Learning to throw with my left hand

This is how my left hand throws
This is how my left hand throws

I really loved to play ball when I was a kid — basketball, football, soccer… and especially baseball, softball, whiffleball… you name it. If there was a ball (and preferably a stick to hit it) involved, I was in.

I loved the pace of the ballgame, the cadence, the mental game, the choreography on the field. Watching ballgames was less interesting for me than actually being on the field. I wanted to be IN it. Not watching.

So, I grew up throwing a ball. I often had a glove on my left hand, and now that I am practicing juggling, I can tell just how biased the use of my hands has been.

My left hand is kind of useless, when it comes to tossing a ball into the air to catch. It’s strange to realize this, because it never really occurred to me before. Maybe I never had to think about it before. But now I’m training myself — training my brain — to be better coordinated, so I’m finding out just how much work my left hand needs, to hold up its end of the bargain.

The simple motion of tossing a ball into the air, palm up, wrist flexing, is no easy feat for my left hand. I had no idea I was this uncoordinated. Is this a new thing, or have I always been this way? I suspect I’ve always been this way — or at least for a very long time — because I’ve always avoided even trying to use my left hand to throw. It didn’t look good. I looked like that guy on the VW commercial who’s trying to show his son how to throw a ball.

And it’s just awful.

But my left hand can relate.

So, I’m doing something about it. I’m paying close attention to how my right hand throws — the movement of my wrist and fingers and how coordinated they are, through the whole motion. I not only have to notice how my hand moves together to toss it, but I have to notice how my fingers contact the ball while I’m holding it, and how my arm moves to catch it when it’s on its way back down.

This is much more challenging than I expected. And I didn’t even realize I needed help, till I tried switching directions with my juggling a few days ago.

And my discovery that my left hand is way dorky, really put me off. It embarrassed and distressed me, so I stopped juggling for a few days.

Now I’m back at it, because I am NOT going to let it stop me. I am going to train my left hand to trow — or at least toss. I have to get both sides working independently.

And so I shall.

Slowly but surely, with plenty of rest in between. Because when I really focus on something for a short period, then I take a break and rest, my brain and body are able to integrate the information and grow and learn and develop new skills.

But I have to give it a rest. Pushing myself is counter-productive. I need to give my brain a chance to catch up.

Spring is here. And I think I’m going to start spending time outside when the weather is nice, practicing my juggling and throwing. It’s been a long time since I played ball regularly, and I miss it. But getting back in that game could pose certain dangers — like getting clunked on the head again. When I play, I lose myself in the game and I push it, so the chances of me getting hurt again are not neglibible.

What’s the alternative? Do some of the things I miss — like tossing / throwing and catching a ball. And do it in a different way — like juggling. That’s about as low-impact a sport as I can find, frankly. It might be a good use of my time.

Is juggling my new sport?

 

 

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Slideshow on head injuries in football

These pictures are worth thousands of words.

Are you SURE you want your kids to play football?

Thinking about PTSD and Tetris…

I’ve been giving some thought to the whole “Tetris fixes PTSD flashbacks” concept, over the past few weeks.

Some people agree, others don’t. Here’s an interesting discussion over at Vetvoice.com about it.

I have to admit, I have found some relief while playing Tetris. It’s so interactively neutral — no people to shoot, no mortal danger to avoid, no sudden loud sounds and flashing colors to tax my already frazzled system. I have tried playing it when I was extremely agitated about stuff that was coming up in therapy… flashbacks, in particular. For whatever reason, I found the flashbacks subsiding and images of dropping brightly-colored Tetris pieces showing up instead of the shadowy figure appearing suddenly in front of me. It seemed me me that Tetris images were literally replacing the unwanted flashbacks.

Or maybe it’s just me. But I can tell you, my system really started to chill out. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

One of the commenters at the discussion about this over at Vetvoice.com suggested. “And why not win every tetris computer game you play, while you’re at it design a new one!”

It made sense to me, so I decided to do just that. I’ve been working on alternative versions of the game, with different colors. My first attempts are a bit rudimentary, the changes being isolated to the colors alone. But it’s working.

Tetris Screenshot 1

Tetris Screenshot 2

Tetris Screenshot 3

You can get to “PTSTetris” by following this link: http://ptstetris.110mb.com/

I don’t know if it really works, but the logic seems sound. I think we can’t make generalizations all across the board about whether it will fix what’s wrong, but if nothing else, spending a few minutes rearranging colored blocks beats flashing back on wretchedness that intrudes on my regular day, getting all anxious and agitated and freaked out over stuff that happened a long time ago in a very different place.

I’ll probably be creating more color schemes, as time goes on, but for now, at least this is up and running.

Cheers

Playing Past PTSD – Using Tetris to Relieve Trauma

A little while back, I came across mention that playing the game Tetris can help relieve — or even prevent — post-traumatic stress disorder (esp. flashbacks), if it’s played immediately after a traumatic event.

Can Playing the Computer Game “Tetris” Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma? A Proposal from Cognitive Science by Emily A. Holmes*, Ella L. James, Thomas Coode-Bate, Catherine Deeprose from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom published a paper you can read here. The abstract is below.

Abstract
Background

Flashbacks are the hallmark symptom of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Although we have successful treatments for full-blown PTSD, early interventions are lacking. We propose the utility of developing a ‘cognitive vaccine’ to prevent PTSD flashback development following exposure to trauma. Our theory is based on two key findings: 1) Cognitive science suggests that the brain has selective resources with limited capacity; 2) The neurobiology of memory suggests a 6-hr window to disrupt memory consolidation. The rationale for a ‘cognitive vaccine’ approach is as follows: Trauma flashbacks are sensory-perceptual, visuospatial mental images. Visuospatial cognitive tasks selectively compete for resources required to generate mental images. Thus, a visuospatial computer game (e.g. “Tetris”) will interfere with flashbacks. Visuospatial tasks post-trauma, performed within the time window for memory consolidation, will reduce subsequent flashbacks. We predicted that playing “Tetris” half an hour after viewing trauma would reduce flashback frequency over 1-week.

Now, it’s been a while since I had a really traumatic experience — tho’ the winter storms we had last December did leave their mark. But I thought I’d just see if I could find Tetris online, and I did — JS Tetris 1.17

It will run in your regular browser using javascript, and you don’t need to download anything different or special to run it.

I like this game because it has vertical lines that help me line up the pieces that are “falling”. The pieces are brightly colored. And the controls are on the arrows on my keyboard, not the numbers, which tends to get me turned around. Also, I can restart the game anytime without it complaining at me. Some games make me feel pretty inadequate when I stop them before I finish. Or they try to upsell me and get me to purchase a “full” version. No thanks. I just want to start from scratch.

I don’t know if Tetris does any good in the long-term, but I know after spending a little time playing this a.m., I’m feeling a little more focused.  And after mucking up about seven different tries at filling up the bottom row, I’m ready to do something useful and productive with my time. So, playing Tetris poorly — in its own way — helps me get past my issues, t0o 😉

Something for everyone.