I’d like to blame…

myself.  Gluten-intolerance.  Random bouts of illness.  The restaurant industry.  The chaotic nature of fate.

Does it matter?

I haven’t been keeping up with this blog like I said I would.  I haven’t been doing much writing, either.

When I started my novel for what felt like at least the hundredth time, I wrote the first four chapters in a month, one a week, a page or four a day.  I wrote the next two chapters the month after that, and chapter 7 was finally finished sometime that August.  I think.  I started the current rewrite in December 2009.  I “finished” chapter 12 last week.  Less than thrilled by my lackluster progress, I’m now back to trying to buy a ticket to forward my novel along by plane.  This covered wagon nonsense is getting stale.  So are the hard-tack biscuits.

If I could eat biscuits.  Sigh.  Well, that’s one explanation for why everything in my life seems to be on standby.  After the first 15 years of non-stop headaches and stomachaches, my body realized I still hadn’t gotten the message and decided that, hey, maybe organ failure would be a more pertinent clue.  I remained oblivious, so my body escalated its tactics.  By the time I finally got the idea that, hey, something was seriously wrong, I was doing my utmost to simply remain upright at work without passing out and tumbling into a fryer or landing on a flat top.  Mr. Wonderful was carrying me to bed, propping me up while I took showers, and putting up with the fact that I was too exhausted to brush my teeth despite my “delightful” descent into cigarette and coffee addiction, because hey, funny thing, smoking helps mitigate some of the symptoms of Celiac disease and gluten intolerance (even if your body is still destroying itself from the inside out).  Smoking was the only thing holding my wildly swinging mood in any sort of check, and coffee was the only way I could function at work.  I frequently couldn’t walk without limping because my joints kept swelling up.  It was a daily struggle to remember where I was and what I was doing, never even mind why I was there.  I couldn’t play video games, or look at a television, or even read a book, because I couldn’t concentrate and it was too exhausting to hold a book open or push the buttons on the controller.  Besides, bright light was excruciating, and staring at a neon screen even more so.  Mr. Wonderful kept having to grab my hands to keep me from itching all of my skin off.  I spent all of my days off staring at walls for hours until I heard my husband’s key turning in the lock and started wondering where the time had gone.  I couldn’t sleep despite the exhaustion, and when I woke up I felt worse than when I had gone to bed.  Eating was almost impossible.  I ate once every seventy-two hours, watching my body distort into an emaciated wreck and hating it, but food tasted terrible, and swallowing and chewing were only achieved by conscious effort.  Besides, I had to plan for an extra half hour after every meal just for the after effects.  I’d look in the mirror and see a pregnant skeleton, protruding belly and ribs.  I wondered if I was anorexic and didn’t know it.  How could my stomach be so out of proportion with the rest of me, especially when I hadn’t eaten anything?  Surely I had to be seeing things, but I always felt even worse after I ate.

My doctors were as clueless as I was.  Worse, they thought I was a hypochondriac, because they’d ran me through every battery of tests they could think of, and I’d come back with praise worthy blood pressure and blood tests that looked like they were taken from a medical text book for the ideal numbers.  They recommended that I get some more exercise.  I began to believe it was all in my head, too, or that I was simply weak, and my job was too demanding.  “My job is killing me,” became my favorite joke, and then I started repeating other little phrases: “I think I can,” to myself, “I’m fine,” to inquiring friends, coworkers, and neighbors, or to my husband when he found me passed out on the floor a few too many times.  There was “You’re just lazy” and “Just get up and do it”.  Honestly, though, I wanted to know why I couldn’t find a single speck of joy in anything I used to love or care about, and that was probably the worst thing of all.

If you think this sounds like an excuse, it’s because it is.  I’ve been gluten-free for about eleven months now, and every day seems like a miracle.  I’ve done more in these past eleven months than I did in the five years of my life previous to that point.  Everything except writing.  If you look at the dates above, you’ll see I wrote over half of what I’ve written of my novel so far while I was still ingesting gluten.  Part of that was because trying to work was so painfully aggravating to the condition that I was reaching for even highly improbably chances of escape.  Ah, motivation.  The other part was that writing was the only thing I had ever cared about that still gave me any sort of satisfaction, and I needed that “fix”.  Oh, yes, I did.  The point remains that, despite the fact that writing was a struggle, I still did it anyway.

The past few weeks I’ve had a cold.  So what?

The restaurant is still a grueling, exhausting environment, getting more precariously stressful, it seems, with each passing day.  Every Tuesday, I’m honored with the dubious task of making pizzas and breathing in the swirling flour clouds.  Every workday, one of my employees will inevitably ask me to taste some sauce or some other something whatsit that has been thickened with roux.  If I’m lucky I can usually find a way to bow out, but usually, foolishly, I accede, only to reap the consequences later.  My job, and my own stupidity, are quite literally killing me.

I got roped into this job because I listened to a story character, who insisted that I needed to learn to cook and exist in an industrial kitchen environment if I was going to write my novel with any degree of authenticity.  I can’t quit, because I thought it was a great idea to go to college at one point, and now I have a great deal of crippling student loan debt that I can’t pay if I accept a lower paying job (which is all that’s available at the moment), even if it’s for my own health.  I went to college because gluten intolerance was wreaking psychological havoc, and after I learned quite a few things about dealing with that havoc, I decided that I wanted to share the relief with other people if they were willing.  Besides, knowing basic human psychology has got to be great for writing convincing story characters, right?

It’s days like these when the threads twisting throughout my life, interconnected and overlapping as they may be, feel like a noose closing in around my neck.  Writing gives me a sense of euphoria, accomplishment, change.  It doesn’t matter if I am ever published or if my novel ever nets me so much as a dollar (although both would be nice, no denying); I simply like the work and the way I feel afterwards.  Ah, there’s my ticket.  Best prepare to board the plane.

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5 thoughts on “I’d like to blame…

  1. If I were to respond with “Wow” would that be too cliche? Because that’s what I’m thinking. I also think the inspiration to write will return. It’s only been 11 months that you’ve gained the freedom to do stuff again.

    I think I laughed when I read about your job as research for your book. I’ve done that! I intend to do more of it! And, yeah, the experience is often self-destructive. But it’s the authentic experience, right? 😀 Wow. There. I said it.

    • Oh, I will most likely do many more things in the name of writing, too! My degree, the classes I took, all of my hobbies, and every last one of my jobs all boil down to story research. I’m obsessed. Writing was my first love (sorry, Mr. Wonderful), and I’m hard pressed to think of anything in my life that doesn’t lead back to that love. I’ll even admit that I was drawn to most of my friends because they liked reading, writing, or engaging in some art form or another. “Wow” isn’t cliche. I’m just glad I didn’t turn everyone off by ranting about my health problems. If I’m not very careful, I will turn into one of those old ladies everyone is afraid to ask “How are you?” lest the onslaught starts again.

  2. Thanks for tuning in to my blog so I could find yours! Celiac disease, the challenge of staying away from gluten… it definitely sucks. And I still have depression and other health ills that have lingered beyond finally getting a diagnosis. But sounds like you had much worse symptoms to live with than I did. This is a great post; something about commiserating, sharing the pain, helps. Thanks for sharing. I’m right there with ya.

    • It’s a tough disease, isn’t it? Hard to find, too, with so many doctors not having the time to be up to date or really understand it, especially since so many of the symptoms overlap with others and some people are asymptomatic (not to mention that severity of symptoms can vary wildly for no apparent reason). Other than the headaches and stomaches, my first symptom was depression. I’ve spent most of my life dealing with it, and it is so much easier now that the gluten is gone, but I still live by the tips and tricks that helped me cope before I realized the major underlying cause. I found your post on depression particularly touching and honest, but I am looking forward to seeing you progress on your novel, too. Hope your dreams come true someday! Oh, and you have probably thought of checking for trace contamination in your diet, but if you are struggling now with feeling blue, it might be a part of the cause…I know that when I accidentally ingest, I often became very emotional, and have difficulty pinpointing why I am reacting so strongly to stressors until I actually think about what I ate, when, and where. I get depressed for other reasons, of course, but it is much more manageable and less intense without the gluten.

      • Thanks for the encouraging words! I’m so glad for your long-overdue diagnosis and that you’ve been able to get so much relief on the GF diet. With me, I do have a long history of intermittent GI problems, but virtually none in the years right before I was diagnosed. I had a variety of other weird symptoms that, like you said, can make finding celiac disease a puzzle for doctors. I have been careful about my diet since diagnosis, and tests have shown my gut has healed up well since going GF, but some of my neurological symptoms seem less responsive to the diet, so doctors tend not to think they’re related. But they also can’t tell me what they ARE related to, so you know how it goes. They still have a lot to learn about all the different body systems celiac can affect, especially the nervous system — which would explain my tremor, and where I think our fatigue and depression come from. But overall I’m doing good and feel fortunate. Anyway, it’s great having a comrade in the Celiac Wars! Now let’s both keep writing!

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