One of the benches in my new typewriter workshop,
a major part of the recuperation therapy.
This is the story I wanted to post two months ago, when I returned to blogging on ozTypewriter after a break of 108 days. It is in large part a heartfelt thanks to the many people who continued to follow me during that absence, and those who are now my new online friends. I was so overwhelmed with the excitement of resuming blogging, and by the wonderful “good to see you back” comments I received, that I didn’t get around to writing this back then. It was always planned as some sort of explanation for the long intermission, and, I guess, a form of apology.
On August 1, 2018, I took a photo as my blog page view counter turned over to 3.5 million. I fully intended to post something that day, mentioning this milestone. But I didn’t. And for the next 15½ weeks I couldn’t. I couldn’t concentrate sufficiently to write anything, I could hardly handle researching anything. I lapsed into torpor in terms of most forms of communication.
Then, to cap it all off, I became aware that I was a late-comer to the family curse of osteoarthritis, something from which my mother had seriously suffered, and my surviving siblings suffer from badly. At first I thought it was a mouse-related pain, possibly even carpal tunnel syndrome, as I’d been whiling away my time mindlessly playing countless games of solitaire. It got so bad I had to go to my GP, and after X-rays and ultrasound, osteoarthritis was the diagnosis. But my doctor, never satisfied to stop at a quick, simple answer when there might be some complicated underlying cause, asked why I had been wasting so much of my time playing solitaire. Was I writing, researching and blogging? And if not, why not? A short time later I was diagnosed as having adjustment disorder. As with a bipolar disorder diagnosis 18 years earlier, a lot of things immediately became blindingly clear.
Adjustment disorder has a recognised group of symptoms, such as stress, feeling sad or hopeless, and physical effects that can occur after one goes through a stressful life event. It results in people having a hard time coping in the aftermath of such an event. Stressors include illness or other health issues for one’s self or a loved one.
In hindsight it was apparent August 1st had been a turning point in my life. My partner was found to have cancer back in January, and after major surgery in Sydney on Valentine’s Day, she faced an enormous struggle to conquer it. In early July she was declared to be in remission. Oncologists, specialists and doctors all advised us that the first and most important thing we should do was to take a complete break from it all, to go away, try to relax and put all the woes of the previous six months behind us. Harriet started to quickly regain strength and optimism. For six months I had been her full-time carer, including administering daily blood-thinning injections. And full-on it was. Then suddenly that type of care was no longer needed. And it was only then that I realised I’d been driving myself on with an empty tank for weeks, that I’d tapped into reserves I didn’t know I had and had exhausted them. I’d hit a wall.
I don’t think I’d ever done anything as profoundly important in all my life as caring for Harriet. It gave me a deep sense of purpose, and I responded as perhaps most would and as I’d always hoped I should. In a way it was an empowering experience, too, because it was a very tangible example of my ongoing usefulness. I felt it had exposed a new, positive side of me, and then it was no longer needed. It would take many weeks before I could achieve a level of functioning comparable to what I’d known before the cancer scare.
By mid-November I began to feel I could face things again, and returning to blogging was a sign of that. It helped enormously. But there were many things that had helped me get there. One of the most important was sorting out space in our garage, so that I could both display my few remaining typewriters and still have as much as 88 square feet of workbench area to work on typewriters, old and not-so-old. For the first time ever, I now have a proper typewriter workshop, where many hundreds of tools, spare parts and sundry other things are all within arm’s reach. It’s a wonderful feeling to go out into the garage these days, to look around at all the typewriters there, and I know I have time in spades to work on them or simply “play” with them.
Finding in the local public library one day the book Notes From a Public Typewriter, by Michael Gustafson and Oliver Uberti, provided another reminder of the joy of typewriters. It was most uplifting. On our travels in August – 3451 kilometres (2144 miles) to Queensland and back in 16 days – my interest in typewriters was stimulated on a daily basis. Harriet loves nothing more than to trawl through op-shops and bric-a-brac stores, and of course I always kept an eye open for typewriters – with some success, I might add.
There’s certainly been no shortage of blog post ideas in the past six months, and it’s now a question of when I can get to them all, rather than leaving them stored away in the back of my head. Last evening my blog page view counter clicked over to 3,675 million, 175,000 views on from August 1. There were days during the my period of hebetude when the views depressingly dropped down to the low 800s, and the graph leapt up and down like a herring on the skittle. But they’re consistently back over 1000 again now, so hopefully it’s onward and upward from here.