So…what have I been doing since I graduated from Parsons? As far as artwork, not too much. I’ve had problems with a compressed nerve in my right arm. It’s been a big obstacle and I’d like to write about it. Hopefully it will explain why my career has not progressed in two years and also maybe it could be beneficial to someone who’s having the same problem. I didn’t know for a while exactly what was going on or what to do about it, and I’m still not quite sure. So if anyone out there has shaking pinky fingers, read on.
I remember distinctly the first time I noticed this happening. It was during freshman year at Parsons and I was sitting under the glow of my desk
light working well into the night, as I had been doing for days on end. My hand was starting to kind of hurt, but I just kept working, until it began to twitch and shake. Soon I wasn’t really able to draw. It was hard to clutch the pencil and my coordination had gone horribly awry. I’d try to place the pencil in one place, and it would end up in a different one. I attributed this to the massive amounts of caffeine I had consumed, and laid down. I was very angry laying there, still wired and wanting to work and yet unable to.
This problem would reoccur on occasion throughout my time in college, usually during finals or when I was working on one project for a long period of time. I assumed this was relatively normal, as I had never in my life worked this hard. Then the day came, the minute, really, when I knew I had a serious problem. I had two classes back to back, and the first one let out early. The project due in the next class was stickers. I made quite a few, because we were supposed to trade with each other, but I had only cut out a few. So I set to work cutting out the rest while I waited. I could tell my hand was cramping up, but it was clenched in the scissors and I kept going. When I finally unclenched my hand the pain shot all the way up my arm. It had never hurt this much before. I could barely do anything with it the rest of the day. I spent the whole of the next class rubbing it and shaking it and to add insult to injury, not one person wanted to trade stickers with me.
From that day on the hand was a constant source of concern. If I painted, drew or cut for more than an hour or two it would hurt terribly. I couldn’t even use the touch-pad on my laptop, and would carry the mouse around with my computer. It had a crippling effect on my work. I barely got anything done the way I wanted. When I sat down to do a project I would think in advance about how I could minimize arm movements. It was better if I rotated tasks often so I would plan my work time around that. If I had to do loose sketches, I would space them out during painting breaks. If I had a piece that was very labor intensive, I would have to work on it little by little so I had to start right away and there was little time for preparation.
One thing that worked out well was sewing. While initially, it usually involved cutting, the process of smoothing cloth and feeding it through the machine was actually
therapeutic. It allowed my hand to stretch out flat rather than gripping something. So the most productive work method for me was alternating about two hours of sewing and two hours of painting or drawing. Though I never came across anything to hint me in that direction, I soon learned from trial and error that it helped a lot to duct-tape my pinky and ring fingers together. Sometimes I would even tape something stiff like a pencil stub to hold the fingers straight. So, slowly I painted, with my two fingers sticking out.
My initial self diagnosis was either carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis, neither of which sounded promising. I couldn’t take time to see a doctor, but I discussed it with my mother, who works in the medical field and she said an orthopedic surgeon would be the person to see. We eventually found a good one in Rhode Island and made an appointment for the summer.