I always had a feeling that my depression, insomnia and loss of finger coordination were related. I just didn't know how. So for years the plan was just to do everything I could think of to attack all three from all sides. I first tried prayer and religion. Then therapy, antidepressants, herbs, vitamins, diets, exercise, and yoga. All seemed to help a little, but not enough. I gave up alcohol, cut back on sugar, drank 10 glass of water a day and avoided aluminum products on my skin and my cookware. Message, acupuncture, acupressure, sleeping pills. Not all at the same time, of course. And there's more. I tried cold showers (as a type of "shock therapy"). I heard that doing head stands was supposedly good for curing depression, so I would do ten minutes a day. I even tried eating dirt (not off the ground, but the expensive kind they sell in health food stores and call "clay", but still tastes like dirt). And for the coordination part, I must have learned at least 25 different finger exercises. Great party tricks, but never did the trick.
All that to say I was pretty desperate.
There were a few things that I thought about but didn't try, though. An orthopedic surgeon offered to surgically correct the falling tendons in my fingers. That would have been a very costly mistake, I think. Then there were the botulism toxin injections when I thought I had a focal dystonia. And a psychic told me that my troubles were caused by a curse created by the hate from "hundreds of people I didn't even know". She offered to burn some white candles that would protect me for $50.
I always thought that if I regained my coordination, that the depression and insomnia would just go away, but that hasn't exactly been the case. It's better. And because I know it's not responsible for wrecking my music career, it doesn't freak me out as much. But I would still like to recover completely. I have revisited many of my earlier therapies. And I realize that depression is a serious and life threatening medical disorder, so of course, I'm getting medical attention. But a new therapy seems to be helping that along this time around.
It's something I first learned about several years ago on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She swore up and down that keeping a gratitude journal was one of the best things she ever did for herself. I sort of ignored the suggestion, though. It seemed too simple for a problem as large as mine.
But it is huge. I think it's because it tends to reverse our genetic tendency to focus on troubles and problems. I say it's genetic because I believe we're all decendants of the cave dwellers who survived because they paid more attention to the saber toothed tigers than the water lillies.
But in today's culture, that translates in to hating your fat legs and taking for granted that they can get you wherever you want to go whenever you want. But with the journal, I realized how much I had been taking for granted all these years. At first, I wanted to cry with shame. I felt like I had been thumbing my nose at God. I pray every day for forgiveness.
So, two pieces of advice to anyone struggling with this horrible disorder. 1) Tell your doctor and 2) make an effort every day to express appreciation. Because when you can acknowledge and truly appreciate your blessings, it takes a lot to get you down. But if you take everything for granted, then nothing in the world can pull you up.
Today, I had a brief setback, but it was a good thing for three reasons. This morning I woke up with the same numbess I had im my fingers six months ago. That's because last night, I fell asleep without my elbow brace. The first reason this was a good thing is that the numbness only lasted about a minute. The second reason it was a good thing is that even though my fingers are still a bit numb, I could see how much improvement there has been over the past six months. The third reason it was a good thing is that it confirmed my suspicion that the compression is primarily in my elbow and that it's my sleep position moreso than playing the flute that is the culprit. I'm glad I learned this. You can bet I was scared when I first woke up, though.
I’ve performed at two more churches since my last blog
entry. Once at Unity Unitarian in St. Paul, which was another full program of flute solos with an accompanist. And once at Spirit of Hope in Golden Valley, where I played one solo and got to enjoy my very first experience “jamming”with a spirit band!! I’m going to have to insist that all my students perform in church. It’s so uplifting. It’s great to play for such an appreciative audience and it doesn’t have to be perfect. But it helps a lot if it sounds like you mean what you play.
Obviously, I still have a ways to go. My lips are a lot more out of shape than I had previously realized. But I’m practicing quite a bit. And that fact has taught me
something about motivation. I am now convinced that human beings simply have a genetic aversion for
futility. Seriously. When my fingers were out of control, practicing was frustrating torture. I had to make myself do it. Now, I can hardly wait and I can’t stop once I start. And when I do stop, I think about it. If I want motivated students, I need to make sure they have the information and the strategies they need to reach desirable goals. It just might be as simple as that.
Just for the record, my fingers are still a little numb, but not interfering with coordination. I
think it’s called “peripheral numbness” and it’s more annoying than anything else. They test that by blindfolding you and touching you lightly with a cotton ball or something. But it’s getting better.
I’m confident I’m headed for a full recovery. I read in a chat room that the nerves regenerate at 1mm per month or some outrageously slow pace. So, it might be awhile.
Today was a big day for me. I performed for the church service at Central Presbyterian Church in downtown St. Paul. It wasn’t a career changing performance or like the Queen of England was going to be there or anything. Today was special, because it’s the first day in several years that I would be performing in public without the involuntary finger movements that have been dogging me on and off since my junior year in college. I’ve been applying the therapies I’ve learned to combat cubital tunnel syndrome for the past three weeks. And they have made an incredible difference in just that short time.
It wasn’t my best performance ever, but it had its moments. And it's certainly a much more enjoyable experience when you're not worrying about fingers. But my hands were shaking and that was a brand new experience for me. I've been nervous while performing before, but nothing ever shook because of it. LOL. A few more performances under my belt should help out with that. But I think I will always be just a little more sympathetic to others when that happens to them from now on.
This blog is about music, health, challenges, determination and personal and professional growth. I hope it is useful.
Copyright 2017 Michael Davis. All rights reserved.