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Illness, On Writing, Solar Flares

On a little boat, alone, sailing the Nausea

The days all kind of feel like a blur lately. All I seem to remember are routines: time doing math homework, time wasted online, time on the couch half-watching TV, half-reading We Need to Talk About Kevin (which has been an enjoyable, but slow, read), and, of course, time sick. All I really remember of the last few weeks is that I finished a long, long, long short story called New Kowloon, after which gushed feelings of pride and achievement and cosmic satisfaction. This was followed by a week of planning[1] for another story of similar length, and then work. And maybe it was all getting to be too much—work and school and in general trying to be strong and resist the many tendencies I have for self-destruction—because these last few weeks I have been feeling very nauseated. I mean it’s not surprising. Nausea is part of the package. When God or genes or whatever else handed me down the gift of Ulcerative Colitis, that gnawing, twisting, toe-curling abdominal pain was already in the box. Free of charge.

A complementary gift.

So these past few weeks I’ve been popping Zofran (ondansetron) in the mornings, trying to make the pain go away. My first week back on the job saw me rising an hour early, at 5 AM, just so I could be sick that hour before I had to shower and shave and head to work. And the nausea hasn’t let up. Mostly it has its tantrum in the morning for a few hours, then lets me go and I’m decent the rest of the day. But recently I’ve been feeling icky and lethargic later on into the evening, depending on the time of my last meal, apparently. I can’t eat anything anymore without feeling shitty about twenty minutes later. This includes drinking water.

So I’m probably flaring again. This would be #4 since official diagnosis back in September 2011. At work, I’ve had to change back to nights because nausea on the drive and the walk to my desk is too much to handle.

The thing is, it’s impossible for me to write when I feel this sick. I’ve heard stories of authors gritting their teeth and writing through illness, but to me that sounds like either the illness involved mild pain / discomfort, or these literary men were stubborn bastards. Whenever I try to focus on the screen, my thoughts just swirl and head south again toward my gut, not unlike how the toilet flushes three, four times each morning and the waters go from a frothy, fibrous brown to clear. I can’t get my head to clear the same way. As long as I feel sick, my thoughts get all gunked up.

This morning was the first day I’ve written (creatively) since mid-January. Only managed about three hundred words. It was hard, too, for a couple reasons. One, I woke up (again at 5 AM) with a rather rare, but splitting headache. Two, staring at the computer screen was like staring down the sun. Couldn’t keep my eyes on it for more than a couple seconds, and when I did it was only with them wincing, half-open. Tried to make it work, though. But the words … it was awful. Three hundred words of the dullest, stilted prose ever. It’s a familiar feeling, though. Coming off Flare #2[2] and the hospital visits, I was used to feeling broken on the keys. Like I couldn’t even write a single decent sentence.


[1] Long periods of time that involved staring at the wall, daydreaming, scattered with a few periods of actual distraction-free research.

[2] The September-October 2011 flare that KOed me. I was bedridden for weeks, incapable of much beyond frequent trips to the bathroom wherein the lining of my colon was excreted out in small doses. Most days I did not have the energy to walk to the kitchen, let alone cook or even grab a snack. I lost sixty pounds during this time. Without the care of family, I probably would have died.



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