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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Of Ailments and Attitudes

At the risk of being taken for a masochist ....

I've always been a brainiac, thinking this the only part of me being worth while. 
A paper to get a diploma, a fascinating idea or a desperate search for work... it would keep me so occupied, I'd neglect my entire household. Not just the pile of dishes attracting the Olympic committee,  even my son and animals would have to keep themselves amused whenever I was pursuing another project, in spite of the fact that it would most likely end in the garbage bin with its predecessors.

All this working on my desk top, sitting (more or less) at my desk has run havoc with my shoulders and neck. When the first spells of a killer headache came up, I thought it was a matter of bones, sublocated discs in my neck. But manual therapy only resulted in adding tinnitus to my complaints.
All that I needed was a way to relax my shoulder and neck muscles. After four months of massages, I can be free of headaches and spent several hours at my PC for as much as six days. But the tinnitus is always accompanying me, even when all other symptoms are absent.

There was nothing that bugged me more in life than monotonous sounds or repetitive drones. I like predictive sounds, like listening to the same audio play over and over, but monotony??
So you can bet I freaked out when I realized the high pitched 'screech'  would be with me forever, even when my head would hit the pillow for a pre-sleep tour to dreamland.
[july 2016:  it's now 85,000 kHz]

The general advise is to listen to music, taking an MP4 player with you wherever you go. That should be easy for someone who is already doing that 80 % of the time anyway
Now listen [ :) ]  to this:  on most days ordinary sounds mask my tinnitus just fine. I've become very grateful for environmental sounds. It actually changed me ...
I've always loved reading in the bus and when people sat down close to me and began an incessant chatter, I used to get up and move to a place far away from them. Just last week a couple of men came in, foreigners talking English. They sat down two benches away from me and started 'clucking' like hens.  My jaws tightened, my hands moved up to snap my book shut and get up... 'til  suddenly I smiled. This chatter would be perfect to distract me from the ringing in my ears. I relaxed, stayed where I was and inwardly thanked the men for talking so fervently.
I've become more alert to other sounds too, drinking in every bit of it: ducks, rustling leaves, the clatter of garbage thrown in a bin... I was always checking out sounds subconsciously, as a safety radar, but now I'm actually enjoying being in a world that's rarely quiet. I listen to my MP4 player less than usual instead of more, like many tinnitus sufferers do..   

When my tinnitus gets worse, or the killer headache returns, spreading from above my eyes over my face ... I know it's time. Time to breath deeper, relax and stop working. Moving about often helps to stop the pain.
I found out  that washing dishes, sorting laundry or putting it up to dry  give the right amount of movement for my muscles. So I've devised a plan... In the morning right after breakfast I start working and I use the dirty dishes and equal laundry for a relaxing break, to keep myself happy.  [because yes, the tight muscles also influence a person's mood. Not just through pain, my guess is biochemically too. A lack of oxygen or other brain food perhaps.] 
The chores have become pain killers and pleasant distractions and things no longer pile up.

I'd prefer to do without the sound and pain, but I guess I asked for it, ignoring 'sound advise' about avoiding RSI.  There's an old Dutch saying... "Who doesn't want to listen, must feel".

After four months I'm slowly getting back to my old level of productivity, but... in a cleaner house and enjoying the natural and casual sounds of my surrounding. I'm becoming more involved with the world around me.
So I guess there's an up side to every ailment.

Update july 2015...  It turns out I have hypermobility of my joints. I'm doing exercises to strengthen my muscles.. since supportive tissues don't support my spine well enough. Now that I have a straighter neck, my tinnitus is less pronounced... easier to live with.