Playing With Pain

For the past year, I have been fighting a running battle with my body. The battlefields have been my wrists and back. By and large, my body has been winning.

When sports commentators talk about a player “playing with pain” I think it’s natural to think about the pain in the moment – that play, that sprint, that quick turn on the grass, the game on the line. What doesn’t get talked about is the psychological effect of the pain, day after day, on the player. At practice, at home, at rest. How it changes their relationship to the game.

Playing With Pain

They love the game. Clearly. It’s what they’ve spent their whole life perfecting. But now, every interaction with it is colored by the overlay of pain. Do your warm-ups, work through that early pain, now feel the pain on each play. Good play or bad, it doesn’t matter. It hurts to do the thing.

No matter how much you love something, if you are given a negative stimulus every time you do it, you’ll stop liking it so much. This isn’t psychological weakness, it’s just conditioning. It’s how we train pets; how we try to stop smoking.

I used to take up my work every morning with enthusiasm. Now I take it up because I must, my enthusiasm is very attenuated. And I cannot figure it out for sure: am I not liking the work, is my ennui related to the actual tasks; or have I been conditioned, slowly but surely, to not like it? It’s very hard to tease those apart, because the conditioning works so very deep down in the stack of consciousness, and I’ve been playing with the pain for what feels like forever. I can’t remember what it was like before, anymore.

Anyways, I have a good chair. I’ve gotten a better keyboard and mouse. I ice my wrists every night. Sometimes things are better, sometimes they are worse, but drip, drip, drip, the reinforcement is mostly negative.

I’m only 300 words in, and it hurts.

I’ll stop now. Experience with repetitive strain, magic solutions? Hit the comments. Unfortunately, the only thing that has worked for me so far is not using computers.