I don't need a new drug (but I need a new drug).
August 6, 2013 5:25 AM   Subscribe

Somehow having a chronic illness became my hobby for the past year. Now I'm getting better and I want to stop dwelling on it, but I don't remember how I used to pass the time. Snowflake details inside.

I have ulcerative colitis, an incurable chronic illness. When I got sick last year I got very sick, and the time I used to spend on active hobbies turned into computer time, and the computer time I used to spend doing... other stuff?... turned into reading about ulcerative colitis. I wanted to learn as much as I could about my illness, find new treatments, connect with similar individuals, etc, and the internet made this pretty easy.

Flash forward a year: I've just finished a sequence of three major surgeries that are effectively a cure for ulcerative colitis (this is highly debatable, but FAR outside the scope of this Ask -- for the purposes of framing my question, this is how I see it).

I have a long recovery ahead of me and I have no responsibilities aside from seeing myself through it (no kids, on leave from my job). I'm only capable of spending a small amount of time active or outside the house each day (walking around the neighborhood, light household chores) so that time is already accounted for. The rest of the day I'm on my couch or on a chair in the yard, usually with my laptop in hand.

What I'm looking for are online activities that scratch the same itch but don't have anything to do with UC. I think it's important for my recovery to have a positive outlook and stop thinking of myself as a sick person who needs to be looking out for the next treatment. I also don't want to dwell on the day to day minutiae of my recovery (a common maxim is "look for progress in weeks, not days"). Some things I already do to pass the time:

- Watch light movies I've always wanted to see
- Binge watch TV shows
- Knit
- Read
- Gchat with friends; follow Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Read MetaFilter and AskMetafilter

The last two items are the ones that come closest to what I need. The vast majority of my friends work full time or at least have something else going on, so I get bursts of socializing during the day but not the kind of on-demand anytime fast paced interaction I seem to feed on from UC forums. Reading books and watching TV/movies feel very passive to me and it's hard to just sit back and do either one for more than an hour or so (and I'm almost always knitting or playing a mindless game at the same time).

Am I doomed to a month of reading Reddit? How can I hack my brain to go back to wasting time on the internet the way I used to? Have you ever overcome a similar challenge? And, in general, what activities were your life/brainsavers during a period of similar sedentary recovery?
posted by telegraph to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
How about picking an online game to join, and finding a community there?

I'm not a huge gamer, but I occasionally think about that as something I'd do if I ever had long periods of enforced down-time. Mainly cause those games look pretty fun, but I always think "where do they find the time?!".

I think some of them can hoover up cash if you get sucked in too hard so maybe set yourself a budget before you start.

The other thing I thought of was volunteering - I volunteer copy-edit at the moment and it only takes an hour a week or so, but I like doing it. If you have a skill you could share without physical exertion, consider offering it to people/organisations who could use it for free, to keep your hand in as much as anything! So long as they don't expect super regular activity on your part.
posted by greenish at 5:34 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Babble is an awesome daily word puzzle. It is my go to internet time-sink and it actually somewhat stimulates my brain.

Good luck with your recovery!
posted by lydhre at 5:41 AM on August 6, 2013

There's lots of good people in chat.metafilter.com, and there's someone there at pretty much any hour of the day in my experience.
posted by ActionPopulated at 5:56 AM on August 6, 2013

If you enjoy writing, maybe online journal-style roleplaying games? I think they're on Tumblr these days. Definitely a good way to meet people, hang out, be around at all times of the day. (The danger would be getting sucked in and continuing to play after your recovery.)

Also, if you're a good enough knitter that you can knit and watch TV, you could consider expanding into another craft that takes more of your attention -- I like embroidery. It's cheap to get started, really, just thread and maybe a couple pillowcases and an Aunt Martha's transfer from Joann Fabrics. (Or Doodle Stitching, or the Posie Gets Cozy ornament kits will be coming out in other month or so. I know those kits are what I'd be doing if I had a period of enforced low energy. Well, those or a redwork quilt of Downton Abbey characters.)

Any craft would work, though -- maybe not sewing clothing or quilting or reupholstery, as they can be physically demanding, but applique, English Paper Piecing, pyrography, crewel, cross-stitch, origami.... and no matter what craft you choose, you can post pictures to Flickr, hang out on Pinterest looking for ideas, read blogs by people who also do that craft, comment, etc.
posted by pie ninja at 6:02 AM on August 6, 2013

If you knit, are you on Ravelry? The forums are extremely active and there's chat as well. I must also throw in a shout out for crochet and/or Tunisian crochet - it's worth knowing to supplement your knitting skills.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 6:30 AM on August 6, 2013

What about learning a language? Rosetta Stone is great for languages that don't share the same alphabet (Russian, Chinese, etc), but I found it too elementary for languages with a lot of cognates. GermanPod101 is amazing for learning German. I don't know if it's still as active, but LiveMocha was a great interactive language community a while back.

You can also read the more "sophisticated" subreddits (Ask Science, Ask Historians, etc) and chase down things you learn there - interesting thing about dark matter? Go read the wikipedia page, find some blogs about it, watch a TED talk, become as much of an expert in dark matter as you can in the span of an hour or so. Something else catch your eye while on your dark matter quest? Chase that down the rabbit hole. [maybe this is the reason I am always behind on my work.....]

You could take up painting. I am a horrible painter, but I find it relaxing, and it's not like I'm trying to make a career out of it. If you really are skeptical about your artistic ability, pick up a copy of Drawing on the the Right Side of the Brain. If you can be out of the house at all, see if there are any art classes or meetups in the area - the type of thing where people meet in the park and draw trees for example (so a little interaction, but not a ton of energy/activity required).

Is there something you're skilled at academically? You could become an e-mentor doing online tutoring or proofreading essays, or on the more corporate side, reviewing business plans or source code (whatever kind of thing fits with your skills). Along those lines, there's a lot of ways you can engage in virtual volunteering, whether through knitting penguin sweaters, or any of the options listed on this UN volunteer site. If you can get out at all, your local library or senior center may need people to read books aloud for an hour or so.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:52 AM on August 6, 2013

Take a MOOC class (Coursera, Khan Academy, etc). OR take a for credit class online. MEss with polymer clay. If you're able to do the sitting while away from your house, you could choose differnt places (library, cafe, park, mall...) to change up the scenery and maybe take some pictures of characters you meet. As far as reddit, I like the awww subreddit, i think it almost universally makes people happy for a second to see cute animals and such. You could also read some magazines using Zinio. You could make some lists of goals and such, like a bucket list and map out how to achieve them over time. If it doesn't conflict with your leave, you could maybe even get a part time data entry job to work from home.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:55 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know a bunch of people who love the message boards at tribe.net . Fair warning: This is a community dominated primarily by Burning Man aficionados so, while they are all very interesting and well meaning, there's a fair amount of woo. I would steer clear of any health-related topics, if I were you. That's easy, though -- it's a huge community with loads and loads of topics and subtopics.

Also, as you're a big reader, check out librarything -- lots and lots of conversations about books.
posted by janey47 at 10:19 AM on August 6, 2013

I'm a big fan of self-improvement. Maybe learn a language? Write a novel? Research a topic you're interested in and write a nonfiction book? Get an online graduate degree?
posted by carolinaherrera at 11:02 AM on August 6, 2013

Are you the least bit interested in photography? 365project.org will fill your brain and your time nicely. There are plenty of people on the site who just use phone cameras or "pocket cameras" but you are likely to end up wanting to spend lots of money on stuff so you can get shots like the superstars.

The "commitment" is just to take a photo a day and post it on the site. You could be done in 5 minutes. But you are likely to get followers who comment, and you follow and comment on people inspiring to you, and feel challenged to take better photos, and read up on technique, and arrange the time of your walks to coincide with good lighting--or learn how to do "studio shots" indoors with just a couple light bulbs....

People from all over the world post, so you'll get to see winter in Australia and see & read about a Londoner's workday, there are lots of photo challenges, plenty of photo-related discussions and some off-topic. This can easily fill your day.

Best wishes for your continued good health!
posted by Anwan at 11:40 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Find a game to play. (I played a lot of Simcity while recovering. These days, I play Master of Magic.)

Take up blogging. (You can get a blog for free at blogspot or wordpress.)

Learn a little code. (Also has free resources online.)

Gaming was (and still is) useful for helping me track my recovery. As I had less pain, needed less medication, etc. my brain worked better and I would suddenly find myself playing better. Days when I was a mess correlated to being unable to "fight my way out of a wet paper bag." And it's a game. If it gets too crazy-making, you can just quit out and start a new one. No big.
posted by Michele in California at 12:25 PM on August 6, 2013

I have CFS, so I'm pretty sedentary most of the time. I think that what you are saying is that you want to participate in an online community like you did when you were on the UC forum.

Finding another such community really depends on what your interests are. I spent a few years on a forum dedicated to a band that I was a fan of, and it was very silly and entertaining (also nerve-wracking because people on the internet can be jerks, as I'm sure you know). I was there so often that I was made a moderator and then an admin.

There are also blogs with active comments sections where you can do a fair amount of interacting. For instance, if you are interested in feminism, you could try Feministe. You just really need to follow your interests.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 12:59 PM on August 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the great suggestions so far.

I think pie ninja hit the nail on the head re: fear of getting hooked on something post-recovery. From reading all the replies and my gut reactions, I think what I really want is a game I can play for a few hours on and off every day.

I haven't had time to play computer games in YEARS... my favorites in the olden days were Sim City 2000/3000, Civilization II, Sim Tower, and Master of Orion (so, yeah, it's been a while). I have a MacBook Pro and don't have the patience or desire to cobble together emulators and stuff. I don't have the reaction time or attention for anything in real time like a FPS. Any suggestions for a game in that vein that I can play on my MBP with minimal fuss? It looks like I could get Civilization V for OS X from Steam, but I'm not super excited about it.
posted by telegraph at 1:12 PM on August 6, 2013

The Chihuahua daily online word puzzles are great fun -- very engaging, but light enough that you can dip in and out as your energy allows. The forums have real people who will actually take time to answer your silly questions about words.
posted by Corvid at 1:39 PM on August 6, 2013

There is a new crossword puzzle every day at dictionary.com. Also, there is a lot of info about words and their histories. This might pass a few minutes every day.
posted by Cranberry at 1:53 PM on August 6, 2013

For games, I liked:

Critter Crunch (played on PS3, but also an iPhone app)
Portal 2 (played on PS3, but available for OS X)
PixelJunk Monsters (played on PS3, available for OS X)
Braid (played on PS3, available for OS X)

I've heard Minecraft can consume hours upon hours of time, but I've never played.

The NYTimes Crossword subscription is pretty great - you can play online or print out the puzzles (including archived puzzles).
posted by melissasaurus at 8:28 AM on August 7, 2013

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