crane

Healing

The hard part about resurrection is having to die first. I seem to be in the that Easter frame of mind, and my body has taken matters into its own hands. Around March 10 my left arm felt like it was on fire from my fingertips all the way to my neck, and I stopped playing Team Fortress 2 completely.



The week before I had been playing frequently, on the order of 6 to 8 hours for many of the days. There were just so many people I wanted to play with, so I was playing with the European guys in the morning, some of the night shift guys in the afternoon before they went to work, and then with Jet and his friends in the evening. Sometimes, if I was feeling restless, I would hang out with the late-night crew as well. I would take stretch breaks between matches with people, and I usually took the weekends off, other than when Jet wanted to play.

Yes, that is a lot more hours than I have played for quite some time. But on the most part, I thought I felt good. I was icing and staying on top of the tendinitis, and I was getting some sleep, more than I had when I was doing competitive. I was even getting up some mornings to make Jet breakfast, including crystallized ginger scones. We were also on the last legs of the Search for a new pastor, and I know I was feeling some stress about that, and was avoiding the actual emotions by spending time in game.

I have to admit that when I am in game I can't really think about much else. Especially when I am with a crew of friends who are competitive. They really want to win, so I have to focus on the game, on our communications, and on how we're working together. It's a little bit like in the book version of Ready Player One, where Wade really gets into the flow of the game forgets about everything else, including embarrassment, being watched by other people, and the pressure of having to win. It's also like that for me. When I really don't want to think about what's going on, or especially about how I feel about what's going on, I can jump into game.

And I seem to prefer jumping into Team Fortress 2, it's my casual game of choice, because it allows me to relax. I seem to be good enough at the game now that I don't worry about how I'm doing. I almost always end up in the top two or three slots, unless there are five or six in our group that are all ex-competitive team members, and even then I'm usually in the top three. That seems to matter to my sense of enjoyment, I have to be effective, though that seems mildly absurd when there are 12 people on each team. There was one game when there were five of us, and I ended up playing the heavy and just mowing down the enemy team. My team actually told me when there were spies behind me, so I was able to get most of them. I killed so many spies that two of them rage quit, and we handily won the round. It was only after the round was done that one of my team members said, "Hey, you have 20 points more than anyone else on our team." When some games can and with a top score on one side of 17 points, that was something.

On top of that, however, Rainbow Six Siege had a special game mode released called Outbreak. Jet and his friends and I went on test servers learn how the new mode worked, and then when it actually released we started concentrating on getting the rewards related to the new mode. It was a zombie game, where we had to just kill everything that came after us. There were some matches where all three of us would kill more than 170 zombies apiece. There were also bosses that required significant mobility in order to take them down, and I kind of blame those for the final failure of my left arm.

The reason I say that is because the left-hand clicks the ASWD keys on the keyboard in order to move the character around, and holding shift makes the character run. There are crouch abilities and the ability to go prone, but you don't really want to do that against zombies. Rainbow Six Siege is really meant for 5v5, not a small team against hundreds, but it could be adapted fairly readily. We had a blast playing it, but I did so much of it, not only with Jet's friends but with a number of my TF2 friends that wanted to get into the game through the PvE mode. Several of my TF2 friends are intimidated by Rainbow Six Siege, especially against other people. It kind of bemuses me because I think they would be amazing at the game, but it's actually hard for many of them.

Anyway, at the end of what turned out to be a two-week marathon, my left arm failed completely. I was in complete agony just getting into the passenger seat of our car, sitting at a wedding was completely exhausting because of the pain. I slept an extra 2 to 4 hours every day for the next four days, just trying to escape the pain. There was enough pain to get me to stop playing video games completely. I can't say that anything else would have stopped me.

That's an interesting concept to roll around in my brain. It is, however, true.

Since then I have had to figure out several things, and had plenty of time while waiting on ice packs to melt, walks to finish, and stretches to hold in order to do so. That's the one problem with not occupying my mind with games, I actually have to work some things out.

I went to the doctor after two weeks of just waiting for things to heal and having the pain still be fairly severe. I had assumed, initially, that it was just tendinitis, and that it was going to just get better in months, perhaps. But the HealthWise self-care book said that I should talk to a doctor if the pain lasted more than two weeks. My chiropractor, however, also asked for x-rays of my spine to see if there might be degeneration. It turns out that while there is no degeneration of the discs or vertebrae, there is mild degeneration of the curvature of my cervical spine, i.e. the curve of my neck between my head and shoulders. That curvature allows the nerves from the spine to go to the arms on either side. The left side is mildly more degenerated than the right, pinching the bundles of arm nerves enough to cause the fire symptoms when I am on a bike, in a car seat, or looking up.

My general practitioner was wise enough to send me to a sports specialist when he heard the full story of what happened. The sports doctor specializes in nerves and overuse problems, and Dr. Gehrs seemed really competent we talked with her. She sent me to a physical therapist, and said that I should have significant improvement within 3 to 4 weeks. That was a week ago, and I am better, but I can tell that I still have a ways to go. The overuse is still there. My tendons and muscles are gradually relaxing, the reality is that so long as I'm sitting at my desk and staring in the direction of my screens I am still holding positions that my body has adapted itself to hold for the last two years.

I have been trying to walk more than 10,000 steps a day, and that seems to make the greatest difference. The problem is that the muscles of my shoulders, neck, and upper back, as well as my hips and lower back have all tried to accommodate sitting in stressful situations for really long periods of time. So all of that is gradually coming undone, but that hurts significantly. On top of the original injuries and nerve outrage, it's been frustrating sometimes. One of my favorite positions now is lying on my couch with an ice pack under my neck. The surprising thing is that I can fall asleep that way. Especially since I spent more than three weeks and many alternating nights trying to find a comfortable position to sleep. Even mild pain makes it hard to get to sleep, and not knowing if I'm actually pinching a set of nerves makes it even harder. It's hard to tell if the burning in the tendons of my left hand are because the tendons are healing or if it's because my neck is at the wrong angle. Luckily, with the advent of the ice pack for the neck, I can now rule out what is merely nerve outrage.

And then today, on top of it all, at a routine dental cleaning I found out one of my crowns has failed, and I have to get that replaced. Luckily, the new crown technology makes it almost equivalent to a filling. Just two hours at the office, where they make the crown immediately, and just put it on top on the same trip. So I have that scheduled next week, and I'm grateful for the advance in technology. That particular crown had popped off five years ago, so it's not surprising. But the dentist that put it back on last time didn't have the technology my dentist has today. The amazing thing for me is that it's going to probably cost about the same as it would have with the old dentist.

Plenty of things to cope with.

One great joy, however, is that Jet is going to Japan for six months sometime in late July or August. He's been studying Japanese and pointed me at Duo Lingo, and I am picking up a smattering of Japanese, ten minutes at a time. It's surprising how much I'm retaining, and how much fun it is to do it steadily.

The one goal I have is to be healed enough to play with Jet when he gets off for the summer. He is still working at Robin's, and will continue doing that during the summer. But it will be nice to take the time and play with him when he has time again during the summer. So I am looking forward to that, and while it takes faith, I have to believe that I will heal eventually.

The physical therapist says that the spinal curve should correct itself once we can tame the tension through my neck. The one session with him has been of great help, and I have a few stretches that I can do. I think the most frustrating part of it all is that most of the instructions are along the lines of what not to do, and very little of it is what I can do to help myself heal.

The other thing I have done is talk to my pastor about all the things that I didn't want to think about in relation to the Search. Quite a lot of it had to do with my feelings and relationships with the two pastors that really needed to leave, along with a few other people. Actually being able to talk about it helped a lot, and hopefully that means I won't bury myself quite so deeply once I am healed enough to play again. The funny thing is that an acupuncturist had a saying up, "The body and spirit are necessary for healing, and when they are out of balance the body cannot heal." There was enough spiritual weight I hadn't dealt with that made that quote strike home.

I know that acupuncture is useful for pain management, but I wanted to figure out if there was something I had to fix physically before I went that route. There seems to be plenty of physical healing to be had.
  • Current Mood: frustrated frustrated
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