Why the pencil is mightier than the sword.

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Yes, I know, it is normally a pen but in my case it is a pencil. I will explain shortly. For those of you that know me, I am physically very strong and have been this way for most of my life. In my life, I have been division one tennis player, I studied martial arts including taekwondo, hapkido, arnis and aikido, I was a firefighter and most recently and amateur power lifter with an ability to deadlift 215 lbs (90 kilos) and the comical bragging rights that I could lift more than my husband’s weight just prior to arriving in Italy in September 2013. All my physical pursuits provide me with mental stamina, discipline, stress relief and joy for me. I always juggle many activities at once and it took two years to slowly off-load my plate so that I could focus only on everything that I wanted to do during my sabbatical. You get the point.


After 6 months of drawing 6-10 hours for 5 to 6 days a week coupled with more painting or drawing afterschool or reading and writing, I had to stop drawing for one week and rest. For weeks, I had some tension in my neck and trapezius, something I have experienced in the past. More recently, it felt as if I need to crack my collarbone as if it were out of place. A massage relieved the tension for a couple of days and then the collarbone issue became worse. When I had trouble sleeping on my right side and when I noticed that the discomfort was worse at the end of a drawing week at school, I went to the doctor.


After shoulder xrays and some meds for pain that did not work, I had to wait two weeks to see an orthopedic specialist at the CTO, which is the hospital for orthopedic trauma.  Even walking made my collarbone hurt. While waiting for the day for the appointment to arrive, the pain became so bad one afternoon while drawing at school, I could not lift my arm to draw without an unusual amount of pain. Nothing like this has ever happened to me! At that point I decided to go to the ER at CTO (Center for Traumatic Orthopedics) and utilize my Italian emergency health insurance.  This next round consisted of neck xrays, an order to rest for one week without drawing, different pain meds and what looked like high dose vitamins to relax the muscles and nerves (no blood tests). After drawing almost every day, try stopping for one week when you are living by yourself away from home. That was a very long week. Even holding a book or walking made my collarbone area hurt after a short while. Totally strange, yes?


Finally, my appointment with the specialist at CTO arrived. The doctor brought his wife to help translate and they were both extremely nice. Switching between Italian and English, I explained everything that I had been doing the past 6 months and all of my symptoms. After many movement tests, review of all my files, xrays, etc. the doctor told me that all of my xrays are normal and healthy and that the issue was not entirely clear. However, I should not let anyone else perform any other tests on me after two sets of xrays. The pain meds that the pharmacist gave me were apparently incorrect so I am glad that I stopped taking them. The doctor prescribed several sessions of physio called Tecar Terapia and one week of NSAID meds for pain. Have any of you ever had Tecar Therapy? Apparently it speeds up healing time for injuries and had been used to help professional athletes recover faster from injuries. If after 6 or 7 sessions of physio, the pain does not subside, then I have to go back at the end of April for an MRI to determine if it is more serious. As of right now, the doctor thinks that I just have an extreme amount of inflammation. I am not allowed to draw for more than 6 or 8 hours a day and I have to take many breaks. No more drawing during breaks or through part of lunchtime. I am leaving out many details surrounding all of the interactions along the way and I definitely became frustrated during the past several weeks waiting for the pain to subside.


The pain meds, now that they are correct, are actually working and so is the physio thus far. I finish the meds this week and I am half way through my physio. The physical therapist said that my trapezius muscles are very tight and one side is like a rock. This happens when you are in the same position for long periods of time with no other significant stretching or movement and poor ergonomics negatively affecting posture. Right now, I have no more pain near my right clavicle. After a couple of days, my muscles start to tighten and ache a little but it is significantly less. I can walk and take the bus without each bump causing any pain. I am hopeful that the physio will work but this may mean that I may have to actually slow down. This week is the end of my second semester at the Angel Academy and I will have a couple of weeks off. My hubby is coming to see me, which is so AWESOME and EXCITING!


In May, I will be a guest artist at Richmond the American University of London’s Florence Center end of year exhibition (woohoo!) so I must continue to paint.


I have two options:


Option A “Keep-going-at-a-slower-pace-because-you-don’t-know-if-you-will-be-100%-better-or-regret-not-going”: Attend the last trimester at the Angel Academy to complete the charcoal cast drawings, more life drawing and take off some days when I need to and just go slower….the third trimester was always up in the air depending on what other opportunities came my way…but will I regret not trying especially when I am right here


Option B “Chill-out-paint for many future exhibits-save $ to use for travel-play-it-safe”: Skip the last trimester, just take a couple of evening classes at the Angel Academy like portrait or short pose and spend the rest of time here painting, visiting more circuses and traveling before my next PhD residency in Berlin/Paris/Istanbul in June?



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