Monday, 30 January 2012

Something less cheerful

Being the DH person that I am, when it comes to the need to communicate something widely of course I turn to a digital channel. What I need to say is not very welcome, and makes me quite unhappy, but doing it this way is easier than saying it over and over F2F or on email, so here we go.

From now on, it's going to take me a bit longer to do things such as read article drafts, answer emails, and even (the horror) read books. I have an eye problem: a very painful invisible condition that affects my ability to read as much or as fast as I'd like to. Some of the muscles around my eyes don't work especially well, and this affects my ability to focus on a point- a handy skill when it comes to reading. This means that all reading is hard for me; despite having prisms in the lenses of my glasses, the longer I spend doing so, whether at a screen or on paper, the more I suffer from serious pain and fatigue.

I've probably had it all my life, but it isn't getting any better, and there is no cure and almost no treatment. It may be getting worse with age, or it may be that the insane amount of email and the vast numbers of documents that an HoD has to read are just taking their toll. It seems that my condition probably counts as a disability, so UCL are being very helpful and making all the adjustments that they can: I have an iPad because reading from a screen I can move about is easier than paper, and large high resolution monitors. However, it's been made clear to me that I have to try to be sensible and look after my health as well.

This means that I have to be more careful about the time I spend reading, on screen and answering email. Given that it seems unlikely that the email deluge will slow down any time soon, I think that means I am just going to be slower to deal with things. It might take me longer than you expect to reply to things. It will mean that I can't read things quickly- if you need comments on a document, draft, piece of work etc I will need several days now- overnight just isn't possible any more, however urgent the deadline might be.

It's hard to explain just how frustrating this is. The digital world is where I live: it's my job but also a source of endless fascination and delight. I also love to read- a book is where I go to hide when things get stressful or upsetting. Yet the more of this I do, the more painful it is. There is no way I can explain the nature of the pain- but believe me, it's not just scratchy, tired eye feeling and I'm not just being a wuss. It would take something serious for me to have to do what I am doing. But if I don't things just get worse and worse, to the point when I cannot take in anything at all, or do any useful work because reading, and then actual comprehension become first agonising then actually impossible.

I will try to find ways round this. I am going to investigate various types of software that may help. But the adjustment period will be hard. In the end there is no substitute for rest and taking things slowly or taking time off for my eyes to recover. I have to say no to more things; I have to tell people they have to wait for things, when I know they need them sooner; I have to seem lazy and uncommitted to my job because I just can't do things as quickly as I'd like. Please, therefore, try to be patient while I learn to work around all this. I hope I will learn to manage it better, although the condition itself will never improve, but at first it will be annoying and frustrating for everyone, I'm sure.

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