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.

In My Absense

I have a friend who asked that I just write something every now and then.  In fact, he requested that it be a little more personal because the other articles make his head spin.  I explained to him that my most popular post was “Polypodium Leucotomos” for a while, so you see, not everyone wants to hear something personal.  After-all, I’m not Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy.. :)

There is so much I could talk about, but where to begin?  First, it’s been a busy Holiday season for me.  Though I work part-time, I have a plethora of to-do’s and so much is changing in my life.  I’m in the process of moving.  Of course, I don’t know where I’m moving to.  My husband got a job in another town where I will commute a 3-hour drive to see him.  It was very last minute, but absolutely welcomed with this economy.  Because our apartment was too expensive for just one person to live, I was forced to move out and I am currently staying with a friend while looking for a different living arrangement.  My husband found a nice town house, much nicer than expected because the town he’s now living in is very affordable.  It’s definitely an upgrade compared to the smaller spaces I’m accustomed to in L.A.  So at least on the weekends, if I survive the monotony of the drive through the grape-vine, I will stay in our nice place.  Of course there are drawbacks to living in a small town, or at least for me there are.  I grew up in a very small town until I was 18 and then I moved to yet another small town, near where my husband will be until I was in my late 20’s.  I haven’t experienced much and I certainly haven’t traveled, so I just can’t go back to the simple life at this time.  I’d rather deal with the traffic and people, where communities are a mixture of all races and beliefs and I can have a late night dinner if I want to.  A city has 24 hour access and boundless options.  This small town however, is literally asleep in the early evening, businesses close down and there isn’t a car on the road past 10.  Even on New Year’s, I felt like we were the only car traveling down extra wide roads that probably see more trucks than economy sized vehicles.  To some it is heaven, but for me, for right now, it’s just not what I want.

For a week, my husband had been visiting this small town, looking for places to live and running errands related to his new teaching job, all the while I’ve been frantically trying to get all of my stuff done.  Though we’ve successfully moved out and he’s successfully moved in, all of that wasn’t even on my first priority list.  One of the things that I accomplished in January was starting and finishing a painting.  It is not, (ahem), hate to say it, one of my best pieces.  I struggled on this one and I don’t know why.  I even started over at one point in time.  I’m sure to many people, it’s a great painting, but I wanted it to be one of my best.  It’s of a dog, a very cute dog, but aren’t they all cute?  How can I mess up a dog, right?  I wouldn’t call it messing up per se, I would call it… oh I don’t know, just not my best…I guess there’s no other words that I can think of to describe it.  Luckily my customer received the painting and fell in love with it.  Even if I am my worst critic, I am glad that someone was happy. :)

I was relieved when the painting arrived safe and on time and I got word that the customer loved it.  Getting that off my hands was 1st on my list and caused me a lot of stress, but now that it was over, it was time to put all of my focus into packing.  On one of my frantic packing nights, I packed boxes past 2am.  Then I got up at 7 am to get some reserved boxes from a grocery store.  The next night I slept for one hour.  I packed all night long.  Yes, I know I have Rheumatoid Arthritis.  But my husband was going to be starting his new teaching job in less than two weeks, and I was going out of town, and he was out of town… I just had to make sure that before I left for Sacramento to visit my mom, that things were in order.  I’m not sure if you would call this overkill, controlling, or smart to make sure that most everything was packed, but that’s what I did.  I kept waiting for things to feel “mostly complete” and unfortunately, it took all night and all morning to give me that feeling.  I felt completely exhausted from all the packing and lifting.  I had bruises and tight muscles, along with extra painful joints for the next week, but what can I say, I have a knack for packing.  And so I felt extra obligated to pack things right, after all, I was the one that possessed the skills!  After my hour of sleep, my friend called me and we then drove for 6 hours to Sacramento.  Despite my fatigue, I had a great time and enjoyed the hours of resting in the car.

Sacramento was for the most part relaxing, except that my mom keeps things much cooler than I’m used to.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to get warm.  One of the interesting things of having autoimmune diseases, is the constant quest to get things “right” with your own body.  It’s like you’re on a treasure hunt 24-7, only the goal is to have fleeting moments of feeling normal again.  While many people leave it up to their doctors, I leave it up to myself to figure things out.  I use intuition, I read as much as I have time for, and I experiment in the safest route that I can find.

Change for me is big right now. Not only am I moving..and I don’t know where, but I’m also going to be starting up a class to improve my animation abilities starting on the 14th.  The class will average about 12 hours of homework per week but I’m sure I’ll be doing more.  The program (Maya) is intense and I look forward to broadening my skills.  I’ll also be spending extra hours in the lab, trying to learn other programs while I have DVDs and computer technology at my fingertips.  I’m entering a scholarship and hoping that I get some help with my education, so that I can continue taking classes every ten weeks at night or on weekends.  Wish me luck on that-the essay, application and recommendation letters are due in March!  Can we say STRESS??

My RA has been doing great.  I take a lot of pills, each doing their own thing to my body and keeping me in check.  I have been taking prednisone… 2.5mg regularly.  Back when I took the turmeric placebo and got really sick, I’ve been on prednisone since.  After reading about a new time-released prednisone, that releases 4 hours after you take it, it dawned on me that I should test what prednisone would do to me in a small enough dose at night, so it won’t keep me awake.  I figured out through trial and error that 2.5mg was a good dose.  I could even go up to 3.5 without any problems, but the smaller the amount, the better.  And wow, what a difference!  If I took that dose during the daytime, I wouldn’t notice anything.  In fact, I’d have to take 10mg a day to do what 2.5mg does for me at night.  Somehow, taking it at night really makes my hands feel nearly normal again.  Although I am well aware of the damages that may be occurring from the long term prednisone use, I am utterly gleeful that I can make fairly tight fists every day.  Long term prednisone use at such a small dose probably isn’t doing too much, but it could potentially damage eyes, cause calcium loss and deterioration to my bones, even if it is only slowly over time.  Still, it’s about quality of life, not quantity.

Now that the holiday “break” is over, I’m relieved.  I had a lot of time off, yet it felt like a whirlwind of constant going and constant work.  Even my mind felt like it was going to explode from all the stress, along with not really knowing what day it was anymore.  I am glad to finally be doing a little less, and to be on a path that feels like a positive direction.  I’m glad all the packing, the driving and the unpacking is over.  I’ve had many other adventures and stories I’d love to share, of what I’ve done in my absence.  But alas, another day, another story.  I hope to keep up better with this blog this coming new year and I have other resolutions I hope to stick with as well.  I’d like to get thinner, fitter, just feel better about myself and be in a real routine of working out.  I’d like to write more, paint more, and just get more projects finished.  And I would love to get better about taking all the pills I need to take on a daily basis.  Because I feel pretty good on fewer pills, I have a tendency to take less than I should.  I know that if I took everything, I’d feel fabulous.  But it can definitely be hard to stick to a real regimen.  So hopefully this year will be a new year of wonderful change.  And I hope to share these wonderful changes with all my listeners, my friends and family, who have emotionally supported me through some of my toughest moments.  Thank you all, I am forever grateful and happy New Year!

When your disease gets you down

Pain can bring out depression

Pain and Depression can go hand in hand

When it comes to chronic disease, we all have setbacks. Since last Wednesday I’ve been experiencing a flare. It’s honestly the first that I’ve had in a very long time that was quite this bad. It could be due to stress or medications or both. Compared to how I used to feel before alternative medications, this flare is a breeze. I can still lift my shoulders, tie my shoes and walk without wincing. Flares can vary so you never know what you’re going to get. For me, having Rheumatoid Arthritis can sometimes feel less of a joint disease and more of a systemic disease. For those of you that don’t know, RA can affect the organs just as much as the joints and it can mimic other diseases like Lupus.  I can see what’s happening to my joints….my fingers get more swollen than usual, but when it comes to my organs I can only guess what’s happening.

These last few days I’ve been getting up in the morning and feeling like I’ve smoked a pack of cigarettes. I don’t even know what that would feel like but I’m guessing this feeling is similar. There’s a sense of congestion and heaviness, accompanied with some discomfort to breathing especially if I bend over and especially when I first get up. Just like my joints, this feeling lessens as the day goes on. There are times that it feels like my heart is beating harder or having trouble….could it be Pericarditis? I simply don’t know. And there are moments when my sides have dull aches as if someing inside me is a bit more swollen than normal. Times like these I can only guess what’s going on. Without insurance, there is no way of knowing without going to the doctor and paying an arm and a leg.  Seeing that I can barely afford my supplements on my own, I simply can’t afford a doctor’s visit. Besides, I know the answer to the problem…..reduce the inflammation in my body and everything will be solved, including my sour mood.

If only it were that easy. I could take some Prednisone which sits in my cupboard. But after a year of trying to get off that stuff, no thanks. I’d rather not feel even more moody than I already feel which is what Prednisone would do to me.  Flares are bound to happen from time to time. I have been lucky to avoid having a flare for the past six months or so. I’m also lucky that this one isn’t all that bad. When I did have a doctor I had the same complaints: chest pain and congestion, rib pain, organ pain, and just about everything and everywhere hurt. Knowing that I have the least amount of pains now that I don’t have a doctor, it makes it all the more simpler to not worry and just keep going on with my life. A flare will eventually subside.

Extreme tiredness is another problem that accompanies most chronic diseases. It doesn’t seem to matter how many hours of sleep I get, I’m still tired. I can say however, the more I sleep, generally the less pain I wake up with. Depression is the other thing that pulls me down. People close to me try to perk me up and they say, “Don’t let yourself get depressed.” It’s hard to have that kind of self control. You go to lift something and you realize you don’t have the strength. You plan a day of activities to realize you don’t have the energy. You have aches and pains and have no way of relieving them. People want to spend time with you but you don’t want to spend time with them…..you are at a loss for words and feel like you might fall asleep in their presence. You find yourself stuttering. You spend more than your share of time in the bathroom to accomplish nothing. (Inflammation of the intestines can make you very constipated). People cook you food and you barely eat. I think faking the way I really feel takes its toll and adds to the depression. People ask on the phone, “How are you doing?” You answer, “Fine and how are you?” But the real answer would depress other people. “I feel extremely tired and sad that my weekend was taken away from me.” People don’t want to hear that so you hold it in and take one for the team, the chronically ill team that is.

What’s it like to have a chronic disease? Well, honestly it really takes it’s toll on your body and spirit,  especially when you’re going through a flare. The pain, the medications, the tiredness….none of it is easy. I can say that since I’ve been treating myself with alternative medications I feel WAY better than before, when I was on chemotherapy drugs and steroids. But even this path isn’t easy for reasons like expense, feeling alone on this particular path, and the amount of pills I have to take can be annoying and tiring.

At first I thought twice about writing an entry like this. After all, it can make people feel uncomfortable. But then I thought, why can’t I just be honest? Why spare other people and hold in these emotions?  Is this too much information? Perhaps it is but I don’t care. At least you know when you come to my blog you’ll get the truth and the real me.  Thanks to all out there, who visit.  You are my support and I appreciate you.

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