Through all the long years since I first learned to knit there has never been a time when I didn’t have something on the needles. For almost twenty years knitting has been my constant companion; the first thing I pick up each morning, after I put the kettle on, and the last thing I put down at night. Even when I’m busy during the day, I always make time to knit. Waiting rooms, road and rail trips, every opportunity to sit quietly becomes a welcome opportunity to pull out yarn and needles. I have a hard time imagining leaving the house without knitting in my bag. Lately, however, I’ve had many opportunities to practice doing just that.
It’s been six days since I last knit anything; I can’t begin to count the many ways that I am missing it.
The reason I’m wandering in the wilderness of the non-knitting world is that knitting hurts. I’ve had a shoulder problem for over two years now that is exacerbated by any repetitive motion. Despite employing a variety of different treatments and strategies over the years, the range of motion in my right shoulder is about half what it should be. To illustrate: raise one of your arms right now – yes, now – and bring the inside of your elbow up to your ear. I can’t do that. I can’t manage to raise my arm beyond 45 degrees on the right side. (If I were a Nazi, I’d probably be in really big trouble.) Sitting at the computer for too long is bad, but nothing makes me hurt as much as knitting.
Though I’ve been aware for many months that knitting, specifically, causes me pain, I couldn’t hope to entertain the obvious solution until I’d moved through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross‘ Five stages of (Knitting) Grief. I’ve knit my way through:
1. Denial – This is isn’t happening. Pass the ibuprofen.
2. Anger – Pass the fucking ibuprofen.
3. Bargaining – Just two inches, I swear. No more. Seriously, pass the ibuprofen.
4. Depression – There is no point to a life without knitting. Pass the hemlock. And also the ibuprofen.
This week I decided to put down my needles for as long as it takes my shoulder to heal. I’m still working on Acceptance.
I don’t think that knitting is the cause of pain my shoulder, but I am positive that knitting is one of the things standing between me and being well. Stumbling my way towards the final stage of Knitting Grief has forced me to admit that the many benefits I’ve received from a regimen of acupuncture and gentle exercise, have been entirely undone by my stubborn refusal to give up knitting, and my childish reliance on ibuprofen to mask the pain. That stubborn, childish behavior caught up with me earlier this month, when I awoke in the wee hours with the worst abdominal pain I’ve ever experienced. Worse than childbirth. Worse, even, than the pain after gall bladder surgery, because I was awake to experience it, and not groggy from anesthesia.
The nice EMT’s said I was among the 2% of patients they see whom they believe actually needs pain medication, so they gave me some and took me to the hospital. There the nice emergency doctor poked around and asked a bunch of questions and she suggested that, of four possible scenarios, a problem with the lining of my stomach was the likeliest cause of my pain. We talked about “corrosives”, of which ibuprofen is apparently a biggie. Drugs will help repair the damage to my stomach, and I will be fine, but it’s really gotta be the end of popping ibuprofen like Tic-Tacs.
Without ibuprofen my shoulder is unbelievably painful; the kind of painful that wakes you in the middle of the night, to remind you it will still be there for you in the morning. It’s even worse after knitting, so there will be no knitting, of any kind, from now until my shoulder is pain free. It’s been six days since I last knit anything (did I mention that?); I cannot begin to count the number of ways in which I miss it.
January was a blur of health issues, which ought to go some way towards explaining my silence over the past month. What’s even worse is that it must continue. Editing audio requires a very specific set of repetitive motions on the computer, and is also beyond my physical capacity. Truthfully though, even if I felt better, even if editing audio didn’t hurt almost as much as knitting, I’m not sure I could muster up the mojo for a podcast, nor would the podcast I’d create right now be much fun to listen to. Both knitting, and Cast On are unexpectedly on hiatus, until my shoulder heals.
We’ve all heard stories of people who knit once, but don’t anymore, and I know you’ve probably wondered, just as I have, how in the hell they did it. Did they wean themselves off it, or go Cold Turkey? Did they miss it as much as I do? I’m sure I don’t know.
I am also sure that there is a silver lining, a ray of sunshine, or some kind of bright side to all of this. There must be. When I reach Acceptance, I’ll let you know what it is.