Miranda Kenneally

Mexican Food Cures Writer's Block

PSA: Side Effects of Spending Too Much Time on the Computer!

Five years ago, right before I signed with my literary agent, I hurt my back. It was Thanksgiving and I was at my husband’s family’s house. His mom chose to bake the turkey in olive oil, and because my purse was in the kitchen at the time of cooking, the olive-oil-turkey smell infused into my leather purse. For some strange reason, Husband then placed the purse on top of my pillow, so when I went to sleep that night, all I could smell was this turkey/olive oil monstrosity.

So I got out of bed and went to find a couch to sleep on, only to discover that my husband’s parents do not seem to have couches! They only have love seats. So I curled up on a love seat, and the next morning I had a horribly stiff neck. I couldn’t move my neck from side to side and I couldn’t sit up straight in a chair. I kept sinking down into my chair like I was melting.

I spent the day drinking wine and gin & tonics, trying to take the edge off the pain from the stiffness, but finally I gave up. I went to the emergency room, where they told me I had torticollis, a nerve injury. Basically, because I was so stressed out over getting a literary agent and selling my first book, I had given myself a back spasm. The doctors gave me valium, which basically made me not care about anything. All I remember from that period is that I wrote a scene about an online dating service?? from 4 different points of view.

Over the years since then, I’ve worked very hard to maintain calmness and not let my back clench up again like during the Turkey-Olive Oil-Love Seat-Torticollis Incident of 2009. I don’t want to experience that kind of pain again. Every time I feel a muscle spasm coming on, I immediately stop what I’m doing and just try to relax.

About two weeks ago, when my new book BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE was coming out, I started to feel my muscles cramping up. I knew I had to relax and stop the pain before it really got going, so I got a massage, I stretched a ton at the gym, I relaxed, I drank some margaritas to take the edge off, but nothing worked! Pretty soon, my back was killing me and I couldn’t get a full night’s sleep. I couldn’t sleep on my back or either of my sides, so I tried sleeping sitting up and also lying on a yoga mat. Nothing worked.

Last week I had a series of doctor’s appointments and an MRI, and the doctors confirmed that I have a ruptured disc in my upper spine. 🙁 This is causing all the nerve endings in my shoulder to hurt like crazy. I’m unable to sleep for more than an hour or two at a time because my body stiffens up if I stay in one position for too long. The lack of sleep + pain medication means I am super loopy and not thinking straight, which is making things very difficult for me given that I have a book deadline this Friday!!

To fix the ruptured disc, the doctors are going to try to repair it naturally through physical therapy and wearing a white cervical collar (it looks like I have whiplash! I’m telling everyone I was in a cool motorcycle wreck. My husband is telling people I was in a Vespa accident, which I take offense at).

The x-ray and MRI showed that my spine has started to change shape because I spend too much time leaning over a computer. This led to me having a ruptured disc. Now I have to change my habits. I can’t be on the computer for 12+ hours a day anymore. I have to get a standing desk for work, so that I can improve my posture and fix the way I hold my neck for long periods of time.

If in 3-4 weeks, after I change my habits, my neck is still not better, I might have to have surgery. Which I absolutely do not want.

Even worse, I’m not allowed to run right now. I am only allowed to use the stationary bike, which is like hell on earth for me. I’m a terrible cyclist!

But the absolute worse part is that I am not sure how this will affect my writing going forward. Will I spend more time drafting on paper before typing it into the computer later? Should I get a Helper Intern who types what I tell him/her to write? Perhaps a Helper Monkey?!

All of this is very scary for me and I’m not sure what will happen, but I wanted to share with you that I might not be online as much in the coming weeks.

And most importantly: you should definitely pay careful attention to your posture and how much time you spend on the computer! I’m definitely paying for it now.

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Comments (2)

2 Responses to “PSA: Side Effects of Spending Too Much Time on the Computer!”

  1. So that’s how you injured your back. Ouch! You are reminding me to push back my shoulders and stretch. I’m in PT for a back injury too. Have you considered a treadmill desk? I’ve heard those can help. We replaced our old spring coil mattress with a gel one and that made it much easier to sleep. I hope you feel better soon. I enjoyed Catching Jordan and Racing Savannah is in my TBR stack.

  2. Chanpreet says:

    Ouch! I hope they’re able to fix it with out surgery. let that be a lesson to anyone who thinks writing is a pain/stress free job.

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