Look, Ma! No hands!

My junior year of college, I was sitting in the library, typing away on my laptop, trying to finish up a term paper, when it happened: my hands froze. Not good-God-the-library-is-cold-I-wish-I’d-brought-a-sweater froze. Not even kill-me-now-I’m-never-going-to-finish-this-paper froze. No, I mean my hands physically froze, as in the muscles from my neck through my shoulders through my elbows through my forearms through my hands froze up, so that I couldn’t move them. And they stayed that way for a week. I couldn’t brush my hair. I couldn’t bring a fork to my mouth. All I could do was lie in bed, terrified that my life was never going to be the same again.

And it wasn’t. In the last 14 years, I’ve seen countless doctors, physical therapists, and chiropractors. I’ve tried Western medicine, meditation, and acupuncture. I’ve had a variety of diagnoses. Fibromyalgia. Repetitive strain injury. Myofascial pain syndrome. And my personal favorite, “It’s all in your head.” Yeah, right, Buster. You try experiencing the kind of pain that makes you curl into a fetal position and scream, and then tell me that I’m imagining it.

Still, I tried to continue down the path I had set for myself, the one that was respectable and practical. In spite of the confusion over what was wrong with me, I knew one thing: one of the main triggers for my pain is typing. So I hired a typist, installed a voice-recognition program onto my computer, and got permission to take my exams – even the bar exam – orally. After graduating from law school, I went to work at a corporate law firm. I was miserable, but everything was progressing according to plan. And then I had another flare-up.

Another round of doctors. Three more months flat on my back. Six months of physical therapy. Six months of disability leave. In the midst of this pain and anxiety and suffering, I realized something. My body wasn’t punishing me. It was talking to me, in a way that I could not ignore. It was telling me, Get off of this path. This isn’t what you’re supposed to be doing.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had one dream, one passion – to be a writer. But parental expectations, discouraging teachers, doubtful friends, and “prestigious” opportunities made me set this dream aside.

I think the voice inside me was sick of being ignored. It had to speak louder and louder until I finally listened. Until I finally understood that I had to pursue my dream. For if there’s one thing that I can do in spite of this disability, it is write – or more specifically, dictate into my voice-recognition program. I can “write” sitting in my recliner, so that my head and shoulders are fully supported. Or, when things are really bad, I can “write” flat on my back underneath a glass coffee table, my laptop face-down on top of the glass, while I dictate into my microphone.

Fourteen years ago, I never thought anything good could come from this pain. But there has. The pain reminds me on a daily basis to listen, really listen, to the voice inside of me, the one who knows me better than anyone else. The one who has the power, finally, to make me happy.

What does the voice inside of you say? Do you struggle with contradicting outside forces? What made you finally listen to your voice?

20 thoughts on “Look, Ma! No hands!

  1. Talk about motivated – I wish I could figure out how to find the ‘favorites’ button because I need to make certain I read this post each and every time I start to gripe about whatever silliness I tend to gripe about. Congratulations to you for being strong enough, resourceful enough, and stubborn enough not to give up on your dreams. Excellent post.

  2. You are so inspiring, Pintip-Mermaid! Wow, just wow!

    The voice inside me says that you are a rockstar. How wonderful to read about someone who listened to the message their body was shouting. Congrats on turning something scary into something positive!

  3. Pintip – what a way to make a life-changing event a life-starting event. Excellent post, thanks for sharing it with us. I have no right to say it (other than being your friend) but I’m proud of your accomplishments!

  4. Thanks, Denny — trust me, I gripe about silly things all the time.
    Robin and Kerri — thanks so much! Your support means a lot to me.

  5. Wow, Pintip. I’m sorry you had to go through all that pain–and still do–to find the life you were meant to live, but I’m glad you found it.

    I wanted to write from an early age, but never pursued it for a lot of the same reasons as you. Luckily, when I quit the long hours of my last full-time job to spend more time with my kids, the boredom while they were at school drove me to finally sit down and write. I’ve never looked back.

    Good luck!

  6. What an incredible story, Pintip. You are very brave–brave to pursue your dream no matter what your physical limitations, and brave to share your story. Just like Denny, when I feel the urge to complain about how hard it is to write, I will now think of you, Pintip. Thanks for helping us put things into perspective! And you have my very best wishes that your days are as pain-free as possible.


  7. Pintip, thank you for sharing that very personal story with us. You were very brave to share like you did. And it’s always good to hear when that type of bravery gets you somewhere positive.

  8. Just WOW. I would like to print this post out and tape it over my computer for all the times I think I can’t handle all of the tough days. What an amazing story, and what an amazing spirit you have, Pintip!

  9. Diana, Diane, and Kimberly — thank you so much for your kind words and well-wishes. They mean so much to me.
    Kathy and Carlene — I feel so extremely far from being brave. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure I wanted to post something so personal, especially since I am so new to blogging, so thank you so much for your comments.
    Gwen — I am so glad that you are able to find time for your writing! I look forward to being in your situation a few years from now when my kids are in school all day!

  10. You inspire me. I know this story and yet I am still incredibly moved and touched by your writing. I am so proud of you, Pin, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of your posts. I have always believed in your ability as a writer and I know this is what you are meant to do!

  11. Pintip,
    What a wonderful and inspiring blog. I’m sorry that you’re going through such problems, but I admire the perseverance it takes to continue with something that’s hard. Sometimes the battles easily won aren’t all that fulfilling, but the challenging ones are very much so.
    I just went to see the movie Soul Surfer, where the girl gets her arm taken off by a shark but continues surfing. I went with my girls to see it, and I’m so glad we went. It really does help to put life in perspective.
    When I was a young girl, I saw the movie Joni–about the girl who became paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident. She began painting with her teeth! And beautiful sketches and paintings. Jeez, I can’t even write with my left hand on a dare!
    But these kind of stories are always so uplifting and motivating for me. When I’m griping about my lot in life or giving up on something because it’s a little bit hard, other people’s lives can really serve as a testament to perseverance.
    When we have dreams, we have to live them. We have to press on in spite of things standing in our way. And sometimes the only things standing in our way are….ourselves.
    Thank you, Pintip, for sharing your story!
    Just remember, that when you’re swimming in our Waterworld and you find yourself in choppy waters, we’ll be your arms when you need them!

  12. Kim — that is so sweet! I love that last analogy!
    Lana — thanks! Love ya!

  13. If this doesn’t motivate people to overcome their writing obstacles, I don’t know what will. Congratulations on choosing your dream and going for it no matter how difficult the road. You’re such an inspiration!

  14. Very sweet and motivational post. You have to love what you do – it should be a joy. Goes to show medicine is not as an exact science as we think.

  15. Pintip,
    Wow. Just W-O-W! You are a truly amazing person! Thank you for sharing something so personal and telling us about your amazing journey. This is a wonderful reminder that each of us has a story and you never know what someone else might have had to go through to get where they are. Please feel free to call on me anytime you are struggling through a difficult time. I would be happy to help in any way I can.

  16. Mallory — thank you so much for your kind words.
    Charmaine — so true. I never realized just how inexact a science medicine was. I have to say , though, I much prefer the doctors who admit that they just don’t know to the ones who assume the patient must be making it up.
    Dana — thanks so much for your kind offer! I appreciate it so much and will certainly call on my mermaids when I need encouragement and support!

  17. Hi Pin, it’s taken me this long to catch up with postings. I’m both saddened and impressed by your blog, and I want good things for you. I, too, have voice recognition software for when my fingers just won’t cooperate, and I’ve yet to rely heavily on it. Something in me just keeps backing that cursor up and re-typing. Here’s another mermaid with words of encouragement. We’re swimming with you all the way. — Susan

  18. Thank you, Susan. Call on me anytime you need a mermaid with whom to commiserate.

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