Acceptance

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 as a writer.

A Girl and her Heroine

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.

Faith in Darkness is Light, reprised

Light my path to help me see.
Touch my heart to help me believe.
Catch my tears to help me heal.
I’m lost in the sea
of opportunity and fear.
And I seem alone
though I know I am not.
And I feel alone
though I know I am not.
I do not understand the language of angels.
Faith in darkness is light.

Bitterness and recovery

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

Pharmaceutical drugs: My story of naive addiction

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.

Action is the keystone

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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.

Thoughts and action

Logical-thought

My posts recently have all centered around my sickness. I absolutely hate this sickness and hope it is over soon, but it has not been without its lessons.

The most recent lesson concerns thoughts and actions. This sickness has been incredibly painful and very very long. This is my first experience with a long term illness and the depression snuck in unexpected and uninvited. It was a deep depression that was taking its toll on my body and mind.

I went to see a counselor because the depression had become too much for me to handle alone. She talked to me about thoughts and action. She said that the longer I dwell on negative thoughts, the more they will gain strength, and when they gain enough strength, I will act upon them. She said that I must stop the negative thoughts in their infancy when they don’t have much strength, and I must not let them get to the point where I would act upon them.

Luckily, I had been meditating for a few years so I had some experience with controlling thoughts. So I put her advice into practice and began nipping the thoughts in the bud. I won’t say it was easy — I used all sorts of distraction techniques as well — and I won’t say that I was always successful, but I was successful enough to not go spiraling out of control.

And then one day — a day that I was feeling well — I thought, “I’ll write a little today.” Immediately, all the negative thoughts came crashing in: I’ve never been successful; I don’t know how to write; I don’t know what to write. But I had just spent the past couple of days nipping negative thoughts in the bud, and my mind immediately did it again. Snip snip, the thoughts were gone. And every time they tried to crowd back in, snip snip and they were gone.

And I could move. I could write. My negative thoughts had kept me from writing for so long, but I had learned from this illness that if you allow negative thoughts to become a runaway train, they will gain strength and you will act upon them, as in this case to never write.

And I wonder about the flip side. Can you allow positive thoughts to become a runaway train? Can you see the love and beauty that exists around us, and nurture those thoughts into full blossom and action? Can you see your own talent and worth and nurture those thoughts into full blossom and action?

I have learned from this illness that your thoughts are your power. Thoughts, when nurtured and strengthened, are your actions. So clip the negative thoughts when they are young and weak, and encourage and nurture the positive thoughts until they are so powerful that your actions reflect the very best part of you.

Don’t live yesterday. Live today.

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I continue to struggle with my health. I have been very sick for over seven weeks now. I will spend the entire day crying, and this past week, I went to see a counselor about my depression. She said that long term illness and depression go hand in hand. She said that I had to accept my illness and right now, I was mourning the loss of my health, and that I had to find something hopeful to keep in my thoughts and my heart to help me get through this illness.

After talking to her, I found the strength to fight again. I had quit fighting, and my mother and my husband were carrying the hope and the fight for me. Yesterday morning, I did a meditation on hope and health. It was an extremely positive meditation and very helpful, and I had a very good day yesterday.

But as evening fell and the night came on, I felt the twitching in my muscles that marks the beginning of another “episode,” and the fear, which is now my constant companion, fell more heavily onto my thoughts. So this morning, as I lay in bed just after waking, I tried to repeat the meditation of yesterday. I thought, if I can just repeat the positive steps of yesterday, I will have a good day today.

I don’t know if you have ever tried to meditate in desperation, but it’s not very effective. And then, as I lay there, desperate and trying to repeat the meditation of yesterday, a tiny voice in my head said, “Don’t repeat yesterday. Live today.”

And the profoundness, and perhaps the sadness given my current situation, of this statement hit me immediately. I can’t repeat yesterday, and, the truth is, I don’t want to repeat yesterday because I don’t want to live yesterday. I want to live today. I won’t lie: I desperately hope that today is as good as yesterday. But, whether it is or it isn’t, I still don’t want to live yesterday. I only want to live today, right now, and whatever it brings.

Finding hope

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I have been really sick for a really long time. I took Zithromax (Azithromycin) six weeks ago and had an adverse reaction to it. The physical pain and mental suffering caused by Zithromax is excruciating. Besides just the intense physical pain, you are also robbed of hope, and your world becomes bleak and without happiness.

And, six weeks later, I continue to struggle with both the physical and mental pain, and I just try to “get through the day” and have one more day of recovery under my belt. But an existence like this, for weeks, wears at your attitude. Where I used to see the positive, I only see negative. Where I used to anticipate a bright future, I only anticipate more days of pain and fear. Where I once had hope, I now only have desperation. As I told my husband, “I have no more fight,” because I have no idea how long this pain will last or how long it will take to recover. I just know that it continues day after day after day.

Then last night, I was watching How I Met Your Mother as I tried to pass the time and get through another day. In the episode, Lily was crying because she felt like she had missed her chance to be an artist, to follow her dream and live her passion. And Marshall said to her, “I promise you, your best and your most exciting days are all ahead of you.”

And I finally felt hope again. That one sentence brought a small ray of sunshine into my bleak existence where all color had seeped out and I was huddled in the corner, torn from all the happiness and goodness in the world.

So if you are on a particularly dark and painful part of your life’s journey right now, like I am, then let me say:

I promise you, your best and your most exciting days are all ahead of you.

The Uncrowned King

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Aragorn by Thomas M Madsen

We’re writers, storytellers, artists. We’re ephemeral yet infinite. We’re weak in our doubt and strong in our creativity.

We are a collective. We are one. Our voices, each unique, sing to the heavens and create space.

Remember this. When you look at the person next to you, know that that person is a songwriter and a poet. Know that their voice is as important to the chorus as yours. Know that their thoughts are as solid as yours, and know that even though they may seem lost, they are actually just on a different journey.

Then look in the mirror, and know that the person you are looking at is a songwriter and a poet with a strong voice in the chorus. Know that your thoughts are solid, and even though you may feel lost, you are actually just on an interesting, if perhaps sometimes difficult, journey.

Know that you are the uncrowned king.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

J.R.R. Tolkien