Part of this introduction is a lesson that your body is just as important as the instrument you use it to play. They tell you that you should listen to your body, and if something hurts there’s a reason. You shouldn’t mistake destruction for the good pain of muscle development. What they don’t teach you is what you’re supposed to do when the damage has already been done. No one can prepare you to completely change your life, abandon all of your current goals at nineteen.
The thing about nerve damage is, it’s usually not something that happens abruptly. You don’t just wake up one day with your body completely unwilling to follow instructions. It’s something that happens gradually and it’s so easy to ignore because this is the type of damage that happens when the pain subsides.
For a violinist, it’s easier to notice a tiny change in sensitivity – not because you know you can’t feel it, but because your ears are hearing something that completely disagrees with your hands. Your pinkie, an always trusted companion, suddenly isn’t where he’s supposed to be and you can’t actually feel that he’s gone. It’s like waking up and remembering you’re sleeping alone because you can’t hear the other person breathing.
It’s not until you start dropping things that you really begin to comprehend what nerve damage means. With Cubital Tunnel Syndrome it’s hard to get past the soreness in your elbows or the pain shooting down the outside of your forearms. Other people, they just think you’re clumsy, unaware of your surroundings. But the truth is, you knew you had a firm hold on that cup. That bowl of cereal you dumped all over the couch for no reason – it was perfectly balanced in your left hand; and that tray of drinks you spilled all over that customer, well, that was just a rite of passage.