Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Aching Body, My Aching Pen

I realize I haven't been on here for a VERY long time. By way of explanation, 2015 was a super challenging year in so many ways, and it still seems I am trying to drag myself up from the murky depths it left me in.

In April of last year, I thought I had injured my knee. It ballooned up like an elephant's, and I couldn't put any weight on it. After several doctor's visits, I had some fluid drawn to check for infection etc... Meanwhile, my shoulders began to ache. Then my hips. Then my wrists and my fingers. My husband said it's like I went from 45 to 85 practically over night. Whatever had me in its grips had spread like a wildfire throughout my body. I was terrified, and even the smallest tasks felt daunting. I kept teaching, but the mornings (when I normally would be writing) were excruciating and exhausting. Finally, the results came back that whatever was happening in my knee was a rheumatoid response, and after several more visits I was finally diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. It's an autoimmune disease which causes an inflammatory response in the joints. My body was essentially attacking itself; I was literally self-destructing.

Suddenly, all of those prescription drug commercials on TV were aimed at me. I had never even heard of this thing before. But despite the prescription promises, the drugs I was prescribed took almost four months to kick in. And what this meant for me in the interim was that I stopped writing. Sitting at my desk was difficult, typing hurt. And I was absolutely and completely distracted by a very uncertain future. For a long time, I began to wonder if this was just the way my life was going to be from now on. I tried to envision a daily existence where I was in too much pain to sit at my desk, and wondered how on earth I would ever write another book. And then, finally, miraculously (though hardly over night), I started to feel better. The magic pills (which apparently are used in chemotherapy treatments -- um, seriously?) started to kick in. And slowly but surely my life started to come back to me.

But the novel that was due in October was hard work. I managed to complete a draft, but every single word was difficult to write. I have never thought of writing as work before this novel. Just as I'd never appreciated the ease with which my arms rose to put a glass away in the cupboard, or of my knees bent so I could climb stairs, I never thought about how readily stories came to me. How easily sentences seemed to craft themselves. In the strangest way, it felt like I was writing a novel for the first time.

And now, even as my immune system has been put in check, I am still struggling with this novel. Every morning I sit down and stare at the voluminous notes from my editor and want to cry. And then I look at the book itself and DO cry. It is hard work, and it hurts. BUT, slowly, incrementally, it seems to be getting better. The edits seem just a little bit easier to make. As with my body, there are good days and bad days. Days I'd really just rather go back to bed and hide.

So, that is where I am. Struggling. Just in case anybody was wondering.


Mindy Neuhauser said...

I only recently discovered your writing, after chancing across Breathing Water. I am now reading The Forever Bridge, and I absolutely cannot put it down. I am also a writer, with some awards to my short fiction and the dream of writing a novel I actually do something with. Your writing touches my soul.
I am sending you this comment because I want you to not give up. Last year was a rough, crazy year for me as well. (And by the way, to a lesser degree I also suffer from Psoriatic Arthritis. Surgery on one foot and another down the road, but no medication, yet)
I left my husband after being married to him and his alcoholism for 18 years. I am raising my three kids alone, trying to keep a full time job on track and still run a home and small farm. Let alone finding time to write. But your books have prompted me to read again, and my writing stems from my reading...So thank you. For your gift, for this incredible book I am lost in, and for sharing your journey. You will make it. You will be ok. You just have to take it, and life, one page at a time. With sincerest regards,

Bill said...

Your Jan. 16 post brings to mind Toni Bernhard and her books (How to be sick) and her Psychology Today blog. I also recommend you take a look at "Cure" by Dr. Jo Marchant.

Candace Houghton said...

My exhaustion comes from trading my hours of sleep to finish your first novel, Breathing Water. It was lovingly gifted to me by Mrs.Lund, my high school librarian and my children's current librarian at our small town library where we gather on Tuesdays and Saturdays for fun activities and to strengthen our community. As the mother of three boys, a local and with a five year past experience with my own Max, I felt like you wrote this novel for me, seventeen years later. I will now read all your other novels. Your writing is artistic, beautiful. Thank you for writing and please keep fighting, though I do wish the pain lessens it's grip on you.

T. Greenwood said...

Hi to all of you -- I am so sorry, I just now discovered these comments. Thank you.

And Candace -- are you in Vermont??

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine read one of your books and I was curious. Reading your Jan. 16 post was heartbreaking. I went through similar pain but got a HUGE relief from a diet change. I don't know if you heard of it but the Seignalet/hypotoxic diet is very efficient against arthritis and other auto-immune diseases. A good link at
Good luck,

Raymond said...

While distant or on the climb our private Everests, only in memory define us. I like so many others truly value your prose. Best wishes for your improving health.