26 April 2008

Analysis 5: Health

Again, it depends on where you stop telling the story. I find I’m reluctant even to start this one. I seem to be fine now. Around the time I got tenure, though, I had a series of injuries and stress-related ailments that took years to resolve. Much time spent seeing different doctors and physical therapists. Much research time lost. Much wondering whether I would remain impaired for the rest of my life.

It started with a broken rib, sustained when I fell onto a trailer hitch while trying to get a good picture of a pageant wagon in York (see, work-related). I was reasonably active up till then, as time allowed, but exercising with a broken rib is painful. Recovery was slow. I had to become more assiduous about exercising than I had been.

When I thought I’d made a comeback, I injured my shoulder, which provoked symptoms that were misdiagnosed as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, despite my insistence to doctors that it all started with this shoulder thing . . . . This one’s harder to call, because the diagnosis was work-related, but the shoulder injury may or may not have been related to work ergonomics. At any rate, it’s hard to recover from an injury that’s being treated as a different kind of injury entirely.

On top of the years of pre-tenure stress (and job-market stress, and relationship stress previously recounted, and other grad school stresses my readers no doubt can easily imagine), the physical stresses and pain—I believe—contributed to various other problems. I don’t want to recount them here. Like I said, I’m fine. But a couple of bloggers I keep up with have reported, this spring, on health anxieties that were very familiar to me from personal experience. I know what procedures you’d go through for diagnosis, and how it feels while you wait for results, and how you research stuff on the web, thinking about what might happen and how much time or physical ability you might have in various scenarios and what you’d do with it.

So, as with the long-term relationships, if we stop the story now, it ends well. Of course, in the long term, we’re all dead. And maybe you consider that even a few years of injuries, pain, ailments, and doctors means that I did, in fact, give up my health for my job. Now I work at staying healthy, as I did not pre-tenure, because I know that the expense of time and energy on exercising and getting good food at regular intervals is far, far less than the expense of not getting exercise or eating right. And that sounds like a sermon, which I didn’t mean to give.

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