for that was exactly the same. it started out where i could walk for a long while on my feet and gradually the more the fear set in the less time i could spend on my feet before they started hurting. this usually happens after you try something that you think is going to help or fix the pain and it doesn't work.. your hopes get shattered over and over and anxiousness rises.
  9. Weston

    Weston New Member

    Hey Dabatross -- sorry for the delayed reply: have been trying to find a place to live and starting at a demanding new job which makes heavy use of my previously 'injured' areas, so not much in the way of time :)

    I can relate very closely to a lot of what you said. Actually I had the same exact thing with books. I remember worrying that it might affect them too, then before long I'm noticing pain in my hands from holding books (built some weird contraptions I tried using for holding books open for me -- eventually bought a Kindle to get around it). Also, I have watched Forest's video a couple of times and it has helped me too.

    Thanks for the reply: I read it on the way to work one day, and it had been a while since reading any TMS stuff, was trying things out on my own for a while, but it ended up giving me some assistance that day.

    BTW: I'm probably about 80% better now -- seems that the only lingering effects are from situations where I'm so trained to expect pain from certain actions that if I'm not paying attention that expectation will bring them about. Things are still getting better, but much more slowly than at first. I plan to write up something detailed about my recovery once it gets a bit further...

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