You will die. As surely as you are breathing now, you will die. This life is as fleeting and as magical as your first kiss. And therefore, don’t waste it.
I’m telling you this as I tell myself this. I’m being your cheerleader as I encourage myself to live out loud, to dance with every movement, to wake up. I’ve been sleeping too long, living in the darkness of fear and fantasies. My body, having been ignored as I slept and dreamed of other worlds, has dulled from years of indifference.
But I’m awake now. I see the magic. I don’t know where this path will lead, but I don’t want to sleep anymore.
There were three lost children. Each child thought she knew the correct way forward and that the other two were hopelessly lost. But, truthfully, they all three were lost, each in a forest of their own making. Each forest was unique with its own terrible and fearsome trees, and each forest was borne into reality from the imagination of each child.
This story is about the middle child and her forest. Running and hiding and clawing her way amongst the dense trees of her forest, she couldn’t see that she already was where she desperately wanted to be. The trees looked frightening and threatening. If she had been able to see with clear eyes, eyes not distorted by fear and loneliness, she would have seen that the forest was indeed her forest, welcoming and magical. She had brought all the fear and anger and helplessness with her and had painted it over the top of the trees like a canvas covering a rainbow.
“How do I let go of the fear and hopelessness?” she asked the trees with desperation coloring her words.
“You simply believe that it’s true — it’s all true. Believe in your power and our power and the power of all creation. Let go of the fear, and trust in magic and hope and love.” The trees swayed in the wind and spoke to her softly. Their words were songs of comfort that soothed the fire burning in her brain and heart.
“Trust,” they repeated. “Let the magic happen. Quiet your brain and calm your heart and allow the magic to happen. It’s been inside of you the whole time, waiting for your sunshine. So quit running and searching, and shine.”
Today I looked on Google Analytics to see how many people visit Benign Chaos.
None. Not even one.
Twice before I have built up a website audience of about 200 – once with manga translation links back in the 90s when I was in college and more recently with diyplanner.com planner printables – so I know it can be done. But it still felt like a hard slap across the face and a punch to the gut (yes, it felt like both of those things at once). And I thought in despair, “How am I going to do this? I don’t exist. I spend every day working, but my talent and light are hidden in the vast noise of the internet.”
And of course, the only answer is “Have faith.” It’s always the answer given to every artist as they slam up against the inevitable question, “Why the fuck am I doing this? My voice is swallowed by the expanse of our population, by the magnitude of our existence.”
Why the fuck am I doing this?
Because it’s who I am and I actually have no choice in the matter.
Yesterday, I sent my manuscript off to yet another publisher. It took me four hours to do one hour’s worth of work as I wrote my cover letter and prepared the pdf of my manuscript. The emotions were crushing me and slowing down my work.
And when it was done, I cried. I cried, on and off, for two hours. Art is not a birthing process; it is the careful packaging of a part of your soul and setting it free into the world for others to experience. An artist and her art are not separate; each is the living, breathing counterpart to the other.
I had emailed a part of my soul to yet another publisher knowing full well that it will most likely be rejected. I had taken part, as I pressed the Send button, in the demise of my childhood and lifelong dream of being a published author.
And as I cried with the depths of a barren woman, feeling my dream burn into nothing around me, I realized something: I am only a writer. When you strip away the dream and ask, “Well, if you can’t write, what will you do?” there is nothing there. I have other things that I enjoy such as music, but I am only a writer. There is no fall back. If I can’t write — if I don’t write — then I am genuinely not fully alive.
So standing there, holding the husk of my dream and my cheeks still wet with my tears, I made a decision. I will write. I will write until I die. I will write until all my words have blown away into the winds of time and I’m not even a memory in the minds of my great grandchildren. I will write because that is all I am, and if no one can hear me and the universe swallows my voice, then so be it.
And when the time comes for me to draw my last breath, I will die happy because I will have lived.
I have a confession to make: I don’t just eat sugar; I make love to sugar. Like an adored mistress, I meet sugar throughout the day – much more often than is socially or healthfully acceptable – at various hideaways and make slow oral love to her.
It’s a passionate love affair that I have actively maintained my whole life and have never been able to give up. Whenever my poor, abused body comes forward to beg for fruits or vegetables, I patiently listen to the plea, and then try to imagine my world without sugar. But, for me, a world without sugar would be like a world without the sun.
But perhaps that analogy is wrong. Perhaps, a world without sugar would not be a world without the sun but rather, a world without heroine. Perhaps sugar is not life-giving but life-draining. Perhaps, for all its delicious high, sugar may actually be making my life worse… much worse. And it’s time to put the needle away and go through the withdrawal symptoms to get to the other – much more healthy – side.
But, as any addict will tell you, that is much easier said than done. Giving up an addiction is probably one of the hardest things to accomplish in life. It takes industrial-strength willpower applied over a lengthy period of time. The cravings eat at your mind, preying on your weakest moments and habitual inclinations. Your internal dialogue becomes reduced down to the single thought of your dependence, a repetitive monologue centered around your intense, all-consuming hunger.
But I have decided to enter the belly of the beast. My heroic journey does not involve conquering monsters or armies. I won’t face demons or Herculean myths. No, my heroic journey – the journey which angels will write books about – is simply (if such a word can be applied) to overcome my addiction. My heroic journey is entirely inward, to face the demon inside.
So I continue to struggle with my health and my recovery from poisonous antibiotics, but there has been a shift.
I let go of the bitterness.
Bitterness has a sharp taste, and it stings like tiny needles. I know because I’ve been living with it for four months. There has been a lot to be bitter about these past four months as I’ve mourned the loss of my health: bitter that the pharmaceutical companies and the FDA are immoral, unethical, and corrupt; bitter that my doctors are misinformed and uneducated and unknowingly prescribed a poison; bitter that some doctors won’t even listen to their patients, instead they believe the “research” that the pharmaceutical companies have funded and provided over what their patients are telling them; bitter that I have no legal recourse and the institutions can continue to poison more people and make their money.
And of course, the ubiquitous, “Why me?” Just bitter at the universe that I have been selected to experience this pain and sadness.
These have been my thoughts for four months, almost to the exclusion of thoughts of my children and my husband. Self-pity and deep, intense bitterness.
Also, these past four months, I have searched for the stories of others, trying to find hope in their journeys. I was poisoned by Zithromax that, from what I’ve read from other people, will take several months from which to recover. Since it’s a “relatively” short recovery time, there isn’t any support on the internet. However, it takes years to recover from fluoroquinolone antibiotics, and there are support groups and websites on the internet to help people. All of these support groups and websites are run by people who have suffered the poisoning themselves because the government, the pharmaceutical companies and the doctors offer no help — they don’t even acknowledge that the problem exists. So a grassroots support system has sprung up as ordinary people try to help each other go through a terrible and painful ordeal.
Many of the symptoms are the same except that my recovery time will be much shorter and there will be none of the tendon problems. The twitching, anxiety, “cycling”, muscle pain, headaches — all of that is the same. So I have been extrapolating from their stories. And today I was surfing the stories of recovery on floxiehope.com, and in most of the stories, the person, at some point, quit being bitter. They accepted their journey and let go of the personal witch hunt that was going on constantly in their heads.
And as I let the bitterness go — as I let the thoughts of hatred, anger and revenge towards all of these institutions and doctors go — I instantly felt better. It happened. And it’s happening to other people right now as they innocently and trustingly take their antibiotics, so I do think it’s important to get the word out, to be a voice. But I have to let the bitterness go. It’s hindering my happiness, my recovery and my health.
I want to live and love and be healthy again and be with my family, and, as long as I’m deeply and intensely filled with anger and bitterness, I’m impeding my own progress. I’m my own enemy. So instead of staying focused in the past, I choose to trust in my future. It’ll all be okay. I’ll be a different person — I’m already a different person — but it’ll all be okay.
And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
— Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
I have been through a very painful and transformative journey since the end of November of last year. Only four months has passed since this all began on November 20th, the fateful day that I took Zithromax.
I’ve already written several blog posts about my recovery from the horrific side effects of Zithromax, so I’m not going to rehash that part of the journey. I want to relate my unexpected and unintended rehabilitation from pharmaceutical drug abuse.
First of all, I didn’t realize that I even had a problem. I’ve been taking Maxalt and Vicodin for seven years to control headache pain. My headaches began in my early 30s. At first, I used Excedrin Migraine to control the pain, but the headaches were chronic. Eventually, I discussed the problem with my doctor, and we attempted to fix the problem with pharmaceuticals.
He prescribed Maxalt and Vicodin to manage the pain, and we tried three different beta blockers as a preventative measure. The side effects of each beta blocker was worse than the headaches (that’s why we kept trying different beta blockers), and eventually, after the third beta blocker which made me feel miserable, I told my doctor that I didn’t want any more prescription drugs. I told him that I was going to try to clean up my diet (which was terrible — I ate lots of fast food and sugar) and exercise. But I kept the Maxalt and Vicodin to handle the pain. That was seven years ago.
I knew that Vicodin was addictive, so I monitored my use of it. But I still used the Maxalt and Vicodin frequently. Out of every month, I was using the drugs maybe 10 to 15 days out of the 30. Since I wasn’t using the Vicodin every day and I had the blessing of my doctor and the pharmacy, I thought everything was good.
But I won’t lie to you: I did enjoy the high. When you’re stressed out or sad, you get high and everything is okay. You’re okay and the world is okay and you’re happy and everything is going to be alright. I don’t judge people who use drugs. I understand where they are coming from: with drugs, you quit emotionally hurting for a little while. But drugs always always make the problem worse. But I understand the temptation and appeal (and ultimately the illusion and destruction) of drugs.
But that wasn’t me… or so I thought. I was taking my drugs as prescribed by my doctor and condoned by society. Now fast forward to November 20th of last year. By this point in my life, if a doctor gave me a pharmaceutical drug, I quite happily and with trust took it. I had walking pneumonia, so I took the prescribed Zithromax.
The pain is truly indescribable. I can no more describe the pain of an adverse reaction to Zithromax than I can describe the pain of childbirth to you. Only those that have been through it truly understand the intense pain. And after going through such extreme physical and mental pain, I developed a phobia — a true phobia — of pharmaceutical drugs. So I quit taking the Maxalt and Vicodin. I was terrified of them and didn’t know what they would do to my body.
The headaches were so bad. But I was already in such extreme pain from the Zithromax that I just endured all of it. (I say I endured it, but the truth is, for the worst six weeks of my recovery, my husband and my mother carried me. I had lost hope, and I was physically exhausted and in constant pain. They took care of me, held me and encouraged me, and carried me.)
Now, four months later, I’m still recovering. I still have “bad” days, but I’m 90% back to normal. But something has changed. An apathy, that I was completely unaware of, and lack of energy have lifted. My husband noticed it as well. Even though I didn’t take the drugs every day, there was enough of the substance in my system for the apathy to be continuous. I would always choose to play video games or watch TV or surf the internet. I was never motivated to do anything that required any energy.
Also, my headaches have diminished. I still have them and they still are painful, but I don’t have them nearly as frequently and they are not as painful. I understand how difficult it is to give up pain medication though. When a headache comes on, I want the Maxalt and Vicodin so much because it hurts so much. But my phobia kicks in and wins.
Also, I find when I’m stressed out or sad, I crave the Maxalt and Vicodin. I want to get high. I want that feeling that everything is alright with me and the world, and we’re all going to be okay. I didn’t even know I had that craving until I quit taking the drugs. It’s weird when you have something as important as that going on with yourself and you don’t even know it.
There is no lesson to this story. It is simply what it is. But this is such a common story for modern American life that I felt it was worthy of sharing. There is connection, shared experience and truth in this story, and I wish everyone who is wandering this road all the best.
On to the next lesson that I have learned during this time of pain and illness. And you may be thinking, “Really, Angel? Really? More posts about your sickness?” And the answer is yes because the lessons come fast and furious during your darkest hours. I’m ready to get off this f-ing train, but I’m taking the lessons with me. They came at a very high price.
During the past eight weeks, there have been some extremely bleak moments filled with despair and hopelessness. Also, during this illness, as I have been able, I have written on my little online blog, which is my way (and many people’s way in these modern times) of talking to the Universe and connecting, however obliquely, to other silent humans.
And I have found that during the moments when I am writing about hopeful thoughts, I have felt hope in my heart. I have felt stronger and brighter and more hopeful about making it through to my happy ending.
And I read a lot of uplifting literature. Lately I have been reading about Eastern philosophical and spiritual ideas, such as Buddhist thought and Rumi’s poetry. And the ideas are little seeds that become rooted in my consciousness. And then, as they sprout, the thoughts become action.
And action is key to the whole process. When I write about hope, I feel hope. When I share hope on my blog, I feel hope in my heart. You are what you act, and writing is action. Teaching is action. To act upon an idea is to embody that idea.
So that’s the latest lesson on this long, painful journey: act. Act on your positive thoughts. Act and you will become the positivity.