My brain needs reprogramming! (Kinda long)

Darn it, darn it, darn it! All these years learning to type really, really fast, until I literally don’t have to think where to put my fingers – and now I discover that I programmed it in too well.

I’m approaching the point where I’m going to have to have some surgery on my right thumb, that I already had on my left thumb a couple years ago, and I am truly horrified to discover that I cannot hit the spacebar on my keyboard with my left thumb without huge mental effort.

Now, this may not seem like an earth-shattering problem to you, but consider that I’ve been a 100+ wpm typist for at least 20 years now. And I earn my living at this keyboard. And this surgery will leave me with my right hand – and notably my right thumb – in a cast for two months.

I’m left-handed, so you’d think that having the surgery (a thumb joint replacement, for those of you who are curious) on my left hand would have been a far more major trauma. Wrong! Other than a few problems – the embarrassment of having to ask my boss the $400-per-hour lawyer to tie my shoes, figuring out how to put on a bra one-handed, and most important of all, learning how to open the child-proof pain medication bottle one-handed with my non-dominant hand two days after surgery when I really, really needed the drugs – having my left hand out of commission was No Big Deal, somewhat to my surprise. Oh, I couldn’t write anything for two months (except once when they made me sign my name for something or other, an exercise in ludicrousness), but that was okay because I could still type. I could still type with three or four fingers of my left hand and all five on my right. (The cast didn’t come up to my knuckles, so I had the use of my fingers as long as I didn’t overdo it.)

Trying to convince myself I can do it (I think I can, I think I can,I think I can), I’ve spent the last two days trying to type using only my left thumb on the spacebar. At first I would use my right thumb so unconsciously that I finally rubber-banded it to the rest of my hand for a while to force it to be still. Now I find that I can use my left thumb if I type at about 40 wpm, as long as I have my eyes shut – for some reason if my eyes are open my poor feeble brain decides that it’s overloaded between trying to read and think at the same time and shuts down completely – but my right hand tenses up to the point where it turns into a claw from trying not to use that thumb. Which, if I’ve just had that surgery (memories of pain that will never fade away entirely, no matter how wonderful the surgery was in every other respect), is definitely not something I want to happen. I am speaking from deeply painful experience here.

Any suggestions on reprogramming channels in the brain? I mean, if I permanently lost the use of my right thumb, I realize I’d have to get used to it. I don’t have to do this – yet, that is; at some point I know I will, but I’d rather not wait that long – but would sure rather be able to do it when the time comes so that I’m not trying to deal with all the other aggravation from the hand surgery.

Can anyone thing of any way to do it other than just gutting it out? I want the quick and easy way! I don’t want to have to suffer through learning to type all over again!!!

Sometimes it’s a pain in the rear learning to do something too well, you know?

Mama Tiger, it sounds like there’s trouble at the mill. I was going to recommend strapping down the offending digit, but you’ve already gotten to the bondage stage without me.

What I’d suggest is that throughout the day, even when you are not typing, make a conscious effort to “trigger” your left thumb. Twitch it, tap it on countertops, pick your nose with it, if that’s what it takes. Start burning activity traces into your brain that are associated with this underappreciated opposing digit.

The only other thing I can think of is a thumb ring to provide constant tactile input that makes you more aware of the left thumb than the right.

Remember, us left handers are the only ones in our right minds.

Amen to that, Zenster. You’d think I’d be more conscious of my left thumb, especially since I went through several months of excruciatingly painful therapy after the last surgery to bring it to its current totally non-painful state, but nooo, old habits die too hard.

Why didn’t that stupid typing teacher make me use both thumbs? Or did he, and I ignored him?

Some others that might help:

Tap the left thumb constantly against the spacebar while typing, so that an actual spacebar keystroke will be only a slightly harder version of what you’re already doing.

Do some practice typing, even just the individual keystrokes, with just the left hand, keeping your right hand off the keyboard entirely.

While typing, repeat to yourself “left thumb, left thumb”

Hit the space bar with BOTH thumbs at the same time. Maybe even keep your right thumb on top of your left, so that the right thumb’s movement causes the LEFT thumb to hit the spacebar.

I hate divided space bars. What a useless thing.

I use a ergonomic keyboard, Vlad, so I can’t put my right thumb on top of my left thumb without some awkward gyrations. Too bad, it’s a good idea.

I’ll try using both thumbs, but I’m afraid that it will confuse my already confused brain even further. I had insomnia last night so sat up late typing slowly and frustratingly with just my left thumb. It never got comfortable (or speedy), but it at least started being doable.

Another annoying thing I realized after I posted my OP is that since I use a trackball mouse, I switch it back and forth between my hands periodically and reverse the keys when I do so I’m single-clicking with my thumb. And I’ve been doing it with my left hand for the last several months. You’d think mouse clicking would be close enough to spacebar clicking for the feeble brain cells to make some sort of connection. Not a chance, apparently. My brain has compartmentalized far beyond that point. Even 7000 games of Snood haven’t been enough to persuade my left thumb that it can click on the keyboard just as easily.