It’s time for me to post this. It has come to my attention that certain individuals are angry that “certain people” can’t seem to keep a post up every day. I don’t know if I was one of the intended targets or not, but I certainly am guilty. As a d/C personality type, I favor interpretation of rules rather than strict adherence to policy. Having your wrists flare up is not exactly pleasant, and I remember one day very well where I could not only not use a computer, I couldn’t even unload my dishwasher. After that happened, my thoughts were hardly, “How will I manage to post to my ego site?” (and face it, a Daynotes page IS an ego page primarily, and in some cases, it serves a secondary purpose as a marketing tool, but we’re all working from the assumption that someone, for some reason, gives a rat’s posterior about what we have to say) but something far more sinister. Writing was suddenly a luxury, not a necessity. There I was, 25 years old, healthy by all appearances but unable to take care of myself. I couldn’t unload the dishwasher and I couldn’t carry a full laundry basket. Most males shove those duties off on their wives, but I’d like to think there’s too much Promise Keeper in me now to do that, but as one who was (and is) single and unattached, that wouldn’t have been an option. And, to add insult to injury, my very masculinity was attacked. Not only could I not do the household stuff, but I also found it very difficult to drive. In the States, where your car and your masculinity go hand-in-hand, that’s a big deal. Could I make matters worse? You bet. As I get more and more defensive, my “overly dominant overanalysis” tendency gets stronger and stronger. As some of you are aware, and as I alluded in some of my messages, I met the girl of my dreams this spring, as the CTS was setting in. What’s the best way to drive females away? I don’t know for sure, but overly dominant overanalysis coupled with total lack of confidence due to an inability to excel at anything worked wonders for me. (At least we’re still friends. Sort of.)
And never mind that I had a book on deadline, then past deadline, along with limited abilities to write and research.
Yes, I paid a high price for trying to be prolific. And, with all due respect to my colleagues and readers, it was really hard to care. As my friend Jeanne said Thursday night, “If Dave can’t do something well, he doesn’t do it.” Would I trade my “status” as a Daynoter to get back what I lost? In a heartbeat. For that matter, I’d trade one and a half O’Reilly books, an essay on O’Reilly’s Web site, and I’d throw in my Daynoters status just to clinch the deal.
Here’s a letter that I got from O’Reilly’s Bob Eckstein, author of XML Pocket Reference, coauthor of Java Swing and Webmaster in a Nutshell, and editor of Using Samba. In telling his story, he does a nice job of telling the rest of mine. In addition, his words might actually help someone. I’ve said more than enough.
I read your column on the O’Reilly home page, and it looks hauntingly familiar– including the speech recognition part. Yes, they do kind of suck, don’t they.
But that’s not why I’m writing you.
I got carpal tunnel syndrome three years ago, while I was writing a book for O’Reilly and Associates on “Java Swing.” My symptoms were atypical, which left doctors perplexed as to what it was. There was no adhesion of the median nerve, so they would not perform surgery. Most thought it was some sort of RSI, but they couldn’t determine an exact cause (beyond the obvious). It was frustrating: nobody could tell me why my hands suddenly could not perform the same tasks as some other 28 year old programmer. What made me different? Certainly not my posture; that was ridiculous. My diet? No, I eat better than most programmers.
I concluded two problems here: injured hands, and a body that allowed my hands to be so easily injured. I had the find the answers myself to the second part, and here’s what I discovered that over the course of three years cured me.
1) Heat helped my hands; cold hurt it more. This was odd. Since it was a swelling, shouldn’t it be the opposite? (I found putting Capsazin, which you can get at any grovery store, on my arms and wrapping them with wrist braces let me type normally throughout the day without getting the pain in the night.)
2) The more I worried about it, the worse it got. The more I forgot about it (or more precisely, trained myself that there were certain things I could do without having pain, such as writing a quick email), the better it got.
3) One year at JavaOne, I wrote a “quick” program for the PalmPilot that turned out to be 4 hours! But there was no pain, until I said, “Oh geez! I typed for 4 hrs! I’m going to have a pain attack!” Then it came on full force; five hours after I had finished.
At that point, I knew it was something physcosomatic.
The other half of the puzzle came in the form of a 20/20 interview with one doctor John Sarno, author of “The Mindbody Prescription”, a cheap $10 self-help book. His explanation fit the facts completely. It goes like this: the brain under extreme subconscious stress (e.g., “I’m a failure”, not conscious stress such as “I have a test tomorrow”) creates pain in the body by robbing certain worked areas of oxygen. This creates a numbing, tingling pain that increases over time– sort of like wrapping a tournquet around your hand and typing for a couple of hours. It’s a very common syndrome that can affect more than the hands; it’s most frequently attributed to back pain in type-A personalities.
Sarno’s book didn’t help at first, until I learned to relax. At that point, his techniques banished the pain from me in a series of weeks. All that after three and a half years of horrible pain, and it was almost instantly gone. It was incredible.
I don’t know if this is what you’re experiencing, but whenever I hear of someone at O’Reilly as suffering from CTS, I pass on this experience in the event that it could possibly help them avoid what I went through. Sarno’s book was the best $10 I ever spent; it gave me my career back. I know what it’s like to sit on the couch in a drunken depression and just say, “My career and my dreams are over.” I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.
Anyway… good luck.
Robert Eckstein Editor, O’Reilly and Associates