Coping with Writer’s Block

Image courtesy of authorlorilotto.wordpress.com

For months I found myself not even being able to look at my blog, or visualize writing at all.  I started to wonder if I still had it in me.  Knowing that I’ve persevered through Rheumatoid Arthritis, I figured, why not apply some of those techniques I learned from coping with the disease to my inability to write?  This is what I came up with:

First:  Research

Reading on the internet is one of my favorite things.  It’s easy to jump from one article to another, everything from asparagus and hangovers to Parkinson’s cures.  Please type in asparagus and hangovers and you’ll find your next go-to after-party treat…pickled asparagus are the easiest to keep in your cupboard btw!  I even love to read those trashy news articles about what stars are wearing, what they’re doing and all the comments that follow.  Why we call it news, I have no idea.  I read forums, blogs, and whatever else strikes my fancy.  I don’t have any real approach to my reading.  I’ll start at one article…like perhaps I have neck pain, and that will lead to something else and then something else, and yet something else again, and suddenly I’m on who dumped who and the worst dressed or some crazy bacterium that’s taking over the nation.  How did I get here?  That’s what a road block is all about, figuring out how to get out of that sticky muck.  Research was the only source that I could think of that would pull me out.   I couldn’t write, not for the life of me.  So I took a road trip, and began my research on “Writer’s block,” and found myself writing again.  Do you remember “clusters”?  Well I did it.  Remember all those writing tools we learned when we were kids?  Those tools got me started yet again.  Wikipedia, you are the best!

I realized, I hadn’t done this in a while, this wordpress thing.  I grabbed a piece of paper, I wrote down “Block” and just like you learned to do in school too many years ago to mention, I engaged in “clustering”.  First circle, “Block”-stone-brick-wall-lego–Writer’s Brain Fart-In the Fog-Stumbling Block.  Then I realized Stumbling Block was good, while Writer’s Block was bad.  That’s a strange one isn’t it?

Then I figured, enough of that…it’s time for free writing.  And here I am, writing whatever comes to mind.  So far, it’s quite scary…but maybe that’s because so much has changed in my life lately.  Maybe I didn’t want to reveal too much of myself.  Maybe I was afraid of not what the reader would discover but what I would discover.

I have been going through some really tough times.  Quite honestly, I did take to journaling before I took to blogging these last few weeks.  I didn’t do much of it, but in the wee hours of the night, when there was no one to call and cry to or ask ponderous questions, I wrote.  And when the next night would come and I’d find myself destroyed with sadness, every cell of my being completely swollen in emotional pain, I would read what I wrote the night before and then write again.  I would find, over and over again in this process that I lived, despite the pain and could move forward, in the smallest increments as each day passed.

I’m still in emotional pain and perhaps sometime I will let you know more about it….  but for now, just talking about that pain is all that I can do.  I know my pain isn’t going to go away anytime soon, and so I have looked to it a little differently than I did before, before it takes over.  Perhaps having RA has given me the tools of coping with pain and NOT expecting it to go away anytime soon.  Rather, learning new ways of coping is the best that you can do.

So what’s up next?  Well hopefully I’m going to be writing to you about what’s going on in my life.  A friend of mine just the other day told me the article I posted wasn’t good.  It was sugar coated, it was 2 buck chuck, it was muck. I was holding back.  I was afraid to reveal again the real me.  It’s like getting into an accident and fearing the road or the building, or whatever it was that was keeping you from putting one step in front of the other.  There is a lot going on with me, and no need to sugar coat things.  I hope in the days that follow that you get to know me again, but in a different way, in a way that I am learning to get to know myself.  One day at a time.

Earth Angels: Part Two (Pay it Forward)

One morning I was running late for work, per usual.  My gas gauge was noticeably low, but I didn’t stop for gas, knowing that stopping would add to my tardiness.  I guess you can say I like to live on the edge, or maybe it’s a genetic thing.

See, growing up, my father was notorious for letting his car run out of gas–while his kids were still in it.  It was so bad in fact, that there was this one spot on the road that we knew if we got past it, we were somehow in the clear.  We knew the spot well because we had walked the few miles from there to the gas station a few times.  Perhaps this was a game.   I don’t know why he would do this exactly.  He claimed the gas gauge was broken.  In fact, there were other places at other times, in other areas of California that we also ran out of gas, but that’s another story.  I think  he liked to live on the edge, or maybe it was something else, maybe his reasoning skills are broken.  And Dad, if you’re reading this, you know it’s true.  Back in those days, you could hitch-hike to a certain extent without the same kind of worries that you have today.  Needless to say, I grew up thinking running out of gas was sort of fun?  Now I know that it’s terrible for your car, ruining pipes and so forth and being in L.A., it’s definitely dangerous.  So let’s just say that I don’t wait until the last-minute any longer.

I had run out of gas a long time ago, around the age of 18.  The steering wheel had locked up, something I didn’t know about at that time.  It was scary, but I was lucky because a police officer had seen me, pulled over, and literally pushed my car with his car, around the corner to a gas station.  Was he another Earth Angel?

So here I was, driving to work, with a very low gas tank.  Traffic had come to a stand-still and I started to really worry.  I was on the freeway and I really didn’t know for sure if I was going to make it to the next exit.  Sitting there, in traffic, not moving, was lowering my chances of EVER making it to work.  It was a hot day, but I knew better than to run the air conditioning or else I definitely wouldn’t make it off the freeway.

I finally made it to my exit and my gas tank still hadn’t hit the R yet.  I was convinced that I could make it all the way to work as long as it didn’t hit the R.  That was, until that familiar feeling in my steering wheel hit.  Right as it did, it dawned on me that I had just passed a gas station.  I immediately flipped a u-turn, struggling with my steering wheel.  It just so happened that there were no cars on the street at that moment when I did this, and this is L.A. in the Wilshire district, making it a strange serendipitous coincidence.

As my car struggled on its last fumes, I attempted to roll up to a gas pump.  This was going slightly uphill in the drive-way.  I realized quickly that I wasn’t totally going to make it.  As my car started to drift backwards, I immediately pulled the emergency brake to stop it from rolling back into the street.  I had at least made it to the gas station.  This was a true miracle.

I was feeling REALLY lucky at this point.   I had just ran out of gas and for the life of me, I had no idea how I had been so lucky that I was able to literally roll right into a gas station.  I am a glass is half-full kind of person, so I knew no matter what, I was going to feel lucky for the rest of the day.  I felt like someone was watching over me.  What if I had run out of gas on the freeway?  I was in a fairly safe neighborhood in L.A.  There was nothing that could keep me from smiling for the rest of the day.

Stupidly, I was un-prepared though.  I didn’t know my debit card number by heart (still) and the gas station didn’t take credit cards.  I didn’t have any cash on me and I couldn’t call anyone because my phone was dead.  I didn’t have any change on me, not even a penny.  At this point I was feeling like quite the idiot.  I didn’t worry.  I knew if I had to, I could walk to work, even if I was in heels…… it was only a couple of miles away.   I knew there was a solution, I just didn’t know what it was going to be quite yet.  The guy at the gas station wasn’t going to help me, nor was anyone in line, so I started walking back to my car, wondering what I was going to do next.

Luckily an Earth Angel came to my rescue.  He asked me what happened to my car, (as he was getting gas) and I explained that I was an idiot and ran out of gas and that I’d use my credit card but they only take debit and I’d call someone for help but my phone was dead.  I told him not to worry, that I would figure something out.  He told me to hold on.  I didn’t know what he meant but I said ok.  And then he asked me to hold the gas pump.  “Don’t put the pump back,” he said.  He asked for my keys and so I gave my keys to him.  I wasn’t worried about him stealing my car.  It didn’t have any gas and his car was far nicer than mine, how would he drive two?  So I waited, wondering what his plan was.

He got in my car, took the break off and with the help of another person, (another Earth Angel) who kindly jumped in, pushed my car up to the pump.  He put $2 worth of gas in my car and told me where a nearby gas station was that took credit cards.  I thanked him profusely and said, “I wish there was something I could give to you.”  He said in return, “Just pay it forward.”

He was right.  That kind of kindness comes from somewhere unexplainable, somewhere so sweet and true, it gives me goosebumps.  I don’t know that I’ve paid it forward yet, not quite to that extreme, but I hope to be as kind, to be as wonderful as he and someday be someone else’s Earth Angel.

If you like my Posts

Hi!  I just wanted to let everyone know that if you enjoy my posts then feel free to drop in on http://blog.s4studios.com where I will also be blogging.  See the latest post and what this picture is all about and learn a little more about me!

gentlehugs,

-Sarah

Oh Bummer!

I let this old post get buried…It was written probably about eight months ago.  So here it is to all those who might be interested in reading it:

For many of you who are not aware, a few weeks ago, people who lived in the L.A. and N.Y. area were contacted through Daily Strength to audition for a Rheumatoid Arthritis commercial.  Luckily, the very day that it was posted, I contacted Sessions West Studios and scheduled for an audition.  But here’s the thing….I’m terrible at public speaking.  My knees get week, I start to sweat and shake, and you would think I was about ready to go into convulsions.  The director at the studio was very sweet and did his best to get a good take of my audition.  I was hoping I would just be going in to talk about my experience with RA.  No such luck however.  They required actual acting!

Thinking that I had completely blown my chances, I got back to work with a sad look on my face.  I really wanted the gig, and the pay wasn’t too shabby!  My finances were particularly poor at the moment.   My husband was out of work, I was working part time and barely surviving, wondering how my husband and I would get through the next few months.  That $4000 could keep us going!  So the pressure was definitely there.  It’s like someone handed me a check and said you can have this if you can just do this one thing right.  And in this case, it’s acting!

That day I got a phone call from the casting studio.  “You have a call back” they said!  I was thrilled, to say the least!  My nerves were at an all time high as I waited for the next call to let me know what time.  Days passed.  When I never received the call, I started to grow worried.  The call back was for Friday and here it was Thursday.  Was it just a mistake?  Was I not getting a call back?  Finally that afternoon, the phone rang again with the time I was needed to come in on Friday.

I arrived at the Santa Monica studio, after having rehearsed from what I could remember of the script.  “My RA is not the same as your RA” I kept repeating in my head.  But when I got there, my nerves just got worse.  The people around me chosen for the call back looked beautiful and confident.  When they called my name, my legs started to tremble again.  This time there were more people watching me and a different director.  Everything had changed, the room, the placement of the camera, and even how I was to say my lines.  I became as stiff as a board without even noticing.  The director tried to get me to be relaxed in front of the camera, but for the life of me, no matter how much I wanted the gig, it just wasn’t happening.  I told him, “If I can just get my knees to stop shaking, I’ll be ok.”  He chuckled.

They took two takes and then had me wait out in the lobby.  They called two girls back and sent me home.  “thanks”, they said.  I walked out to my car, holding back tears.  I was so close.  I wanted it so badly.  I needed it, but it was too late.

And now you’re hoping for a happy ending.  Well, I’m not sure I can deliver what you may think so just keep reading…  I knew I didn’t get the gig I was hoping for, but what I did get was another call.  “We’re thinking about using you for print,” they said.  I didn’t hear back from them for several days.  I got a call back and they said, “The print job is no longer available but we may use you as a hand model.”  Hand model?  Crazy…never thought of my swollen fingers as being great for modeling.

It was fun being on the list of producers, directors, photographers, etc.  as “talent”.  It was definitely a fun experience!!  I was also used a little in part of the commercial, where you see my shoulder and barely the side of my face.  It’s unrecognizable really, but I had a good time. I was a little concerned that my hands were swelling more and more.  I was part of a clinical trial at the moment, and so I was getting worse because the medication I was taking for it was giving me a reaction.  And I wondered if I would be turned away.  But the truth is, I think the director made up the job for me.  He told me, he had never had an actress be so honest.  And he told everyone what I said on set, about how if I could just get my knees to stop shaking, I’d be ok.  He thought that was so endearing, he said, that he wanted to find a way to make me part of this.  Awwww.  What can I say, How cool is that?

So here I was, on a shoot, watching the commercial be created right before my eyes.  I’m in the entertainment business, so this wasn’t too crazy for me, but what was great was that one of the girls, the print model became a good friend.  Both were from N.Y.  The other girl, is a dancer in N.Y. for Broadway.  I got to eat great food.  I got to be part of the commercial on both days.  And as a hand model, the pay was not bad!  So it wasn’t much compared to what it could have been, but I was still very very grateful!  And the commercial came out excellent.  The girl who acted in was fantastic and I just loved her voice for the part!

So as you can see, when an opportunity comes along, I take it!  And it works the same way for this disease… I give most things a chance, given that I’ve looked into the possibilities on how it will affect me.  Life is full of opportunities and new experiences if you let it!  And I don’t believe that things are always, “too good to be true.”  Sometimes things are simply too good and too true.  :)

Not Impressed With UCLA Clinical Trials

I don’t know if anyone is keeping up with me, but on a somewhat recent post, I talked about entering into a clinical trial from UCLA to try out a turmeric supplement.  The pill, which may have been placebo ended up making me very ill and cost me one week’s worth of work.  Now that I have had plenty of time to recover, I feel great again.  Needless to say, today I received a bill from UCLA for blood work.  I’m shocked, to say the least.  Now I have to try and figure out why this would be and deal with the stress of making sure I don’t have to pay.  Since the clinical trial was unpaid from the start, and cost me money in gas, time, and the addition of the pill making me very sick, this is just the icing on the cake.  I hate to complain, but wanted anyone out there who was considering a clinical trial at UCLA, to think twice!  I had been considering doing a yoga study for UCLA on RA but at this point, never mind.  This clinical trial was suppose to keep my anonymity, so it’s terribly shocking, really it is, that the billing department would even receive my information!  Thanks so much to everyone for your support!  ((HUGS))!-Sarah

THANK YOU

Hello everyone!  I just wanted to say thank you.   Gentlehugscafe has now reached over 100,000 hits.  It has never been my goal to reach so many viewers.  Instead, I just wanted a place to go and tell my story, and share research.  I am so amazed and thrilled to see that so many of you come and visit.  So thank you, to everyone who has been there for me.  You are my biggest support!

-Sarah

What’s Making You Sick?

Obviously if you’ve come to my site, you probably have an autoimmune disease or know someone that does.   Your body is working against you.  So not only is your body making you sick, but perhaps your medications give you side effects or constant popping of supplements has you feeling ill.  Or could there be something else going on that you don’t realize, in addition to these things?

I want to tell you a story about a recent experience of mine.  I joined a clinical trial because I don’t have health insurance, and I was interested in getting some blood tests for free.

I was of course disappointed when I found out I wouldn’t be paid and the drive was quite far.  I would lose a little bit of work here and there, and even more importantly,sleep.  Still, I rationalized at the first visit that if I had the real deal and not the placebo, it would be worth the drive. The tests and the pill would add up to a lot of money, so why not give it a shot?

When I got the pill, I rushed to my car and even though I know you’re not suppose to break open the capsule, I did. I eagerly wanted to know…did I have the placebo or the real thing? It was a bright orangy yellow and it tasted, from what I could remember, like turmeric. I was ecstatic! I believed I had received the real thing!

I began taking the pill as described… 2 pills twice a day for one week, then 4 pills twice a day from thereafter.

My blood tests at initial visit showed that my CRP was within normal range. I still had substantial inflammation in my hands, but the doctor was surprised with my “normal” results.  My next visit however, about a month later, I was having more inflammation and my tests showed it, along with my joints. I chalked it off as being a “healing crises” and continued taking my pills, thinking they were going to soon give me great benefits.

About a month later, I went in again. This time I was doing much worse. Test results showed higher inflammation, hands were far worse and elbows and other joints, including my neck were starting to become painful and really stiff again, something I hadn’t had in years. If you don’t know what this feels like, it feels exactly as you would imagine waking up from a bad car accident would feel like.  Instead of waking up in the hospital bed, with hovering nurses and family, you’re waking up in your own bed, turning off your alarm clock and forcing yourself through the disability and pain to get through your day.  Your neck feels like whiplash, your hands and wrists won’t bend and it hurts to be touched.  Driving is dangerous and near impossible but you do it anyway.

The doctor told me I could come off the pill if I wanted…he hated seeing me suffer. He said the other guy asked if there was prednisone in the pill because he was feeling so good. But since I’ve taken lots and lots of supplements and experienced the “healing crises” first hand from many of them, I decided, “the worse the flare, the better the pill”. I explained to the doctor what had happened to me on other pills that ended up working out and that I had hoped turmeric wouldn’t do that to me, but since it is, maybe I’m not on the placebo and I’ll be reaping benefits here soon. He seemed surprised and sent me on my way. Secretly I was thinking, “wow, how can he not know about the healing crises?” And I felt FOR SURE that I MUST be on the real thing!

But then things got worse…. I missed an entire week of work. yep, seriously, I did. And I continued taking those stupid pills. I kept thinking, “i’m really going to feel great any time now.” But I didn’t. I got night sweats, aches and pains, extreme fatigue… I was at an all time low, one I hadn’t been at since the beginning of my RA, or at least not for some time. I improved my diet, took more pills of the supplements that I knew worked and felt confused why I wasn’t getting better.

Finally it occurred to me, “maybe I’m not on the real pill.” I came home one evening, made a plate of one teaspoon of real turmeric on one side, and the pill’s contents on the other. My husband and I did a look and taste test. The colors were different for sure. And the taste…. turmeric has a very distinctive taste. The powder from the pill however in comparison, I realized, tasted like flour, maybe???? but definitely not the turmeric on the other side. Nope, compared to that, it didn’t have a taste. My mind must have deceived me when I tried it before! I had been so hopeful!  I just stupidly thought that they wouldn’t go to so much trouble and make a powder that looks and tastes like turmeric. Well they did, I was wrong, although the taste in comparison, ISN’T the same, now that I realize.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find out all the ingredients that were in the placebo pill.  But for sure, I had been taking yellow #5 and yellow#6, as well as potato starch.  I am assuming the main ingredient was probably flour.

The day after I stopped taking the pills I started to feel better.  Recovery has been slow but consistent.  It’s completely apparent to me, that my intake of 8 pills a day of possibly flour and food coloring was the big culprit of my wild, almost four month flare.  Since then, I have been trying to eat very cleanly, no processed foods, trying to get my system back to normal again.  Luckily I am feeling fairly good again, but I really did learn a valuable lesson. That lesson is, my body doesn’t have “allergic reactions.”  Instead, over time, it reacts by an increase of inflammation, damaging tissues, organs, and joints.  As a result of this experience, I am far more aware than I ever was, that processed foods and food colorings are a big no-no.  Sure, they are extremely hard to avoid on a daily basis, and I have slipped up a little.  But in general, I am eating a very clean and organic diet and I’m hoping in time my body will continue to improve.

So ask yourself, what are you eating that might be fueling your fire?  Perhaps it’s time to try avoiding it for at least two weeks, which should be enough time to feel the difference.  And let all of us know what increases your inflammation, because we’d all like to know!  :)

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