all hail the supraspinatus

RotatorCuffTearWhat Megan thinks she’s done to her shoulder, a.k.a. full rupture of the tendon that holds your arm in the air. Because I can’t lift my arm up or hold it up if someone else lifts it. Not even a little bit. What I thought was working through self-induced arthritic pain these last few weeks was likely me pushing a torn ligament into becoming a ruptured one.


If so, it will be my second major ligament rupture in 6 months.


I read an article on the Critical Health Psychology blog this morning by the esteemed supervisor Kerry on keeping conference presentations short, so here is my attempt to keep this blog post short.


  • I’m an idiot. True, I’ve known this for decades, but it never hurts to get a refresher course. Here’s the thing: you’re supposed to keep working (gently) through inflammatory arthritis, and that’s what I thought it was. If I’d known the shoulder pain was a tearing ligament, I would have been kinder to it. Or so I say now. Probably I would have still actually just thought it was no big deal really, and kept working anyway. Because most things aren’t a big deal, are they?
  • Having your shoulder joint suddenly stop working entirely is a great way to make the fact that your laptop has also suddenly stopped working entirely seem not so bad. They both occurred first thing the same morning, and while I was emailing relevant parties about the laptop (using my smart phone, which is really a very clever little thing that I never actually use as a phone), it was the shoulder I was freaking out about.
  • Illness is one thing, disability another. With a chronically painful condition like psoriatic arthritis, you know the flares will come and go. Tomorrow will likely be an improvement, or the next day. And no-one need know there’s anything different about you compared to them, it’s relatively simple to keep it to yourself; one stiff upper lip and all is concealed. But not being able to move a limb? At this stage it’s likely something can be done about my pseudoparalysis (so-called because nerve and muscle are intact), and I’ll regain the function I lost somehow, to some extent, but the idea of living like this for the next 40 years, the way someone with an irreversible kind of paralysis or amputation would have to – that’s disturbing in a way I haven’t experienced before.
  • Which has led me to understand Julia just a little better. I’m not equating my experience with hers – that would be idiocy piled upon stupid – but I am saying that understanding something in a different way for myself gives me another emotional and physical experience type of window through which I can view and interpret Julia’s stories, adding (I hope) to their empathy and depth.
  • It hurts to type for too long.

And one last insight – I would recommend actually thinking about your  bullet points before you write them to make sure they have any kind of vague relevance. I would say 1/5 isn’t bad, but it kind of actually is.

Coming soon to a blog post near you: selfies, and what are they good for?; what does validity means in narrative research (jokes, I don’t know); how to finish a thesis one-handed.

Oh, and also one about time. I’ve been thinking about how time is experienced differently in research for a participant (often remembering experiences from the present to the past,  that have been years, perhaps decades, sometimes generations, in the living), for a student researcher (a strict linear timeline lived from present to future for anything from 6 months to around 6 years), and for the readers of the research (measured in mere hours, also lived forward, though this all gets murky where it connects to experiences of our own), and how that affects our relative needs, expectations, and interpretations. Maybe it’s irrelevant, maybe it isn’t.

I still can’t believe after nearly a week of living with it that I can no longer lift my arm from the shoulder. It’s exceedingly, exceptionally, distressingly, weird.

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