I embraced my full-time ability to write last year after regaining energy levels from my first bout with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. I quit my job months before because even with reduced hours and working on my ability to manage the mental and emotional stress, the physical stress of the work took its toll. I was in pain almost 24/7 and fighting off infection after infection. My sleep felt like it was non-existent even when I was lucky enough to get eight hours. I was so exhausted I wound up crashed out on the sofa after sitting down to watch TV.
I felt better enough after not pushing myself day in and day out that I realized it was time for me to start doing what I wanted to do. I focused on my blogs at first. Then, I returned to my first manuscript.
Next, Sjögren’s Syndrome struck. For those of you who haven’t followed me on Hunter’s Lyonesse, I was diagnosed with this autoimmune disease in 2008, months after my hypothyroidism diagnosis. I tested positive for antibodies, but never presented with symptoms. Until last year. This means my body attacks my own tear and saliva glands. My eyes were severely dry as was my mouth. I had to keep water with me wherever I went because my mouth was so dry; and sitting at the laptop too long dried out my eyes faster than if I was not staring at a screen.
At the same time, we discovered food allergies and intolerances that developed over years of not being diagnosed with Celiac sooner. It created gut permeability and while my body decided to attack some of the foods that were escaping through the gut lining, it was also reacting to other foods as if they were allergies (but no anaphylactic reactions). I had to deal with keeping my eyes and mouth moist while removing nine more foods from my diet on top of the gluten, dairy, and eggs. My body is on overdrive because it spent decades attacking gluten and once I took that away, it attacked other things.
After a year of focusing on treating ALL my allergies (not just the food) and getting acupuncture monthly to help with the Sjögren’s symptoms, I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago. But there are still problems. I still can’t sit at the laptop for long if I’m wearing my contacts. I can’t drink alcohol without feeling the dry eyes and dry mouth the next day. I can’t eat grains of any kind without my fingers being stiff and swollen the next day. Brain fog hits me when fatigue from any one of my illnesses strikes. There are days the brain fog is so bad I can’t form a single clear thought and have to walk away until it lifts. Right now, my brain is telling my body to attack Vitamin B so my body is pretty much killing it rather than using it like it should.
I work between the laptop and pen and paper because of my limitations. I try to be more aware of how long I’m at the laptop before I get up for a break. But we all know that when you’re in the middle of writing something to get it out of your head, you can’t be bothered to get up for a break. When I don’t do that, it comes back around the next day with more stiffness or more dryness.
The food reactions that get in the way: debilitating headaches, stomach pains, and non-stop itching to name a few. Plus, I developed a problem with my shoulders from sitting so long writing. It put me out one weekend because my right arm was nearly useless. Chaz had to finish chopping vegetables for me one Saturday for dinner. I went five days straight in pain and begrudgingly took ibuprofen on the fourth day (ibuprofen exacerbates gut permeability) to alleviate just a little of it. Thankfully, my doctors fixed me up on the fifth day.
You might think it’s no big deal and that I should be able to write with brain fog or a headache or stomach pains or non-stop itching or shoulder pain, but this assumption means you haven’t experienced any of these things. Unless you experience brain fog for yourself, it’s difficult to grasp. It’s like getting lost in a really thick fog in which you can’t see your outstretched hand in front of your face and you try to feel your way around while disoriented but you get stuck in a deep patch of mud instead and you just want to lie down and take a nap because all of that was so exhausting. Yes, that run-on was intentional. Writing is the ability to craft words. When brain fog takes over, you lose this ability and it’s like your IQ dropped a hundred points. Trying to tell Chaz what I want or what I need can be a trying experience…for both of us.
It’s frustrating when I sit and write using pen and paper and I can’t keep a handle on my pen. My grip loosens even as I tighten it…and there goes the pen thwacking on the desk. Sometimes it’s because of the inflammation in my fingers. Sometimes it’s the pain in my shoulder. It’s one thing to realize before you sit at the desk to write that something is off and writing isn’t a good idea. It’s completely different to be wrapped up in the process when your body turns on you and everything goes awry.
It took me a month to complete the first draft on my second manuscript, and that was with an insane week of banging out four to six thousand words a day. The ideas and words just flowed that week. I’ve been working on the second draft for two months. I feel like I should be done with it by now and I find myself getting frustrated with that. Then, I stop and remind myself that it’s okay, each day I work on it is one day closer to a finished second draft. I’m doing the best I can each day and that’s all I can do. The alternative is to give up and that is not an option.