The Glamorous Writing Life: Drugs, Unhealth, and Not Drugs

There’s something I’ve beep shying away from posting publicly about. I dunno, but I kinda feel like if I mention it in public, it gives it more credence or tangibility or something, plus I’m hyperaware that I might be overreacting or experiencing a hypochondriac medical-intern effect. But then, what’s a blog for if not for over-sharing every now and again?

Basically, I’ve felt for a while now that I’ve been losing my words. Beyond a motivation or story flow issue, I feel like I’m perpetually groping to communicate anything. Frustrating beyond belief, yes. And also utterly terrifying.

Now, my human suit is less than hale and robust. I have an autoimmune disease (MCTD/lupus), a painful extra rib in my neck (thoracic outlet syndrome), and a slew of minor annoying and inconvenient health issues (allergies, insomnia, heart arrhythmia, and occasional bouts of asthma). And this year, I had the worst MCTD/lupus flare-up I’ve had in over a decade, one that I’ve still not fully recovered from.

So I’m batting away my knee-jerk “Early onset Alzheimer’s!” panic on principle. And yes, medical intern hypochondria concerns stem from here, as in my master’s degree in Developmental Psychology. But the panic-terror-dread remains, a niggling concern I don’t want to look at too closely. And even without the Big A, I can’t escape the fact that I’m just not functioning, cognitively, as well as I used to.

On the don’t-be-a-hypochondriac front, both scientific and control freak methodology advises me to break it down and examine the variables. Is it age? After all, I did turn 40 this year. My general state of unhealth? Sleep deprivation and sickness are certainly viable culprits for perpetual muzzy brainedness. Or the meds I’m on to combat said state of unhealth? I take Imuran to dissuade my immune system from becoming a giant, green rage monster, Adderall to fend away the fatigue due to either the Imuran or my immuno-hulk (or both), and Tramadol, Hydroxyzine, and Albuterol on an as-needed basis.

So my word shortage could be due to many things. But here’s where the methodology falls apart. I can’t manipulate most of the variables. Love to de-age, but can’t—not even if I had a Tardis. Ditto, can’t trade in my human suit for a better functioning model, much as I’d like to. And can’t quit taking my meds.

Well, actually, that’s not completely true. Adderall, Tramadol, and hydroxyzine are not life-support priorities on the human suit triage, with the most obvious candidate to remove being the Adderall (as I don’t take the Tramadol or the hydroxyzine on an everyday basis). But I’ve been loathe to take that step. Adderall combats my fatigue, keeps me from sleeping upwards of fourteen hours a day, and so heads off clinical depression. To whit, without motivation or energy, I can’t write or be productive. If I can’t write or be productive, I become depressed. (Can’t believe it took nearly ten years for me and my p-docs to figure that out. Also that antidepressants make me tired. Note the scary-evil vicious cycle?)

But, of course, without my words, I’m neither writing nor productive and therefore courting depression anyway. Also, the Adderall exacerbates my insomnia. Once I looked past my “Don’t wanna! I neeeeed it!”, I realized this really is a two birds, one stone thing. So I’ve been off the Adderall for a week now.

  • Sleeping better: Check
  • Energy, engagedness, and motivation: Jury’s still out
  • Flowingness of Words: Ditto, awaiting jury
  • Productivity: Well, this is my second proper blog post this week. (If folks hadn’t noticed, my blogging has been pretty Spartan and content-low of late.) But I haven’t made much story progress. Let’s call it another still-out jury.
  • Emotional equilibrium: Surprisingly high.

‘Course, even if I see definitive results from this extended Adderall holiday, there’s always the placebo effect issue to contend with. What I really wish I could do is make a couple hundred clones of me and run scientific trials against a control set. Stupid still-in-infancy cloning technology.

So yeah. Waiting (and seeing) is.

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21 Responses to The Glamorous Writing Life: Drugs, Unhealth, and Not Drugs

  1. Thanks for sharing. I know how difficult it is to live with a stupid human suit, and how losing the ability to create on demand can make one little scared and crazy. I, too, have an auto-immune disorder (psoriatic arthritis) and a basketful of secondary conditions — one of which a facial nerve palsy. The meds Rx’d for the twitch completely and totally negated my ability to string words together or draw more than a half-hearted scribble. I’ve been off the med for 6 months, and I’m still struggling. Hang in there, and best wishes.

  2. Eugie Foster says:

    Stupid human suits! Here’s hoping that both ours shape up and quit interfering with the important stuff already!

  3. *HUGS* So much empathy, Eugie. Good luck with the Adderall-removal experiment!

  4. Eugie Foster says:

    Thanks, sweetie. Hugs much appreciated :).

  5. Lots of luck, Eugie. I don’t have an auto-immune disease, but I’ve been fighting depression for years now (lots of meds involved too) I share your feelings about the downsides of living with this stupid human suit (I’m all for cloning!)

    All my love and prayers,

  6. Eugie Foster says:

    Thanks, Fabio. Depression is a vicious, bitey shoulder monkey. Why can’t they speed into production replacement mecha-suits for all of us suffering from human suit malfunctions?

    Lotso huggins.

  7. threeoutside says:

    *hugs* sweetie. With all you’re dealing with, I hesitate to put in my 2 cents, but here it is anyway and you can disregard it as you like.

    When I have too much going on in my life (work, family, friends, whatever) the words start to slip away from me, too. In my case it’s simple stress, I think, because once I realize what I’m doing to myself, and I back off from the crazy schedule, and get rested, the symptom eases off, too. (Since I’ve retired I don’t have the problem as often, but it’s still hovering over my shoulder, just waiting…)

    Keep taking care of yourself. Lots of us care about you!

  8. Eugie Foster says:

    Thanks, hon. Your hugs and $.02 are always appreciated!

    And yeah, there are definitely other potential causal factors here, including stress. I have been trying to decrease some stressors, but I actually seem to function well under stress. Mind you, I (really, really) don’t enjoy being stressed, but I seem to do my best work and have fewer emotional issues when I’m up to my eyeballs. Hella counterintuitive, right?

  9. ::sending hugs::

    With a grouping of medications like that, there’s no telling how they all interact together. Here’s hoping that another week off proves to be successful.

  10. Eugie Foster says:

    *huggins* And y’know, I noticed I was becoming more and more cavalier about doing an, “Argh, I can’t sleep, so I’ll take a Tramadol and/or Hydroxyzine. And tomorrow, the Adderall will make it all fine.” Because taking uppers to offset downers is so very healthy. So, yeah, this extended Adderall holiday was probably overdue.

  11. Just wanted to send you some support. I can really relate to the medical student syndrome. I do it al the time. It’s extremely unlikely that this is age or alzheimer’s related. I think it is probably a side effect from one or more of your medications, although I would gamble that it’s not the adderall. My money is on the hydroxyzine or the tramadol, even though you don’t take them all the time. Alternately, it could be plain old stress. The effect of stress on brain function can be profound, and in my experience, I am often not aware of it until the stress is over and my brain function comes back.

  12. Eugie Foster says:

    Thanks, sweetie. Support muchly appreciated!

    I’d be more suspicious of the hydroxyzine or tramadol, too, except I really don’t take them with any sort of regularity. I typically go months without taking either until a flare in allergies or pain, respectively. As far as stress goes, this is the low-stress time of year for me, so now is about as de-stressed as I can reasonably expect to get.

    I’m actually hoping it’s not the Adderall, as I’m not sure what to do about the fatigue issue if it is. I guess try to convince my docs to let me try another stimulant–Provigil or something, maybe. But the general caliber of the medical practitioners I’m seeing right now is at an all-time low, which is why I haven’t turned to them at all with my concerns. But in the end, I just want to be able to string a sentence together again without having to hunt through the thesaurus for every other word.

  13. Jerry Maynor says:

    The loss of mental acuity as we age is something that I think we all find shocking when it finally happens to us. I know other friends have had the “OMG what’s wrong with me?” episode…at this point I’ve basically accepted it. I used to never take notes in meetings – now I can’t remember anything that was discussed without referring back to my notes. We have to adjust our lives as we age and to exploit our new competencies as our old strengths become weaknesses. For me, that’s meant that I’ve started writing and stopped focusing so much on the analytics strengths I used to have – soft skills, not hard are becoming my focus as I get older.

  14. Eugie Foster says:

    I’ve been making a lot of concessions to what I accept as age-related diminishment of mental faculties–mostly to do with honing my organizational skills to counteract my increasing absentmindedness. But the loss of my words really freaks me out. Writing is both a passion and a fundamental necessity for me. I feel like I’m missing an integral part of me if I can’t do it, and it’s been such a struggle to get anything out for a while now. Sigh.

  15. Janice Clark says:

    We can’t avoid some age-related affects (I’m 30+ years older than you) but we can learn to live with them. It may be that much of your current problem is, as you noted, sleep deprivation plus recovering from major illness. The real killer is anxiety that tends to feed on itself. Stress is not so much something that happens to us but our reaction to what happens to us. You can learn to control your reactions to some extent. Many years ago I was suffering from multiple stress disorders, and realized that I had to learn to disengage, to let some things go. I can’t tell you how to do it because everyone’s different, but I think if you could get yourself to let go a little, your anxiety level would be reduced, and your creativity would start coming back. Postponing worry is one method–the Scarlet O’Hara coping method–I’ll think about that tomorrow. The 12 Steps “one day at a time” helps. You can develop your own mantras. My kids were fond of “dawubba” which was a quote from a speech-impaired kid telling my son “don’t worry about it.”

  16. Eugie Foster says:

    Must be less anxious about anxiety, check! Except I’m kinda anxious now that I may fail to perceive when I’m in the throes of an anxiety attack. Wait, I see a problem here… ;D

  17. Sandra Fay says:

    I once heard that the older we get, the more information is in our brain to process and that is why it takes us longer to come up with the correct word. In other words, when we get older, we all need to get new brain computers with more ram.

    From my perspective, when my pain levels are higher from the fibromyalgia, I have a much harder time focusing therefore, I can’t remember what I was going to say or think of the right word, what I was going to look up on my computer, etc. It sucks because you think your brain is broke and it will never work right again.

  18. Eugie Foster says:

    Yep yep. When I was deep in the throes of flare-up in January, I kept making stupid mistakes at work. Didn’t even realize I was being so affected by the pain until I got smacked in the face by all the oopses I made. Had to focus on double and triple-checking myself until I eventually pulled out of the worst of it.

    But overall, I’m not as concerned about my increased general absentmindedness. Research has shown age-related declines in reasoning ability, speed of cognitive processes, and spatial visualization–which, in my case, has always been deep in the red, so not really a concern–from as early as the third decade (give or take). So I accept that some age-related cognitive degradation is inevitable, annoying as that is. That’s what smartphones are for, after all–replacement RAM :D. However, language skills are usually more robust through middle-age, hence fueling my vasty gobs of freakout when it feels like I’m losing my ability to write.

    Stupid human suit!

  19. Janice Clark says:

    Oh my. Do stop and breath once in a while. You’re familiar with the “big lie” technique so beloved of politicians and other would-be controllers. GIGO applies to brains as well as computers. So try the “big truth” technique. Tell yourself over and over that everything’s going to be okay, that your sleeping muse will wake up and start producing again. It’s self-fulfilling prophecy. I know you’re good at persistence–that’s part of why you’re so successful. So be persistent in telling your brain good stuff. It takes time, but it works.

  20. Eugie Foster says:

    Calmblueocean calmblueocean calmblueocean!! *pant pant pant* Calmblueocean.

  21. hb says:

    “losing your words” not a sign of incipient alzheimers in most cases, just a part of aging. I laughed when a lawyer friend of mine told me the same sometime after we both hit 40 — but it happened to me when i hit 50. i who’d always been highly verbal began to stumble & stutter when i tried to explain somewhat complicated things & began to have to wait for words when i wrote — unlike when i was younger & the ‘right’ word would just jump out at me.

    similarly with motivation — things that used to seem important stop seeming so earthshattering & a lot of the social rewards for things start seeming stupid & one’s younger self petty for having cared about them.

    getting old has drawbacks, but also some rewards. don’t stress too much, unlikely you’re going senile at 40. hope the adderall holiday is helping!

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