Today is World Crohns Disease and Colitis Day- though I'm not completely sure how such a day is selected, it's been declared so by CCFA (Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America). It's Crohns that's taken me out of the working world.. it's a tough disease with no cure at the moment. Folks with it fall into a "Managed Disease" category, which means they try to keep the symptoms at bay, with varying success. I'll tell you firsthand it's not something I would wish on anyone. Imagine a stomach flu that never goes away, for starters..
Patients of Crohns (like myself) and other diseases that cause chronic illness can often suffer nearly as badly mentally over time as they do physically. Depression among the chronically ill is understandably a severe issue- and it's primary cause is far too often a mind left to perseverate on the illness. Worse yet, that depression feeds upon itself, negatively impacting health, only making matters worse.
My photography began as a method to pull myself out of this depression cycle; I'm proud to say I'm trying to get a program started with a local hospital to do photo day trips with chronically ill patients as a form of Art Therapy. So many patients don't even realize the level of mental impact their disease has had on them until they can pull themselves up enough to see how far they fell. I was one of those patients, and I consider it a mission to try to help others get out of that hole you can get into far too easily. The biggest impact I see, in terms of people's overall happiness, is when someone jumps into a way to forget about their disease for a while.. be it searching for a great photo subject or tinkering with an Arduino making one silly project or another. If you can't stop being sick, you can at least occupy your mind with something else- and really need to.
One recommendation I give to patients now is Arduino.
It's not for everyone. We have to admit, it does take a certain kind of mind to want to tinker.. but in my case, Arduino has provided me with starting and end points that have led to countless hours of learning about a myriad of subjects. Sick folks sometimes have many "down times", staring at the walls. Doctors, waiting rooms, infusions- all of which now can be filled with curiosity sparked by thinking about how a little Arduino might be fun or useful, thanks to the internet. This post is being composed as I'm riding out a series of bad cramps, waiting for the meds to do their thing.. until those meds kick in, the best thing I can do is think about something else. It's really that simple. If there were a path between Arduino.cc and wikipedia and/or Google, I'd have worn it down to bedrock by myself just blue-sky thinking of oddball projects, most of which will never happen. The point is that I was occupied doing that, rather than lamenting in the moment. Distraction can be more effective than Percocet, sometimes.
The thing is, a challenging hobby like this keeps the mind engaged and not stuck on being sick. I've begun to suggest to some folks that I consider non-technical at this point that they might want to give Arduino a go.. smart enough folks, just not currently inclined to this sort of thing.. but are dealing with chronic illness. "Get a hobby" is real medicine to the chronically ill.
Arduino has provided me a tremendous starting (and end) point to mental explorations that are NOT about being sick. That's therapy in it's own right.
Arduino helping cure the sick- or at least helping the sick not suffer quite as much. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Thanks for making Arduino what it is.