But on a More Positive Note

I ended my thoughts on trying to NaNoWriMo while managing chronic pain on a rather bleak note.  It wasn’t my intention but so often my current moods will color my writing–especially the nonfiction–and I was feeling broody and pragmatic that day.  It goes against the spirit of why I even joined NaNoWriMo this year to end the month feeling pessimistic, so I’ve come back to add a final thought.

Some is better than none.*

I am reminded over and over again that writing a novel mostly lives in the editing portion. That is where you grow and that is where you shine.  Brilliant books go through several drafts.  But you know what you have to do before you can edit your manuscript Yup, you have to write the first draft. Physically. On paper. It has to exist in 3D, not just in your daydreamer brain.

So, while I may have only gotten 2,000 words out of the 50,000 word goal (I dunno, I stopped keeping track. It was probably less.) that is still 2,000 more words than I started with on November first.  It’s something.  It’s positive. It has value. It was the best I could do this year and that month and it was enough.

*Psssst. I borrowed that. Click the link.

 

How to NaNo with Chronic Pain

teddy-teddy-bear-association-ill-42230Having previously come to terms with being a tortuously slow writer, I had not participated in NANoWriMo for a couple of years. I didn’t see a point. I had never won. I have since immersed myself in various online communities that include many writers and I found myself at the very, very end of October reading a thread of people announcing their intent to participate in NaNoWriMo. What really surprised me was the amount of people who freely and unapologetically admitted that they already knew they wouldn’t finish. But they signed up anyway. I began to feel more like a loser for not signing up rather than for not making 50,000 words. So a day or two into November, I joined in and recorded my intention to NaNoWriMo my current WIP (which should be noted, was also last year’s WIP).

It really is more about the intention. It doesn’t cost any money. There aren’t any consequences for “losing.” What was it going to hurt? I turned the goal of 50,000 words in thirty days into my intention to write as much as possible every day and it made me feel good.

Until the chronic pain settled into my hands and arms for the umpteenth time. What do you do with that? Like honestly, how do you perform a task with malfunctioning tools? I am always in pain, but sometimes it’s at a level that I can ignore, or sometimes it has settled into a different part of my body that can be accommodated for writing. But when your hands hurt to the point that you wring them together absentmindedly and your tendinitis has flared so that your wrist is swollen, and the pain is radiating up your arm in a solid line to what is more like your shoulders, there is no comfortable way to type. I can’t even type just on my phone because my thumbs are a large part of the problem. Forget hand writing. Maybe I could dictate? Is there even a good program for that yet? And good luck getting three dogs and a toddler to be quiet enough for it.

Bitch, whine, and moan. I suppose I could have no hands at all.

Pain robs you of energy too, physically and mentally.  And the brain fog that seems unique to fibromyalgia can be a totally different animal. It’s exhausting to be sick. And it hurts, in another way, to not be able to do the things that make your soul smile. I am left feeling guilty about all the time I waste not-writing when I feel good.

This post was titled as a “how to” which is misleading I guess. How To NaNo With Chronic Pain. You can’t. Or I couldn’t. I guess you pray that your flare-up gets over with quickly and that you still have motivation when you come out the other side.  I don’t say this to be depressing, or to inspire hopelessness; I say this to normalize my problems. I want you to see yourself in my journey and feel less alone. Maybe you can learn something too.

My Painful Past

If you haven’t been following along, I like to set my readers in a good place to start the story. I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia after a two year battle with daily pain and I have taken it upon myself to document my story of chronic illnesses here. When I think about it, when I really focus, I can remember a life-long relationship with pain.

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In elementary school, I sat out of a lot of P.E. activities. Mostly if they involved running. I have never been very sporty and grew to hate gym class but I don’t think avoidance was my issue. I distinctly recall that my ankles bothered me when I ran. I remember it as a sharp, jarring pain that was worse in one ankle than the other (which one I can’t be too sure of at the moment). I saw a doctor several times. I had X-rays done. I might have even worn a brace? But the most vivid memory I have of this time period is that a doctor eventually decided I had hurt my ankle and was now causing micro-fractures every time I ran on it. He put me in a cast (bright pink, waterproof) in the hopes that I would heal. It was very weird explaining to people that I had not broken anything really. I don’t remember what happened after that. I don’t know how long it took for my ankle problems to dissipate but they did. I don’t currently have problems with them and I haven’t had problems with them in a decade or more. It’s entirely possible that I grew out of whatever issue my ankle bones had with running.

In middle school, I graduated to back pain. I don’t remember if it took awhile for people to take me seriously or not. I do remember describing what I went through sometimes, as the muscles in my back gripping tight and refusing to let go (spasms). I remember I got pretty good care. I went through dozens of tests including five million scoliosis exams, XRays, an MRI, and a bone scan. A couple of those were damn near terrifying considering my phobia of needles and enclosed spaces.  The most frustrating part was that they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with chronic back problems. They thought maybe I had injured myself from carrying around a 25 pound french horn and a backpack that weighed even more as well as carrying my emotions in my back muscles. I went to a gifted and talented school and was pushed to be a high achiever. I was under too much stress for a thirteen year old.  They sent me to stress management counseling where I learned how to meditate (a skill that has been very useful to me over the years). In the end, my mom sought out chiropractic care and massage therapy. Both were considered way more alternative than they are now. But I actually found answers and relief. Although my situation would remain chronic.

Over the years I was able to achieve lower levels of pain and many, many pain-free days. I was able to remain moderately active. I didn’t need any prescriptions. I was never bed-bound. It became routine. Familiar. I was actually proud of my tolerance, considering it fairly high because I dealt with pain so often. It didn’t have a scientific name and I never wrote “back problems” down under medical issues. Life carried on.

At twenty nine I was pregnant. Along with many other issues including but not limited to debilitating fatigue, oily hair, burning acne on my chest, horrible depression and suicidal ideation, my old friend Severe Pain returned. It was most prominent in my tail bone, butt bones, and pubic bone and it started early. They liked to tell me that my body was preparing for labor and I would just stare at them like ,”Guys, I’m only two months in.” Exercising? Out of the question. Walking became ridiculous too. Rolling over in bed? Agony. It has come to my attention that I was probably suffering from Symphysis pubis dysfunction but even if I had gotten them to diagnose this, they still would have waved it off.

It set the precedent for the next two years: being in pain and being ignored.