Tag Archives: neurological issues

Insert Click Bait Title Here

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I’ve started and stopped this post a dozen times at least over the last few months. On one side, I feel like I need to get these things off my chest to vent and feel better, but on the other, given the difficulties of my neurological illness, it seems like petty whining. However, the fact that I keep coming back to the topic tells me that I need to vent it. When I lay down at night, the thing that eats at me most is that my writing career is judged not by the quality of my storytelling or the clarity of my prose but rather by my inability to wrangle social media. I cannot express in words how much that bothers me.

I began pursuing writing as a career in the early 90’s. Like most, when I began, I was terrible, but what I lacked in ability I compensated for in desire and effort. I studied. I practiced. I wrote. The hours I spent honing my craft were countless – all nighters in coffee shops and diners hunched over a book or a stack of notes; weeks bent over a yellow legal pad with a black Bic pen; more weeks seated before a Brother word processor with a built in printer; reams of paper and ribbons. My poor roommates were forced beta readers and endured many a painful rough draft. There was no internet, not as we know it today, and the submission process was glacially slow. Yellow envelopes, a couple bucks postage, thuds at the bottom of the chute, and weeks of waiting for the SASE to return. I collected 36 form rejection slips before I landed my first story in 1995. Those slips were thumbtacked to my wall by my word processor as scars of honor.

I don’t enjoy bragging on myself; it always feels forced and awkward talking about the quality of what I do publicly. Those are statements best left for others to make, but I know the Brotherhood series has serious depth. The volume and quality of reviews speak for themselves. Still, I can’t break through, can’t reach my audience, which I know is out there, because I’m not savvy with social media and don’t know how to create click bait. It’s maddening to feel in your bones that your audience is out there and with this global inter-connectedness we now have to be able to reach them in more ways than ever before but always to feel drowned out by the inundation of cat memes or the outrage of the week. And don’t get me started on the bait and switch Facebook pulled.

I look at the authors who do tend to maximize social media, and I just don’t want to be like those people. There’s Chuck “Windbag” Wendig who manages to trumpet the white liberal guilt message on every public outrage. If parrotting to the left what they want to hear is the path to success, I’d rather stay broke and obscure. To the right, there’s Larry Correia, who’s just a smartass asshole. I tried following him for a week or two, but after watching how he talks to people in general, biting their head’s off for daring to waste his precious time, no thanks. He can keep his success and shove his attitude up his ass. I’ll put the quality of my storytelling  and prose up against theirs any day of the week, but I will not behave as some caricature of a political mouthpiece.

Right now, I’m also frustrated because I can’t work. I can’t do the thing I love and close out the final installment of Brotherhood. My health is in the way of that, and those who know me well know how much it’s eating at me to be in this hellish limbo. While I believe I may have found the solution with these dietary changes, it’s going to take time for the neurological symptoms to improve. In the mean time, I need to sell books to be able to afford to eat the right stuff, but to sell books, I need to be more social media savvy. Last night, I tried to create an Instagram account, but I’m too much of a dinosaur to know how to do anything with it. I suck at Twitter. Google+ is a ghost town. Facebook wants money. It’s a vicious cycle.

I just want to find my audience and be able to write for them. I want to spend whatever time I have left on earth using my creative energy. That doesn’t seem like an outlandish goal to me, but right now, it still feels as far away as it did all those years ago when my fingers let go and that first yellow envelope slid down the mail chute. I know it’s not. I know I’ve traveled a long way and overcome a lot of obstacles and accomplished some good things, but I still haven’t reached my audience yet. I guess I’ll stop whining now and end this little pity party.

Here’s Some New Year-New You Stuff, Kind Of, Not Really

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This neurological disorder has really done a number on me. Over the last year or so, my fine motor skills and spatial coordination have eroded rapidly; I’ve experienced regular muscle spasms accompanied by a painful electric jolt; I’ve fallen at least four times, which is quite terrifying when it happens in the middle of the night all alone; phantom bugs have crawled up my arms and legs; my memory, concentration, and cognitive abilities have been foggy; my left arm has become almost completely numb; and I’ve had to reassess my threshold for pain. There have been moments when I believed myself a goner, if not fully at least functionally, and by far, the hardest part of all of it has been the diminished capacity to write. Even a short blog post like this one takes hours to compose because of all the breaks I have to take and the pitiful state of my typing. In short, the last 15-16 months have presented some interesting challenges.

But now, hopefully, the tide is about to turn.

The other day, an acquaintance directed me to research that sheds a little light on what could potentially be the cause of my illness. If you don’t have time to read that article, in a nutshell, excessive sodium intake, primarily from processed foods, can cause the body’s Th 17 cells, which are part of the immune system, to become overly aggressive and attack normal body tissues. While not definitive, the research lends itself to the idea that excessive sodium consumption can trigger an autoimmune disease like MS. I must admit to being guilty of relying too much on processed foods in my diet over the years, and when I really got to looking into it, I realized that my sodium intake has been much higher than I had thought. I never add salt to anything and barely cook with it, so I figured I was okay. However, once I looked closely, I had to admit to myself that I’ve consumed way beyond the recommended amount.

That same acquaintance also pointed me towards how a paleo diet has shown positive results at not just halting but reversing MS symptoms. He himself has seen a dramatic recovery in the 3-4 months he’s been following paleo. While the effects of the diet could just be related to the reduction of sodium, there seems to be more to it than that. I’ve already been gluten free for three years, and when I first cut it out, my symptoms all but disappeared, leading me to believe I had found the culprit. However, now that my symptoms have returned, it stands to reason that if gluten can be responsible for neurological degeneration, other foods could be as well.

Therefore, I have decided to make every effort to follow the paleo diet guidelines and remove restricted items from my intake. I plan to chronicle my results here to have a record of my experiences and responses to the change in nutrition. Hopefully, I will see the same improvements to my health that others have shown. Regardless, it feels nice to have a ray of hope after so many months of decline. If I can at least get back to the point of being able to write regularly and work outdoors even just a little, I will be content with the results. So here goes nothing as I start my journey to recovery.

Bring on the New Year

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There can be no doubt that 2014 was a challenging year for me, but rather than dwell on the setbacks, I want to close out the year by thanking the people who went out of their way to make sure I had food, shelter, warmth, and support. My deepest heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you:

David and Martha Adams; Tracy Kinsler; Marsha Adams; Dagan and Sarah Smith; Dave Mattingly; Todd Wright; Nick Skelton; Lucas Munasque; Carla Williams; Karen Graves; Sandra Wicker; David Ramey; Heath Tatum; John Backer; Kristopher Sparks; Jessica Lay; Terry Rawlinson; Preston Smith; Jim Harrison; Ashley Franks; Melissa Pascua; Brittany Davis; Amy V.; Alicia Gardner; Mr. Spider Man; Nikki Cushman; Robin Blankenship; Peter Welmerink; Christopher Koeppel; Joshua Cantrell; Taylor Childress; Ellie Raine; Sky Woodard; Debbie and Shane Sheridan; Sean Taylor; Michelle Bivens; Aimee Kiefer; Tony Davidson; Reanna Berry; Eric Jude; Theresa Zimmer; Natalia Sayapina; Andi Judy; Matt Plunkett; Carolyn Petty; Aaron Wilmon; Frank Fradella; Georgia Jones; Marian Allen; Joy Ward; Tony Acree; Steven and Janet West; all the people who left anonymous donations to the fundraiser; Hilarie Smith; Jason Fishel; Floyd Brigdon; Dino Hicks; Nick Papworth; Jim Gillentine; Elizabeth Donald; Shon Medley; Susan Roddy; Selah Janel;  John F. Allen; RJ Sullivan; Chris Garrison; Steven Shrewsbury; Brady Allen; Philip Hopkins; and Stephen Zimmer (If I overlooked someone, please forgive me).

I don’t know where I would be right now without all of you, and I am truly blessed more than one man deserves. Here’s to a wonderful 2015.