For my fellow makers
I have learned that our health care is not geared towards makers, at least my in experience. My impression is no one has ever told you to stretch or give your hands a break from making. All of the doctors I have been to have blown up posters of Soccer, Football, Tennis players framed and proudly hung in rows on their walls. I think it is safe to say that people that play sports way outnumber the makers in our country. No one tells the marathon runner they need to stretch before they start the race, they learned that early on. No one is shocked when the football player tears his ACL, and they know what to do. I would venture to say that a physical therapist rarely sees an artist, and the artist rarely thinks of stretching before painting or throwing a pot.
I have the benefit of being on my parents health insurance, but dear LORD, get yourself some insurance. Don’t wait until you ‘need it’ use it for preventative measures, take care of your hands now.
This is a charge to my fellow makers to take care of your bodies, your hands. Even if you feel silly for doing it, even if you go to the doctor and they look at you funny. All that has happened to my hand was preventable, if I would have learned how to take care of my hands (get massages, do exercises, ice and rest) If someone had just taught me it’s important, and that it’s ok to take a few days off every now and again (just for the sake of my body, for my hands). You’re body can stop your making, if you are not gentle. I want to see the day when the artist walks into the doctor and is taken care of and understood like the athlete.
what i’ve been doing with my time off?
As a maker having one of your hands ‘fail you’ is devastating. I tried for almost a month to work through the pain (a constant ache with some shooting pain through my wrist) I would have honestly kept working if it weren’t for a few good friends that noticed my pain and recommended I see a doctor. My thumb over to my pointer finger was noticeably swollen; certain movements hurt particularly the movement to open the clay on the wheel. I started by going to my chiropractor, doing some physical therapy there, the swelling went down but came right back. I was icing my hand at least 3x a day and completely stopped production due to pain on April 8th. I canceled (or postponed) all my orders for the month of April. By this point the discouragement had settled in and I found myself crying in my car, at coffee shops, at home on the edge of my bed. The week before I stopped working I had gone to a “hand specialist” who was cold and only seemed to want me out of his office, after taking X-rays and 5mins of inspecting my hand he was filling a shot with steroids to inject my hand. He commented and saying something along the lines of ‘you probably don’t have the money to get an MRI anyway’ he gave me a list of side effects and an acknowledgement form to sign all printed out in “comic sans”. I immediately cried in my car afterward. The shot had no effect.
Two weeks later I had an appointment with different Hand Specialist, who prescribed an ointment (kind of like a liquid Advil) this worked for a while but after a week had no effect. At this point I canceled all my orders for the month of May. She recommended a MRI at the following appointment and talked through why it would be helpful to actually look at the muscles and tendons in my hand. The following week I went in for an MRI and another appointment with her a few days later. She went over my MRI results, there appeared to be no long term damage just some very overworked muscles, a lot of swelling and some tendinitis. I was sent over to the hand therapist (that same day) and a custom splint was made for my hand, immobilizing my thumb. I had my first physical therapy appointment with a hand therapist the following week, where I was instructed to apply heat, massage the muscles, and given a number of hand stretches and exercises to do twice a day (and Icing after and when needed).
Currently three weeks in to wearing the splint, two weeks into therapy the swelling has started going down and my thumb is showing signs of healing.
Ask me Anything!
I’ve been spending these days gardening and reading, laying in the sun. Mostly I have settled into a state of rest. I am someone who loves to work, I’ve always been. It took me weeks to settle, as a maker my hands are rarely still.
One day at a time. I drove to my childhood home in Texas see my parents and celebrate my sister’s pregnancy. On my way back to Colorado I made the hard decision to dip into my (dwindling) savings and stay at a hotel in Santa Fe to be alone for three days and 2 nights. I talked to almost no one (except hotel staff) laid in the sun and only left the hotel to get meals. This is where I decided I would not give up on making, and I would see my hand through to the healing process before I got another job. And so here I am, waiting, and hopeful.
books I’ve read during this time:
Swiss Family Robinson, Cannery Row, The Alchymist, Commonwealth, Jayber Crow, Fidelity(Wendell Berry), The Choir Invisible, The Goldfinch