Writing under the Influence

I have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and what followed my diagnosis was a lot of trial and error with various medications. I have been on medications that have caused me to swell, gaining twenty pounds in a little over a month; medications that made me feel suicidal and hopeless; medications that gave me severe migraines; and medications that simply did not work. Once I realized that my deep, suicidal depression was being caused by the medications I was taking, I stopped taking them all swearing never to take medication again. What followed? The most horrific pain and fatigue I have experienced in my life. It felt similar to the aftereffects of a car accident where every part of your body hurts combined with what I can only describe as a cellular-level fatigue. My brain would tell my body to move, but my body could not oblige. It was as if my body was weighed down with lead and despite its desperate desire to move, it could not. Within two days I was sitting in my doctor’s office broken.

I have a bad history with medications. Most often they have an opposite reaction. For example, sleeping pills give me an enormous amount of energy. Prescribing medication for me can be a daunting task. My doctor was willing to take on the challenge. This time she prescribed Strattera, an ADHD medication. Though I was diagnosed with ADHD ten years ago, I had not taken medication for it since finding out I was pregnant in 2004. I really enjoyed the chaos of my ADHD mind and had a difficult time with all the focus the medication gave me. It had significantly hindered my ability to multi-task so I did not return to it after giving birth. I had not taken Strattera before, though, and, after a day of deliberation, I decided to take it. Miraculously my bone-deep pain was nearly gone thirty minutes later. The only problem was that it wore off after about eight hours. So my doctor prescribed Neurontin for the evening. It was intended to help me sleep, but it, too, gives me a boost of energy. I am still having great difficulty sleeping, but at least I am pain free most of the night. I still wake up with the cellular-level fatigue accompanied by pain and burning in my legs, but now I know I have something available that brings relief.

What does all this have to do with writing? Well, my writing has suffered since I started taking Strattera and Neurontin. Though there were many times that the pain was too severe for me to focus on writing, there were also many times that writing helped me to escape the pain. In those times, I could visually walk through the scenes I was writing about and feel the experience fully. This amazing ability has been shut down. My writing has become more analytical rather than lyrical. It is more straightforward rather than uniquely expressive. It has become more tell than show. I find myself quite often staring at the blank page creatively mindless. I can no longer conjure the images that allowed me the full sensory experience of what I was writing. Instead, I am seeing the blank page and ONLY the blank page. So, the dilemma before me now is: Do I write under the influence of pain or under the influence of medication?

2 responses

  1. Oh my darling. How well I understand this. The cellular-level fatigue has been mine life-long. My brain says “go”, my body says “no”. There is a disconnect. The worst pain is the pain of that not being understood by others. ie “What do you mean ‘you just can’t’??” Oh god, the pain of “just can’t” and not knowing why not. My darling, for this despair I love you. You are not alone.

    And the medication. Yeah. The depression in me was obvious but the medications for depression put on weight and tended to make me ‘squirrellyer’ in the end. Turns out I’m a form of bipolar and the meds for depression trigger bipolar conditions. So for about 15 years I went without any medication at all and suffered deeply. But I felt deeply as well. Therein was my own most lyrical writing. And since the medication has been working to level me out that quality of writing has all but gone as well.

    Weight? Ha! Don’t bug me or I’ll sit on ya! And you don’t want THAT.

    I’m more analytical as well and instead of mourning the loss of my wild mind I’ve been engaging in the business end of the arts where analytical thinking and planning come in handy. This is the area where I became overwhelmed in the past. So it’s good news, bad news, you know? Do the same thing, but focus on a different aspect of it. Instead of fiction, try writing non-fiction and see how well you do. You might be very pleasantly surprised to find you now have a wonderful non-fiction ‘voice’.

    Truthfully, I was in so much pain these recent years that no one heard much from me anyway. I look back and like what little I wrote – kind of think, “Wow…did I write that?!” – but there was so little of it. I want to do more, but I’m still struggling to balance the new life ‘under the influence.’ It is a totally different world. I’m a different me in many ways. Good news, bad news.

    My love to you,

  2. Over the past few years I have turned away from drugs like Zoloft etc. Rather I have turned to body work and alternative therapies. I will not pretend it is still not a struggle, indeed I seem to have been very down of recent times, but at least I am feeling what is happening.

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