“As an aside, it may feel like we’ve made a ton of progress but we’ve only covered like, 1 year out of 10? And its been 5 months… I need to pick up the pace, or we’ll be recapping for years to come!”

Source: Hugues Ross, ~6 months ago, before vanishing into the ether (as tradition dictates)


I don’t often discuss my health on this blog, but my body is less a sleek roadster so much as a rusty jalopy that’s constantly broken somewhere. Mere days before my twelfth birthday, I experienced my first arthritis flareup and my life changed forever. In just a few short years, I found myself unable to run any great distance without paying The Toll imposed by my hips.

Then, one summer in my early twenties, I discovered my ability to bike uphill had vanished. And not in a “I’m too winded” kind of way–in a “My hips are noticeably popping and cracking and if I ignore it I’m met with intense pain” kind of way.

Then two years ago it was Uveitis also known as Edgy Anime OC eyes disease, which took away my ability to look at bright things or focus on text (such as code) for a few months. It didn’t do any lasting damage, but I’ve been warned that it will return someday for vengeance.

I’ve never liked to call myself disabled because I’ve got this ingrained idea that you’ve gotta be like, wheelchair-bound or something… which is of course wrong, it just means you’re dealing with some weakened / missing / differently-functioning abilities that most people take for granted. Due to no fault of my own, my genes decided to tick the HARD MODE checkbox on the way in and sometimes that makes life and work difficult for me.

Anyway, forget all that cuz whoops this time it really is my fault! Maybe!

How Does Hugues Ross Get So Much Done?

It’s no secret among my friends that I’m a little bit of a workaholic. Like, not the completely unhinged “No sleep only energy drinks” type–but I keep busy all the time. I make dozens of pieces of art per year, work on overambitious projects while maintaining several pieces of software, write occasional blog posts that are longer than they have any right to be, pretend to moderate a small arts community on Discord, and still find time to work forty hours a week for a AAA publisher and clean my house. This year you can also add a brief foray into helping maintain the Minetest voxel game engine as a member of the core team (mostly, testing and reviewing submissions by contributors) and a few (admittedly tiny) contributions to local OpenStreetMap data.

What’s my secret? That’s right, it’s working too much without taking breaks!

And do you know what happens when you push your body too hard? That’s right, it’s injuries!

I Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Title says it all really. I was diagnosed in early June with a (thankfully!) light case of bilateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. At the time (and currently still), my doctor recommended physical therapy for treatment. And it’s working! …ish. Working-ish. As we will discover, that ish is rather important.

The Early Days

From the first few weeks, things seemed pretty promising. Between wrist taping and exercises, my wrists improved rather quickly. Notably, I was doing well enough to keep doing what I was doing… just slower. I also spent a lot of time and money improving the ergonomics of my set up, which was apparently quite bad! So, as I gradually got closer to 100% normal (with tape) things were looking up, but it would turn out the situation was not so simple.

Everything Falls Apart

At this stage, my physical therapist determined that it was time to stop taping and move onto the next stage. This seemed sensible at the time! As for what happened next… I’m not sure if it was inevitable or something I did, but my body quickly went from “capable of doing whatever” to “unable to do much of anything without constantly using a splint”.

This started in August, and the three months that followed were an even mix of pain, mistakes, and boredom. As it turns out, boredom is the real killer. When you can’t make art, use a computer, play videogames, read a book, cook a good meal, write, or do much of anything without putting strain on your wrists, you wind up spending most of your time watching shows and eating frozen meals. And this puts an unbelievable amount of mental strain on you: Your mind starts to wander, then you inevitably begin doing things again and screwing up your wrists. (My old work habits certainly don’t help here either)

And so, even while working reduced hours it was a struggle to make any progress at all. I’d spend weeks watching my wrists gradually improve, then lose it all to a single mistake. One time in October, this backstep was so severe that I had to take two weeks of disability leave.

A New Hope?

If you know much about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or disability in general, you might have noticed that something is missing from this story–accessibility aids. There are ways to use a computer without wrists, particularly using voice control systems. This is something that I was aware of, but deliberately avoided; I was concerned that it would tempt me to try and keep working on things, leading to even more problems. But in the end, as I watched myself occasionally do that anyway I relented and started messing around with a framework called dragonfly.

My fears were well founded! However, it was the right decision–my ability to use a computer has improved dramatically with the introduction of voice control and my recovery has become somewhat more consistent. I’m still making the same mistakes, but I’m taking less of a hit and bouncing back faster because my wrist use during work, checking mail, etc. has dropped dramatically. For the first time in months, I feel like I might actually be getting better. And if I really want to get something done, I now have options. Consider this voice-only drawing session:

If it’s not obvious enough yet, dragonfly is extremely cool and good. Maybe once I’m doing better I’ll write about my setup. In general though, I’m still mostly doing nothing. I’m well aware that if I try to just replace my wrists with my vocal cords, I might damage those as well.

Conclusion..?

Unfortunately, that’s where the story ends. I really wanted to wait until I got better, then make a blog post talking about the process. But it just hasn’t happened, and six months in I feel like I really ought to break the silence.

Things finally feel like they’re moving a little again, but we’re still far from the end. Will I finish my recovery? Will I fail and get my wrists cut open by a surgeon? Only time will tell, but hopefully in time I will return to what I love at a more normal pace.

For the time being, don’t expect much to get done or for much to get posted here. Just know that I will return, and that I’m still doing a little bit–just not very much. My RPG is not dead, and in fact I’ve made some progress even since August (albeit very little). In the meantime I may try to copy over some of the dev logs from itch to give some more concrete info on where I got to before the pace slowed. As for the recaps, they’ll just have to wait until I’m better. They take a lot of energy to write, energy that I cannot really spare right now.

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