It can be difficult to see the bright side of all the health problems I’ve had in the past year. Hard to see what’s so great at trekking up to London to talk to specialists who can only tell me that I have to get strong to stop myself from falling apart and don’t, actually, have a magic cure for everything. Hard to see the positive part of being exiled from my musical instruments and the ensembles that were my entire social life, or having to leave archery. Hard to appreciate not being able to write without severe pain for about six months, and the impact that had on my schoolwork and my mental health.
But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s possible.
Despite the apparently acute nature of my wrist trouble, it’s actually a chronic condition that happened to flare up and then … not go away. Many would refer to it as a disability, even though on a day-to-day basis I don’t think of myself as disabled unless it happens to be particularly bad at that moment (it can very from day to day, or even hour to hour). It’s bad enough that I’m eligible for financial support known as Disabled Students Allowance.
Thanks to this, I’ve been provided with equipment — completely free of charge — to help me complete my studies at university, costs that I have which a completely able-bodied student wouldn’t have had to pay. After applying and providing medical evidence, I had to have an assessment, where I answered questions about what I’m able to do, what causes difficulty or pain, etc. The assessor worked out what I needed, and once it had been approved, it was provided.
It arrived this morning, and I’ve been gleefully playing with my new toys ever since.
I know, I won’t be going to uni for another two and a half months. And, scarily, if I don’t get in anywhere I’ll have to pay the full amount of the equipment. Eek! But hopefully even if I miss my grades, a university will take pity on me and let me in, and it will all be okay.
It includes a Microsoft Surface 2 tablet — something I’d never have bought myself. Not only are they expensive, but my general suspicion of tablets would probably have continued unabated if it weren’t for the fact that in the autumn term of last year, I wasn’t able to type or handwrite for any length of time, and couldn’t take notes in class. I was able to borrow a tablet from the school’s special needs department that I used to take notes in class (and, possibly, for procrastination when not in class…).
When I had to return it after my exams had finished, I felt kind of bereft, though I haven’t needed it when I haven’t been in school. Okay, it would be nice to be able to work on my novel in a more portable manner, since handwriting and later transcribing is twice as much work and therefore too much for my hands, but that’s not a necessity.
Now, I’ve got a tablet. And I feel incredibly blessed. If I hadn’t developed my wrist problems, I would have been faced with three years of lugging my laptop around uni if I wanted to type notes, and three years of taking handwritten notes and typing them up if I didn’t, which would have meant deciphering my appalling handwriting, and that’s just too much effort. Now, my neck and back will be spared the effort of carrying JARVIS, and I’ll be able to work wherever I am … no matter how tiny the tables.
Okay, so typing on a tablet isn’t perfect. There are still days when that’s painful for me. There may even be days when I want to take notes by hand and then dictate them to my computer later because that happens to be easier, especially for a dead language where the alphabet may not entirely match up with the symbols the tablet has available. But I have the option.
It’s one of the few occasions where I’ll be benefiting from the current student finance situation, which is changing after my year, so that DSAs will be less generous. If I were a year younger, I might not have been able to get the tablet at all. I’m sure, had they considered it a necessity, my parents would have found the money to buy me one, but this way, they can save that money for something else.
(And I’ve got a printer. Although I don’t think I’ll be able to use it wirelessly when I’m at uni, or I’ll have everybody in the building printing five hundred pictures of bananas at 3am just to annoy me because they’ve found out I have a WiFi printer — the disadvantages of being on a network. Unless I can somehow lock it down to me.)
(And a voice recorder that I will totally not be using to record demos of the folk songs I’ve been learning, in addition to its primary purpose as being to record lectures in case my note-taking skills fail me.)
So yes, maybe it sucks having hypermobility syndrome. And I’m still pretty sure I’d trade in the last year’s pain for a tablet-less lifestyle any day, because it probably isn’t worth going through all that just to be given technology. But it’s possible to see the bright side, and see the things that it’s done for me that are positive.
Now excuse me — I’ve got to figure out how on earth Windows 8 even works, because it’s the world’s least intuitive operating system, and I am incompetent.