So apparently I have the thumb of a diabetic farmer with tuberculosis. I have been diagnosed with something called trigger finger… except in my case, it’s trigger thumb. This has nothing to do with an actual trigger, like on a gun. I’ve never even seen a gun in fact, let alone overused one to the point of compromising a digit. It’s the name of a condition where a finger (or a thumb) gets super jacked-up and it hurts to bend and move and hold anything due to the inflammation of the tendon that is in charge of the bending.
When I wake up in the morning and bend my thumb for the first time, I am certain that it will actually break in two… like the top half of my thumb is just going to crack right off and roll across the floor. When I finally do get the courage to bend it, there is a lot of clicking and popping and squeezing my eyes shut in pain. It hurts to hold anything— a doorknob or a glass of water, it hurts to open a jar, it hurts to type (so… ouch), it hurts to write, do the dishes, hold a weight, or even just bend it. So basically, my thumb is hurting just being a thumb. Every thumb-thing it tries to do is painful. And do you know how many things you need your thumb for? One hundred percent of all human activities. They all include a thumb. So it has been a rough few months for my right thumb.
This particular condition is usually found in people who have occupations that require repeated use of their thumb, like a farmer or a musician or someone who works in a factory. Other risk factors include diabetes, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and tuberculosis. I have, do, or am associated with zero of these things. So the cause of my trigger thumb will remain a mystery.
I finally went to the physical therapist yesterday. Because after several months of clicking and pain and inexplicably dropping things, I decided maybe it was time. Which is kind of my thing. I wait until whatever is wrong to be mostly broken or incapacitated… and then I wait a few more weeks… and then I call whatever doctor. I am never glad that I take all of this time to finally ask for help. I never think, boy these few months with a busted thumb sure have been fun. I always find huge relief in finally making the call and at least moving in the direction of recovery.
The treatment is mostly rest, ice, and going to physical therapy three times a week. For now, physical therapy is sitting in a chair while the therapist does all manner of treatments, like an ultrasound wand, a super-hot laser thing, and a steroid patch hooked up to some kind of electrical machine that made my skin feel like it was being slowly but certainly electrocuted. No exercises yet because it’s simply too inflamed. If this doesn’t work, then I have to see a different doctor and there are other things we can try, like cortisone shots and surgery.
But the main prescription is rest. It is basically impossible to rest a thumb unless you are standing or sitting completely still. I can’t really even rest it while I talk because that always requires the use of my hands too, so I’m still trying to figure out exactly what “resting my thumb” will look like.
In this middle part of life there are a lot of times when I wake up and realize that things aren’t working quite as well as I hoped they might. Whether it’s a thumb, maybe a sore back or a stiff knee, or the other parts of life that are complicated and messy. The parts that involve relationships and parenting and the inner workings of the heart and soul. Some days I wake up and it’s painful to bend my thumb. And some days I wake up and find that it’s kind of painful to be a human. Parenting is hard and sometimes that means we find ourselves in seasons that are difficult to navigate. And so we reach out for help in the same way that we do when our thumbs hurt to be a thumb.
And the prescription feels oddly similar… the treatments for a messed-up thumb and a distressed soul aren’t that different. Asking for help, finding good people, and also, rest. Becoming aware of the need to slow down, take a break, practice some good self care, not do any unnecessary bending— can be good for a trigger thumb and it can also do wonders for a weary heart.
So here is to a season of tender care and rest… for hearts and souls and thumbs.