Saturday, March 24, 2012


In the midst of the chaos of the last two months, undoubtedly because of the chaos, I realized one thing. I must write again, and write more, at all costs. That whole cliche about the suffering artist, who feels her soul is ripped from her body if she can't persue her art-- that has been me.
The price of the past year's medical confusion has been writing. I've only done it in tiny snatches, and mostly not at all. The memoir I've had to box up entirely because the project just seemed too big.
Instead I've edited a handful of short stories, written two short ones, and used my spare fifteen-minutes a day to keep sending my stories to magazines-- one story in particular, called Maximum Love, which received many encouraging, personally-written rejections from editors who told me they liked it, it was so funny and original, but they just didn't have space, or didn't like the ending, or didn't know why this character said thus and such, blah blah blah.
I rewrote and rewrote that story, and every time I received a rejection I sent it to four more journals.
But mostly I didn't write. I kept saying, soon things will get better, be patient, it's just around the corner. Days, weeks and months ticked by and I found myself that dark, soul-ripped place. I cried on and off for days, and came to the conclusion I needed help. In a concrete way, I needed someone to do my dishes and laundry and pick up my supplements and keep the apartment allergen-free. Because I needed any time at all back so I could write again.
My mother and The Poet agreed whole-heartedly, and now I have someone coming three times a week to do all those things. It feels better, much better. At first this just meant I spent more time on medical appointments, but this week I wrote a bit more.
There is this guilty part of me that keeps saying: how can your family be paying for someone to do chores for you just so you can indulge yourself in writing? You're a grown woman, can't you take care of yourself, do you really need your grapes peeled? But The Poet and my mom and other close friends have kept saying no, this is important, you need this. Thank god for their encouragement, I am acually crying from gratitude while I write these last two sentences.
The short stories are sticky-- I get a new idea for one, and I want to write a draft while it's glowing in my head. Then I need to edit and edit the last one I wrote. Then there are the submissions, which always take thrice the time I anticipitated. I get so caught up in the yo-yo of short stories that the memoir never happens.
So this week I gave myself a deadline. Finish up the shorts and go back to the memoir. Something book-length is so daunting when I'm feeling this sick. On the other hand, I'd planned to finish it last July and August, and it hurts how long I've delayed. So no more.
Maybe there was something about that resolution. I opened my e-mail Sunday to see a reply on my story Maximum Love. Ho-hum. I couldn't even work up an ounce of nervousness, or hope, or even dread, just boredom at the thought of one more more rejection. I opened the message.
"We want to publish Maximum Love," they wrote. "We love it." At last! A perfect send-off from the universe's chaos. Time to put the stories to rest, get back to the book.
Yesterday I sent out ten new submissions for my most recent story, and those are my last submissions for a long time. This morning I'm updating the blog. Tomorrow, or perhaps this afternoon even, I will open the box that holds draft 2 of the memoir.


Looking back at my last post, I am struck by how peaceful it
was, and by how much has changed in the nine weeks since. It was just about
then that I agreed to do another test for Lyme because I should have been done
with the Shoemaker protocol and off most of my supplements by then, and I
wasn’t. Dr. Ross said active Lyme might possibly be the culprit. This was
exciting in exactly one way—that there now is a non-antibody test for Lyme with
80% accuracy.

Before the blood draw, I had to I stop taking my one-drop/day
dose of Samento, a Lyme-killing herb, and a couple other herbs I’d been taking
that had an anti-bacterial effect.

And so began my further descent. I slept less, tried to
solve it by detoxing more, got nowhere but exhausted. I worried the lurking
sinus infection, which I’d been trying to get rid of for six months, was
causing all my trouble. I redoubled my efforts to clear it out, which took more
time from my day.

More than ever, I felt from the moment I got out of bed that
I was racing the clock to get through all my medical tasks-- injections to
powders to pills to enemas. And now the nasal sprays and essential oils on
q-tips inserted into my sinuses, which I found myself doing at 11pm, because I
couldn’t get to it sooner, which is hardly a way to induce a good night’s

I did the blood draw, the lab mixed up my test results, I had
to stay off my herbs for two more weeks until I the replacement test kit

And then came the day I lifted my arms to braid my hair, and
I felt an all-too familiar feeling: that horrible, domineering, sluggishness I
lived with for eight years before my diagnosis. My arms were made of liquid
lead and I just couldn’t lift them for more than five seconds.

“This feels like the bad-old days,” I thought.

Mind you, I was still going running and to dance class and
doing my grocery shopping by foot, but the absolute feeling of Lyme took over
my body from time to time. Sometimes it was a just a passing moment, a few
mornings it was a good two hours. There is tiredness, there is sickness—such as
food-poisoning or the flu—and there is Lyme. It has its own particular feel.
You can say “flu-like”, but the feeling, for me, is subtly and entirely
distinct from the flu. It has a particular flavor, its own color, as unique as
the face of an old friend. You may not have seen that face for a few years, but
you would not call it by any other name.

I put myself back on Samento—one drop, then two drops per
day—felt wiped out enough to call it a die-off reaction.

So I was in Dr. Ross’s office last Monday declaring that I
could not wait six more weeks for test results. (Yes, this amazing new Lyme
test takes time!) I also told him just how stubborn this sinus infection was. I
left the appointment with a prescription for Biaxin (generic name Clarythrosmycin
for all you anti-biotics geeks), which would treat the sinus infection and the

Dr. Ross reassured me that people in my situation bounce
back quickly—I haven’t gone back to square one. And this week, despite the
waves of nausea and other die-off unpleasantness, I’ve felt a bit better than
the week before.