Tear down that bitch of a bearing wall and put a window where it ought to be
I’ve been trying to write this post for over a week, and why I’m choosing tonight to take the plunge I really don’t know. Well, okay, I do. Because today was a therapy appointment, so Talking About All The Things is in the air. Plus I’m having yet another really shitty drug reaction, which on the one hand makes me feel like throwing up and makes me weave in my chair from dizziness, so I would kind of rather lie down and feel sorry for myself. On the other hand, and it’s the hand winning out, I’m kind of done with this shit getting the better of me, and writing about it feels like a nice fuck you. I’m not entirely sure who/what I’m mad at. The dirt, I guess.
So what’s been happening lately on the health front is complicated, annoying, and doesn’t have much plot. In December I was doing pretty good, except I was taking a lot of ibuprofen and it was starting to eat out my stomach. So my doctor switched me to a different med, which was better on my stomach but didn’t do anything for my neck, which started to get really bad all the time. Also I got crazy bad headaches, so I stopped taking the new drug and took ibuprofen again. Then my stomach hurt, my head hurt, and my neck hurt.
I got very cranky, and one night I sat up in the middle of the night, sobbed my eyes out, felt very sorry for myself and angry at everything, and then I blew my nose and assessed my options. I wanted to go back to my doctor, but I had another drug on the shelf, one he’d given me months before but I never tried because I was scared of it. Cymbalta, which can be a miracle worker for chronic pain but can also tap out creativity. At this point I was barely able to work and frankly was a bit of an emotional mess, so I decided what the fuck, can’t make anything worse than it is. I decided to give the drug a go, so I could at least say I tried.
It kind of worked, in that it took away this nasty aching stuff I’ve pretty much dealt with for over ten years to varying degrees. That was nice, having that gone. It kind of made me want to bounce around. But my neck still hurt, actually quite a bit. I got emotional and angry again, and one day that coincided with the new therapist, who then suggested a million different alternative therapies my husband would never let me try and frankly I don’t want to either. Soon I was up again in the middle of the night, and once again after a round of feeling angry and helpless and frustrated, I tried to assess again.
This weird little voice said, “Sugar.”
I don’t know if there were little fairies in my bedroom or Randy came to see me, or if this was a sort of subconscious thing only possible when one is 3/4 hot mess–whatever it was, it was a good idea. I’ve cut sugar before, and it worked but not as a permanent fix. Of course, I hadn’t done it since my hysterectomy, so I thought, why not. Let’s try it again.
Okay, that’s a big lie, or at least a horrible omission. First I got very angry and had this huge, crazy pity party where I ranted once again at the dirt about how haven’t I fucking cut enough out of my diet, and I’d just bought a box of gluten free brownie mix, and how was it fair that I felt this shitty and awful and I couldn’t even eat some happiness? Then, once that scene played out, I decided yes, I’d cut out sugar, because it would be great to not feel like someone was sticking a nail into my skull through the base of my neck. If it didn’t work, I’d make the brownies.
Sugar is a huge inflammatory agent, so of course it worked. In fact, cutting sugar–militantly–works better than any drug I take, and I take a huge pile of drugs several times a day. After several days of cleansing, I introduced sugar a few times in various ways to see what happened, and every single time, it made me flare up. So I thought, okay. I got this. So long as I don’t eat sugar and so long as I take my Cymbalta, I’ll be okay. I can handle this. The no sugar sucks, but I can deal. Not like I haven’t cut out a zillion things a zillion times. I’ve been to this rodeo so many times I need a whole room to display the belt buckles.
And then the Cymbalta started doing the very thing I was afraid it would do. I got enough of it in my system that it made it almost impossible to write.
I wish I could explain this, why it works that way. Nobody has said they doubted me, but I feel like people think I’m being fussy or divaish when I say it affects my writing. It does, though. It makes it so I can’t push through. Story is like this place in my head I can always visit. When I was little it was my haven, and I nurtured it for a long, long time, and now it’s like this lovely story farm I visit, make new friends, and write things down. Pain is a bit of a veil, but once I push through story is one of the best drugs I’ve got. If you’ve read my writing, most of the books of mine you know were written through a considerable amount of physical pain. A lot of times I stopped working only because it felt like my head would fall off or my shoulders were so on fire I couldn’t take it anymore. Before my surgery I’d also get this crazy sharp pains in my legs, which I now know were clots cutting off nerve circulation. But it was all okay, because once I pushed through the veil, none of it mattered. It was like get out of jail free, and I got these great souvenirs.
Cymbals turns the shimmery little veil into choking spider webs that at first made it tough to get through, then eventually shut off almost all access. I turned in Winter Wonderland feeling really confused about a lot of parts, and then when I got the editing notes they made sense and I went to fix them…and couldn’t get in. At all. For the first time in thirty years, I didn’t want to write. I couldn’t. I was happy, and only in a little pain, but I couldn’t do any work at all.
So I quit the Cymbalta, and the achy, heavy pain came back. I’ve kept sugar mostly at bay, and so far so good. But I clearly have pain in cycles, so I’m anticipating another wave of rough stuff to come around eventually. It’s because of this my husband went with me this week to the doctor, and the two of them talked over my head about drugs (Dan’s a pharmacist) and then suggested I take Neurontin. It’s supposed to help with nerve pain, which is probably my problem. Actually my problem is a very overstimilated auto-immune system which was trying, valiantly, to take on endometriosis, and it basically has PTSD and can’t accept the disease is gone. It can’t stop. It doesn’t know how. So it keeps freaking out and making everything in me hypersensitive, keeping my nerves and my immune system at DEFCON levels even though it has no reason to.
Well, I’m one day in to the drug, which I’m supposed to slowly ramp up to this crazy huge dose three times a day, and after 24 hours of the lowest dose I’m so dizzy I want to puke, I’m so tired I only want to sleep (but can’t quite manage to GO to sleep) and working is so off my table I can’t talk about it.
And you know what? I’m done. I’m seriously, utterly done. I’m done fighting, done playing around with drugs. I’m done being angry about how nothing is fair. I’m done sulking because I feel like I’ve put in enough time with this kind of bullshit and it should be done. I’m done with sugar except for rare, special circumstances, and I acknowledge it will make me hurt when I indulge. I’m done using sugar as medication because being high on it was easier than sitting with the pain, physical and mental.
I feel like I’ve come to this circle again, but like a Zen garden, it’s not a destination but a point I will simply keep revisiting, a centering that allows this to be less of a terrible maze and more of a quirky journey. I’m going to write more books while hurting, sometimes a lot. I might even start hurting in a new way, one that takes writing from me despite all my efforts. I’m going to have to watch everything I eat more than most people do, and it will mean I’ll be separate at events and gatherings, that a lot of people will not get it and accidentally make me feel very separate and sad. I get it will always make me frustrated and that I’ll never like it, but it’s probably not something I can change.
There’s this huge new stone in my Zen garden, though, and it’s the one that took me to therapy this time around. I haven’t brought it up in public, and I don’t know that I’m fully ready to, but for those of you who’ve read all my books: Michael Vallant (A Private Gentleman) and I have a whole lot in common right now. I thought of that the other day and laughed, how my PTSD reaction and his are the same, how I didn’t have that when I wrote it but do now. I even reread that book recently but hadn’t put two and two together until the other day. The bottom line, though, is that I keep fighting through this strange afterbirth of surgery, which is trying to come to terms with my body and all the crazy-assed rides it’s taken me on. I was doing okay, I thought, until the pain stuff started coming back, but actually we’ve been careening toward this for some time. Like Michael, something random triggered it, but once ignited, the fire will burn until it’s done.
I kind of hate my body right now. I’m getting better, but I really hate it, which means I don’t want much to do with it in any shape or form. I’ve never been fond of it ever in my life, but right now I really really hate it. In addition to everything else it’s thrown at me–hot flashes, weird pain, endometriosis, mood swings, weight–now my feet have somehow become even freakier freaks than they ever were. I’m a size 13.5. Not 13. Not 14. I’m basically un-shoeable. All last year my shoes hurt my feet, and I thought it was because my feet are usually fucked up with everything else–and they still are, but also all my shoes were too small. And it’s such a fuck you. There are so many fuck-yous.
The thing about bodies, though, is you’re kind of stuck in them. Also they really don’t have it out for us any more than our cars do. It’s just a suit. Mine isn’t exactly defective, and it’s not that I brought this on by neglect. It just happened. It sucks, but it happened. It’s not about fair, it’s not about justice. It just is what it is.
Part of the reason I’m writing this post is because I’m trying to be done hating my body. I’m firmly back in the center of the Zen garden at the moment, accepting what’s in front of me, but I’m also noticing my garden is kind of a mess. I’m very seriously thinking of making a physical garden outside, maybe one inside too (though no sand, because it will instantly become a litterbox). I want to take a little better care of my body, but mostly I want to accept it for what it is. Not as something that has it out for me, but as part of me.
This is the problem with being able to leave your own head for a fantasy world–you can pretend you don’t have a skin suit. It’s a long, ingrained habit to let my body run on autopilot. It’s going to take some work to get around that. But I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to do my best to stop trying to change what my body is and expect it to magically fix because I’d like it to.
I’m a work in progress for how exactly this all works, but blogging about it feels like a good first step. Coming clean, laying out where I’ve been and where I’d like to be. Also because the other thing I want to acknowledge is, well, you. Lately a lot of you have been writing or leaving little comments in the forms for buying Nowhere Ranch, or starting conversations on social media, and what you keep saying is a variation on, “You see me, you mean a lot to me, and you give me things that mean a lot to me.” Sometimes you say you feel like nobody gets you but my stories make you feel like somebody does. Sometimes you say life is hard but reading my stories makes that easier.
The thing is, you say that to me because you want to say thank you, but what you end up doing on my end is reminding me that despite the middle of the night snot sessions, I have managed to make this less-than-satisfying stuff into something somebody else finds meaning in. Or that despite all that, I’m still doing things that mean something to other people, in addition to what my writing means to me and the things I’m able to do with the income I make off those efforts. When you tell me that, frankly, it’s better than cutting sugar or some weird drug I haven’t tried yet. It doesn’t get rid of pain, but it’s something better to hold onto than the handle of Mommie Dearest’s axe. So thanks. Thank you a very lot.
I haven’t been able to get a lot done lately. So much has been going on, and my head has been so full of crap, mostly emotions I didn’t know how to sort out or what frankly to do with. I haven’t been terribly social–it’s really hard to get me to go out to much more than dinner, and that I only want to do with Dan and Anna. Sometimes I’m horribly moody and cranky, sometimes sulky. I haven’t always been that pleasant, but not many people have been around me (by my design) so that’s worked out. Theoretically I want to change that, but it’s definitely a process.
I want desperately to write, and barfing up this post is helping me clear the last of my cobwebs out, I think, so that I can get back to that with vigor. I have been working, but it’s been rough and sluggish. My own drama was in the way of fictional drama. And it’s hard, because real life isn’t half as fun as fiction. You have to write your own story, and sometimes that’s so much work with so much bittersweet. It doesn’t help that my coping mechanism is work–I like to work hard, sometimes too hard, to avoid thinking about things I don’t want to. I don’t like that this time I can’t escape it.
But I’m going to Zen garden on. I have SO MANY stories I want to write, so many literally in process at this second. I want to make everything as good as I can make it–for you, for me, for the story itself. Maybe that’s the struggle I”m having right now–instead of story being the thing I use to escape, it’s the reward I get for taking care of everything else. Or maybe it’s just that my garden has shifted a little bit and I’m struggling to sort out what that looks like.
In any event, let’s go. Pain, sadness, uncertainty, big feet, lumpy tummies–let’s go. Because if there’s anything this recent roller coaster has taught me it’s that if my choices are less pain but no story or more pain with even simply the prospect of story, my choice is “bring on the pain” any day. Which even though those are some shitty choices, they’re a choice. That’s what I want, and it’s what I’m choosing. And frankly after so long of not really getting options, this is pretty empowering.
I guess maybe that’s the other reason I wanted to write this, to barf up all my laundry for the whole Internet. Because I’m kind of joyous in that discovery. I had a choice, and the option I took is so great I’m willing to hurt for it. For once in my life, I’m putting my hand in the fire on purpose.
Bring on the goddamned wire hangers. Bring them fucking on.