Friday, May 2, 2014

Living with Carpal tunnel Syndrome- Part 1

When I was afflicted with Carpal tunnel syndrome, the first thing I did was google for forums and write ups from people who suffered from this syndrome. I was surprised to find none, which is not surprising considering the pain one goes through. Typing while one suffers is not something one would normally do ( I am not normal) and once healed maybe people are relieved to get back to life, they don't want to relive their days of misery. But many of my dear ones asked me if I could write about this phase, so that it would help people who don't understand what Carpal tunnel syndrome is and perhaps also highlight the treatments and help one could get while suffering from this condition. 
This series in parts will highlight my experiences living with carpal tunnel syndrome- They have been composed over 7 months with the help from my hubby because I cannot type with these hands anymore.

          Sometimes I wonder what’s worse. Living with a disability forever or living with a condition that will disappear soon ( like in a year and half). I have been living with Carpal tunnel syndrome ever since I got pregnant. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a median entrapment neuropathy that causes paresthesia, pain, numbness, and other symptoms in the distribution of the median nerve due to its compression at the wrist in the carpal tunnel ( source- Wikipedia). In layman's term I have numbness in my palms, swelling and pain in my shoulder, neck and wrists.Frankly, I wish I never knew this syndrome existed because I was managing fine hoping the numbness and pain in my arms would disappear some day- I thought I had hurt my hand badly and it was some temporary  nerve problem. But after the diagnosis and the verdict from the Ortho ( which included a nerve conduction study where they pass electric current through your palms) that this would last throughout my pregnancy and perhaps three months after the baby is born I began hating myself for having ever met a doctor for this situation.

I did not give up my hopes, I soon met a few Ayurveda doctors but they all told me I could not take any oral medication in pregnancy and so all I could do was reduce working with my hands as in I should pamper myself by refusing to cook, clean, work and take complete rest. My mom perhaps having never encountered such a condition in her 25 years of  nursing career, did not realize the magnitude of my situation, and kept consoling me saying things would be fine ( she has always been a fighter so she could not let her daughter give up). I wondered how I would have coped with this had I been fully employed, would my employers ask me to take leave for a year or would I go on leave without pay? ( Nah ! they would perhaps fire me). Would I need to undergo series of  examinations from specialists to certify me an authentic Carpal tunnel patient? I frankly don't have answers to these questions but from the forums I have been a part of ( Yes there are forums for pregnant women suffering from Carpal tunnel syndrome) I understand there are many women around the world suffering from the same and still willingly they choose motherhood the second and third time.

Luckily I was not employed. But I was at the verge of completing my thesis. My supervisor was sympathetic to my condition but like an injured player forced to take a back seat and watch his team mates score on field, I had to watch my peers and colleagues submit and defend their thesis in this period. Did it upset me? Yes at times it did especially when people refused to believe or comprehend my suffering. Especially when they asked why do you get rare diseases? Why is it you always? As if I had planned on getting Carpal tunnel and skipping work. Seriously many did ask me these questions. 

A normal day for me starts with me pacifying myself that I am not disabled, neither is this a terminal illness, I will see light at the end of this tunnel some day. But the very next minute, I end up in despair when my hands go numb holding my tea cup. Tears stain my face when I realize I cannot move my toothbrush because my hand’s gone numb again. And it embarrasses me that I don’t take proper showers anymore because I can’t soap or towel myself without taking breaks or pauses. I cried last month when I traveled by public bus, I had no place to hold onto, and people who saw me with my sling conveniently ignored me, I lost confidence to travel all alone.
Carpal tunnel syndrome has attacked me at the most opportune moment, I conceived quite unexpectedly and I had a thesis pending all set to be submitted in 6 months. But today I struggle to edit it. I wish I could explain my helplessness to people who wonder what’s taking me so long. At times I become so frustrated wondering if people will fail understanding my pain and that’s when I wrote some pregnant thoughts - I was mad at everyone who kept pestering me to have a kid, though deep within I knew they had no inkling that I would get Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome has stolen away every pleasure of my life. Baking a cake seems a distant dream, reading a book a tedious task and sleeping an impossible feat. I have become a chronic insomniac (which is why I am typing this at 2 am on a Thursday morning). I thought I should put my time to better use than toss and turn in bed with numb hands. So aren't they numb now? Oh yes they are… but I have nothing else to do, so I torture them even more.

Would I have loved some support from dear ones? YES, but unfortunately crisis makes you realize who your true friends are. All my friends except 2 or 3 have assured me prayers. Now though I don’t undermine prayers they right now can’t type, cook, fold, clean and help me sleep so frankly they are of no help to me. I don’t intend being blasphemous but Carpal tunnel syndrome  has made me quite bitter and cynical. It has made me rethink on relationships, family, friendships, love and even parenthood. Unlike many adversities I have been through ( mostly emotional), this one has been hard on me. Because I had limited access to phone, mails and rendezvous, I soon realized the friendships that I boasted about were so feeble, to have withered away when I could not stay in touch ( and trust me everyone knew what I went through, I made sure everyone knew about it, I thought I could use the support). Sometimes life can be cruelly hilarious, I attribute my experiences with CTS to this phase.

I cannot stop admiring people using their hands to work, I can gaze at them for hours, watch them chop, clean, use their hands as if it was quite normal ( I keep staring at my maid when she sweeps and washes vessels, yep I am envious of her). I realize how many people in this world would feel the same like me. We often take our hands so much for granted. I can see my misery has not built me strong but made me bitter, I end up hurting others when I am in pain, though frankly it’s unintentional. At times all I want is physical help or silence, not some optimistic crap. It hurts me as I type this and all I want is to sleep peacefully for a night without numb hands. I don’t need to be reminded it will all be fine. It has been really difficult and I have been really brave ( Yep at times one needs to pat oneself). People tell me parenting is painful, but I thought they meant the child birth process but that is not true, there's more pain to this process than child birth alone.

Don’t ask me why I was inflicted with this, there are many out there just like me. Don’t boast about how you finished your thesis before me, don’t ask me why I got pregnant or why I get into rarest of rare situations. Don’t appreciate my spirits; I am too tired to register half your nonsense.  I may not be terminally ill, but I am in pain 24 hrs and I am sorry if I am not tolerant to your worries at the moment. It's been 7 months this way, some days are fine, some days are really bad. And that's how it feels living with Carpal tunnel syndrome. List of things you can't do outnumber the list of things you can do. I know this does not help, but next time you worry about the sky falling, ask yourself, if you have two hands to hold onto those falling pieces :)

                                         ( to be continued..... about treatments, miraculous healing and back to suffering)

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