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Monday 14 January 2019

How Typewriters Helped Me Adjust to Adjustment Disorder

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.


Bill M said...

Congratulations on having all that space for typewriters. My dream someday is to have a proper space to work. Your workbench is much more organized than mine. At least we both have music at our workbench. It is good to have you back blogging.

Johnpyyc said...

Glad to see you back with your machines and your wonderful blogs. I was worried when you took your break, i now consider you as having a recharge.

All the best


Richard P said...

It has been a great pleasure to have you posting often again. And your work space and restored typewriters just shine with purpose and beauty. Onward! And I hope you can manage the arthritis well enough.

Terry Murray said...

Robert - Thank you for this post. I'm glad to hear that Harriet is in remission and regaining strength. And I'm glad you're recovering from your post-caregiver... what? slump? depression? readjustment difficulties? I am in a similar position. I live in Toronto (Canada, not NSW), and came to Ottawa (300 miles away) for a two-week visit with my sister in August 2017. I'm still here. The day I arrived, we learned that my sister was terminally ill. So I stayed to look after her, and after she died in January 2018, I stayed on as executor, to clear out her house and put it on the market. I am two weeks away from returning to my home (I've made a few short trips back to take a break from my solitary work in Ottawa). While I'm glad to be going home, when I close the door of the Ottawa house for the last time, it will be like another little death - my work in aid of my sister will be over. I'll watch my mood and behaviour in light of what you've written here, but I'm glad you're on the upswing and that Harriet is doing better. Thank you again - caregiving is rewarding when you can do it for someone you love, but it is exhausting which we rarely recognize until that job is over. Your fan, Terry

Ted said...

Yes, very much appreciating the new posting. For that matter, I'm also revisiting old posts for research, something I expect I'll be doing more soon when I tackle Messa and Nakajima. (:

anna said...

Just wondering, is the page view counter also counting the people that read your blog posts via the email list? If not there might be even more people every day reading your posts with interest (including me) :)

Rob Bowker said...

Affection for the little Underwood - still a marvel of technology I think. Happy New Year Robert!

TonysVision said...

Wow! What an inspiration your workshop is. Mine is cluttered with the debris of 30 years of projects generated by a variety of interests from typewriters to my Triumph TR6, audio to home improvement, and restoration of fine old stuff in general. I guess I need to learn to accept it and like it that way. The key, I believe, is to keep at least the work bench tidy and ready for the next inspiration.

Another thing I’m learning to accept is my own form of “adjustment disorder”, in my case that of becoming a caretaker for my wife. Realization of this new reality and acceptance of it helps.

So glad to see you posting again as it gives me, and surely others going thru their difficult bits in life, the hope that we can come out of it and be our old selves, albeit an improved version, again.