Much has changed since I last posted to Toads and Goblins, and as such, I decided it was time for some newness–a new hosting platform, new look, new energy, and (hopefully?) lots of new posts.
I’ve been in therapy now for 10 months, and although there have been major insights over that time, the past few months has seen what I will call actual progress and breakthrough from taking those insights and using them for some serious, serious self-reflection.
The most illuminating was finding out I struggle in an extraordinarily intense way from Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). I could fill a book (or several) with the ways in which ODD has affected my life, but one of the most immediately relevant is the way in which it prompted me at an early age to teach myself to do things with my hands in a way contrary to how most people do them. And I realize that might sound like an incredibly strange place to begin–until, of course, you factor in the osteoarthritis I suffer from in the base joints of both thumbs. Anyone who deals with painful limits in the use of their hands can attest to how aggravating it is, and I’m sure the rest of you can imagine, as hands are, you know, fairly central to doing really much of anything for most of us.
So, part of the issue stems from the real source of my arthritis–my extreme double-jointedness, especially in my thumbs, which fold back at the first joint so far it makes most people squirm to see. Being that that is my natural grip, though, it’s also my strongest grip, and the thumb folded back as I’m grasping or holding or manipulating something is my default. But the pressure put on that joint when I use my thumb in that way is exactly the problem. And neither knowing that it’s the source of the problem (my mom suffers from the same issue and has since had surgery in one thumb and needs it in the other), or knowing that forcing myself to use my thumbs contrary to my norm (attempting to keep that joint straight or rounded in) ultimately helps, as hot damn, is it difficult to change ingrained usage of one’s digits. But discovering that I suffer from ODD and have seemingly gone out of my way to do things differently than others made me wonder if I was making things even worse simply by my contrariness.
Cases in point. It has come to my attention over the course of my adult life that most other people do things like open a can of soda or peel an orange differently than I do. Most people seem to use their fingers and fingernails to pry open the tab on a can of soda or peel an orange, pulling the tab or peel back towards them. I, however, use my thumbs for both of those things, levering the tab and peeling the orange away from myself. Weird, right?
I mean, IS IT that weird? Please, I would love to know of others who do these things contrary–not to make myself feel more normal, of course, but just to extend solidarity in our collective weirdness. *fist bump*
One of the other significant ways I use my hands oddly is the way I hold my chopsticks. Instead of cradling one in the meaty part of my hand between my thumb and first finger and using them more like tongs, I hold them so they cross like scissors as I use them, and I hold them between my fingers and thumb with, you guessed it, my thumb pressed backwards. In fact, it was after meals using chopsticks that I first noticed the arthritis pain in my early 20’s.
So as I began to ponder the extreme contrariness I possess that caused my child self to find ways to do things that were uncommon, it finally dawned on me that the way I write by hand may have been affected by this.
Unfortunately, for years now, writing by hand has not been easy for me. AT ALL. And while research shows that taking notes by hand helps us retain and process information better, turns out, as a writer, I’m better able to get my thoughts out writing by hand, so not being able to write by hand comfortably or for any length of time (or legibly, for that matter) has been a huge, HUGE detriment to my writing.
You may have noticed.
For whatever reason, I freeze up a bit at the computer. Not that I don’t type fast or can’t get my thoughts out via keyboard, but there is certainly a stronger tendency to want to make it look its best right off the bat, as editing is so quick and easy. But that really throws a wrench in my flow and I end up just not writing.
The other day, I was talking with The Barbarian about getting a special brace to wear that supports that thumb joint so I can try and kickstart my writing, and the next time I picked up my pen to try and write, thinking of that brace made me think of how else I could protect that joint even without a brace. It made me think back to when I was a young girl trying out new ways of writing, because I was WAY into that–forming letters in uncommon ways, using a taller versus shorter script and vice versa, writing in all caps, scribbly versus flowy cursive, angled writing or straight up and down. And it was there that I stopped and had a holy fucking crap moment because the method of writing I eventually settled on, because it was the less common (and turns out, less effective for me) way to write, was creating my cursive letters to flow straight up and down, and honestly even slanted slightly backwards sometimes, which was really evident as viewed through the sheet of paper from the back. Well, in order to do that, instead of grasping the pen between my first two fingers and using the thumb mostly for stabilization as you would if you wrote cursive at a right-leaning angle, forcing myself to write straight up and down was causing me to put enormous pressure on that thumb joint as my thumb was an active participant in forming letters, in turn causing pain and cramping, horribly shitty looking writing, and the inability to write for any length of time.
So I angled my notebook differently that day, allowed my pen to rest more on my hand, and began writing. The difference from one page to the very next in my notebook is fucking ASTOUNDING. Like, you would never guess it’s the same person’s writing. And not only does my writing now look lovely and legible, I can write for hours with NO PAIN! That was over a month ago and I have written every day since, whether by hand, on the computer, or, usually, a combination of both. Brainstorming and free-writing by hand helps get the ideas flowing, and even if I never come back to my notes before writing a post on that topic, just having gotten the ideas down on paper first helps me process them enough to hop on the computer and punch something out.
Pretty. Fucking. Awesome. Right?
My therapist was literally speechless for a minute when I told him of my discovery and when he finally said something, it was, “This is a beautiful thing!” And it is!
And it’s even more so now, as, in the middle of writing this post over the weekend, I tracked down a journal I had bought myself a while back and only used a couple of times so I could get some thoughts out into something other than the notebook I now use for my other blog (more on that later!), and noticed the first post was from “Late Spring, 2015,” so exactly a year ago. It’s mostly a lament about not writing every day, as that’s been my goal for a while now (obviously), and after talking about the emotional/mental factors keeping me from writing, I say this:
“The other factor being my actual, physical writing. It’s terrible since being diagnosed with arthritis and a small host of other related issues in my hands. I would really LOVE to be writing-writing.”
And so here we are! A year later and I am, indeed, writing-writing, and doing it every day, at that. Not too shabby, right?
So, welcome to the new home of Toads and Goblins, and thanks for being here! I hope to be back with you soon and regularly from here on out.
And I think you can actually hold me to that one this time.
Till next time, bitches!