Abandoned Books and Rediscovered Authors

As part of my research for my memoir, I have been reading a variety of memoirs that come across my path. My memoir is themed around my struggles with illness since I was born and how they affected my life. Some of the titles, such as Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani, are directly relevant; this book is about how a near-death experience changed her life.

Others are tangentially about illness but not memoirs, like Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors, by Susan Sontag. I was hoping to plumb the book for insight as to how metaphoric comparisons of illness might have affected how I experienced and interpreted illness, even though Sontag talks mainly about tuberculosis (TB) and cancer, and then later, AIDS.

Sontag’s writing style seemed dense and intellectual, drawing on a truly staggering number of literary references that demonstrated illness (TB and cancer) and its metaphors through fiction, such as in the operas La Traviata and La Bohème. In this manner, the book reminded me of a history tome, filled with date after date after date. Sontag also seems to repeat herself as if there was only so much that she could say about it, but her publisher made her try and stretch the thoughts way past their prime. I mentally pushed myself through about 70 pages of the book before setting it aside. I really hate doing that, but I hate torturing myself through repetitive, difficult to read books.

And in my procrastinations yesterday to avoid writing, I decided the next best thing was to read articles related to writing. This quickly lead me to the essay A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace (DFW). I tried getting into his novels Infinite Jest and The Pale King, but I abandoned both because I could not get into the stream of consciousness that his writing seemed to be. I tried. I had read about how beloved DFW was both to his readers and critics, and I wanted to be one of his fan boys. But I had to come to the conclusion that his writing wasn’t for me.

Until now.

I was sitting at Argo Tea on a corner of 7th Avenue and West 26th Street in New York City with a writer friend. I quickly began laughing out loud and hastening my hand to cover my mouth. You know when you find something so funny that you immediately want to start making eye contact with everyone around you and telling them about it? That was me yesterday at the Argo Tea.

Here’s a little tidbit of his writing after which I had one of many outbursts:

I have heard upscale adult U.S. citizens ask the Guest Relations Desk whether snorkeling necessitates getting wet, whether the skeet shooting will be held outside, whether the crew sleeps on board, and what time the Midnight Buffet is. I now know the precise mixological difference between a Slippery Nipple and a Fuzzy Navel. I know what a Coco Loco is. I have in one week been the object of over 1500 professional smiles. I have burned and peeled twice. I shot skeet at sea. Is this enough? At the time it didn’t seem like enough.

It’s not just his descriptions of things that makes reading the Supposedly Fun essay such a joy. Right away, you come to understand that this essay truly reflects his actual first person thoughts and feelings, uncensored and as they are. How easy it would be for DFW to pretend to feel something that he did not and make it seem real? Very. He shares his impressions of the staff, the other people at dinner Table 64, and his struggles with semi-agoraphobia that teeter him on the edge of whether he is going out of the cabin or whether he shall avail himself of room service.

What hit me deeply in reading this essay by DFW, however, was his repeated mentions of death, despair, and loneliness. In 2008 at the age of 46, David Foster Wallace committed suicide. Pictures of him often show him with a wrap around his head, hair disheveled, and a pained expression on his face. Even in an essay that he wrote when he was sent on a cruise for pay and asked to write an article, the pain came with him. When you have major depression and anxiety, there is no holiday or cruise that you can take that will separate you from the pain. If only there were, maybe DFW would have found a way to be with us still.

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Managing Depression

Today is 89 days straight in which I have written at least one page of writing every day. The chain remains unbroken.

In the last week, however, I have noticed negative thoughts creeping in. The act of daily writing has largely staved off these thoughts for the past 3 months. The fact that I am doing what I want to do creatively gives my mood an enormous lift.

So why have the old thoughts been creeping in? Thoughts like, “What’s the point of writing? You’ll never be any good. You’ll never make any money from it. You’ll die alone and unknown and no one other than family and friends will ever know you lived. Just give up.” Deep inside, I considered it. I felt my resolve wavering along with the tree outside my window.

I used to want to find the answer. What was the trigger? Why am I feeling this way? Now, I say to myself, Who knows? I try to find ways to keep going. Maybe it was the anticipation of my hitting a milestone (90 days of writing). You can find out the exact reason all you want and, sometimes, it just doesn’t help.  You can’t go back and change the cause. All you’re left with is dealing with your mood and feelings in the present.

All my posts here get redirected to Twitter get redirected to my Facebook page. On that page, a friend suggested I read the memoir, “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression” by Andrew Solomon. His first chapter, entitled Depression, talks about what it is and, more importantly, how it felt to him.

As I read his descriptions, I felt myself becoming increasingly morose and unhappy. The painful feelings and sense of oppression made me feel as if I had a two-ton weight pressing down onto my shoulders that would not quit until it ground me into the ground. I felt more pain, too, and it made me wonder if all this fibromyalgia pain is depression pain instead.

After running an errand to find seed beads and coffee, I settled into my writing place at Argo Tea on 26th St. and 7th Ave. I opened my memoir file and began writing, but felt like it would be too hard. So I decided to start reading about memoir writing instead.

I found a great article “How to Write a Memoir” by Scott Berkun and ordered it from the library. Reading his article about how hard it is to write a memoir, that it takes a lot of times that only you can invest, and that you have to write for your own reasons – not to make money. I think that was the lift that I needed.

Then I wrote this post a day early. I have been trying to spread out my writing – Blog writing on Mondays and Thursdays; memoir writing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. But today I knew I needed to write this today. Tomorrow couldn’t wait. This post is beyond blog writing.

Just for today, this post is about getting to writing again.

Weather, Curcumin, Exercise, and Fibromyalgia

Despite some stress with my mom’s health issues in August, I managed to get to the beach a couple of times. That put me in a better mood. I think the summer does that to me, specifically, being at the beach, riding the waves, and relaxing to the sounds of the waves. One weekend, my husband and I biked about 10 miles along the Wantagh Parkway, which hugs the shoreline of Jones Beach.

Before we moved to NY, I had a number of conversations with my physiotherapist about the benefits of turmeric in the pain management of fibromyalgia, a syndrome that I have. For those who don’t know, fibromyalgia is a syndrome, not a medical diagnosis, because a cluster of symptoms appear for which there are no known causes or diagnostic tests. WedMD has a pretty comprehensive list of fibromyalgia symptoms.

I am not a big fan of turmeric, so adding it to my food presented a problem. At a local natural foods store, I came across a supplement called CuraMed by Terry Naturally. The supplement claimed to have 750mg of a clinically studied element of turmeric called curcumin (BCM-95). They also make a less potent version called CuraMin. I started that first and noticed a slight reduction in pain. After finishing a bottle, I let some time lapse, and then decided to try again, this time with CuraMed.

Sometime in the middle of August, I got a call from my gym, LA Fitness in Lake Success to come in for a fitness test that came as part of the gym membership I bought in February. Since I paid for it, I decided to go in. I should have known it’s an in to a sales pitch to buy a training package. Once I got there, I was hustled along to the manager, JM, with some serious sales skills! Even when I knew what was going on, there was a part of me that wanted to say yes. I ended up putting him off for a day to talk to Mark about it, but I signed up for a package. IU figured that, if I’m going to be in pain, it might as well be from trying to get healthy with exercise instead of just the same old same old fibro pain.

That was a month ago. Since then I have been going to the gym four days a week, twice to do weights (one with a trainer) and twice for some other reason – yoga or other classes). Today I went in and rode a bike for about 40 minutes, just to do something different.

I looked back on this last month and realized a few things:

  • The CuraMed supplement has eased off my depression. Whether it’s because it’s acting as an enhancer to the generic Cymbalta I am taking or because it is actually working on some level as pain relief on my fibro, I have no clue. I am actually still in a bunch of pain, but my mood has improved significantly.
  • I have experienced elements of euphoria after exercising which is more than just exercise itself. I know what it feels like to have endorphins rush through your system after a good work-out. This seems to be almost a bit of a mania. Tonight, I got home after a workout and danced around while I made dinner, and then had some champagne with my husband to celebrate our one year anniversary of our move to NY and my one year anniversary of my Master’s graduation.
  • That I can probably talk to my doc about coming down on the dose of my generic Cymbalta. I went on it because it was reported to help with sleep for fibro patients. The days I exercise I sleep much more soundly than when I don’t, which is at least 4 days a week.

All in all, I have been feeling  better despite the marginal improvement in pain. All I can do is keep on hoping that, one day, things will come together and I will cease to be in chronic pain every day that interferes with my life as it does now and has done for years.

Struggling

Lately, I have been struggling to maintain a positive disposition. I have gone into a deep funk. Today, I felt sad for no reason. I think the fear of getting two fillings redone tomorrow overwhelms me.

Since it was Sunday, I decided to clean my desk and pile the crap into my inbox in order to make the rest of my week more productive. That helped for a while. Editing my short story brought me hours of peace. This evening, I shared the story with my writing critique group for my 6/14 workshop. So I’m not exactly holing up in bed and pulling up the covers.

Morning writing is still on hold. Maybe I will try again on Tuesday. This makes the second post in a few days, also a positive sign.

I wish I knew how depressed artists manage to be productive. Maybe they aren’t. Maybe they drink and drug their way through it because it’s unbearable any other way.

I feel like an engine stuttering to come to life after a deep freeze. Writing here kind of keeps me accountable. I no longer feel the need to write every day here. I justified it by saying I was doing morning writing daily, but now that’s not happening, either.

On Friday, I went to see a new therapist trained in EMDR (eye movement densensitization and reprocessing). I am hoping that we can work towards excavating the remaining negative experiences and traumas that are embedded in my psyche. I want to move forward and meet my dreams as they arise, hand in hand on the road ahead.