Updated: Jan 27
Working in the arts comes with all sorts of vulnerabilities - physical, mental and emotional, sometimes all at the same time. I think this is why lots of people who take a punt at creative living eventually opt out. I don't blame them, I sometimes marvel at the thought that anyone can make a life in the arts at all.
Today I'm focusing on physical injury, but before I start I do want to just say that, as far as the other type of creative injury goes, the book I cannot recommend highly enough is The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. For surviving life, it comes a very close second to the Holy Bible for me. I owe so much to Cameron's work and have been practising Morning Pages daily for years. Cannot recommend it enough. If you aren't already familiar and this has sparked your curiosity and you are trying to decide between finishing reading my post and going to check out Julia Cameron, go to Julia. Run.
If you're still here, I will now move on to physical injury.
I've been drawing rather compulsively for the best part of a solid 18months now. I've always been an artist/maker/do-er, but I would gauge the intensity to have changed from occasional/hobby level of a couple of hours a week, to now about 4-8hrs a day. I am trying very hard to make a life of this.
Last year I noticed that several days of digital drawing, either on the iPad with Apple Pencil, or Wacom tablet (Intuous Pro) resulted in quite an intense level of discomfort in my right arm. I was able to fix this by switching to physical media for a few days and then alternating between the two.
In the past couple of months, however, the pain got much, much worse. There was more than one occasion of grumpiness followed by heading to bed well before 8pm (these occasions do happen about once or twice a month as it is, so what I'm saying is, the pain in my arm caused them to double). It was sore to the point that I didn't want to lift the water jug with my right hand, or throw a ball for the dog.
When I couldn't ignore it any more I went for a sports injury massage. The relief that offered while it was happening was exactly what I paid for, but after feeling a satisfying sense of tenderness for the rest of the week, the pain returned. I started to worry about how I would afford the therapies I would need to survive the long haul. I am 41 and have had to come to terms with the fact that I'm not as young as I once was, and when I was young I put my body through a hell of a lot. This includes a 20+ year ballet obsession that descended into hiphop (I'm embarrassed); working in the fitness industry (incl teaching BodyPump); EDs; sudden manic distance running syndrome (see memoir); compulsive (large) furniture rearranging; late to the game capoeria; bearing children; a couple sleepless years of baby #2's infant sleep apnea; and a general stubbornness against asking for help or doing more than one trip up the stairs with the shopping. Combine all this with dyspraxia and it makes sense that I've sprained both ankles badly and no longer have a 'good knee'. I was bummed about the right arm pain because I had been hoping that I was finally showing signs of being a grown-up and settling into a sensible career.
I asked google what to do, and google delivered better than ever in the form of a blog post by Andy Riley. Again, if you want to go and read that now, I think you should. It is well worth the read: https://misterandyriley.com/2017/10/28/my-rsi-catastophe-and-how-i-clawed-my-way-back/
If you're still here I will give you the (slightly shorter and less entertaining) version of the main points of Riley's post:
1) Trigger Points are the problem and they can cause referred pain (pain felt in a different place).
2) They can be self-treated with the info from a book and a couple of inexpensive massage tools (pls read his post because I feel silly repeating what he wrote).
3) It's probably very good to approach some forms of healing/physical therapies with healthy caution. I really like what Riley wrote about the arbitrary concept of time when it relates to recovery. There's a line in a Jack Johnson song about Monday being a word we say every seven times around...
The main reason I wanted to write was to say that, YES, it works! After only a few days of self-treatment, I am feeling hopeful again. Pain is a very, very powerful thing. I suspect that due to my personal sensory profile I do not register pain in very helpful ways - I don't feel it at all until it is really bad, or else something minor bothers me too much. I think there is also deeper stuff going on because the relief I felt as I dealt with the trigger points in my neck brought up all sorts of general life things that I don't have the concentration span to go into at this moment. There might be another memoir in about 10 years.
For now, I'm feeling empowered.