Dratted Thyroid! The Culprit Behind My #Writer’s Block

Today I’ve decided to break a rule and blog about my health, not to gain sympathy, as my malady is only minor in the scheme of things, but to share something that might prove relevant to other people suffering from inexplicable writer’s block.

For the last decade, my thyroid has shown up as borderline underactive in routine blood tests. This means everything I’ve achieved on the creative front, including publishing two novels and writing two more, has proved a mega-exhausting business. However, during that time I’ve rarely suffered writer’s block for longer than a few days.

On December 2, 2018 things started to take a notable downward slide, or was it a plunge? My brain felt as if it was disappearing down a sink plughole. On one level I kept up pretence of having energy and enthusiasm, but on the other I was heading for a very dark place. It was like being two different people: inwardly half-dead but outwardly engaged and wearing a brave smile not to let other people down, especially Mister, after his severe medical crisis throughout October and November.

I’m glad to say Mister is now bounding with energy, thanks to modern medicine and the correct drug regime. In our garden, he has chopped down two dead trees – an apple and a lilac – and dug all the beds (his stepson’s job being to saw up branches and mine to bag them up). At the allotment, Mister has dug the whole plot and (with stepson’s assistance) has erected a fabulous greenhouse acquired from Freecycle. Plus he has restored some antique oak furniture in his workshop and built a bespoke cabinet for someone’s kitchen, which he installed yesterday. Not to mention his carrying on with his musical commitments. See what I mean about exhausting 😉   

Mister, garden gladiator, wields his chainsaw!

Regarding my thyroid dysfunction, not everybody displays all the symptoms, which makes diagnosis nigh on impossible without a blood test, or two, or three, or many more.

This is my list of symptoms…

  • Exhausted all day, despite 7-8 hours of interrupted sleep at night
  • Loss of appetite (full up after a few mouthfuls)
  • Falling asleep at the dinner table
  • Weight loss (BMI 17.0 at last count)
  • Depression/extreme negativity/anxiety
  • Slow, irregular heartbeat (except during anxiety attacks!)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Digestive issues
  • Brain fog
  • Extreme sensitivity to cold
  • The death of all creativity

Spot the odd one out that doesn’t fit the usual hypothyroid picture… WEIGHT LOSS? Hence, my latest blood test a week ago checked for cortisone levels as well as thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, in case my adrenal gland was sending my thyroid gland haywire. Not so, but my thyroid was now sufficiently underactive to require treatment. Might I add, that if I’d lived in the US or Canada, rather than the UK, I believe I’d have received medication a lot earlier, although I’m not sure it would have been free! Perhaps one of my fellow bloggers from over the Pond would elucidate me further on both points.

People who know me well, are aware of my reluctance to take pills. I prefer to solve things with diet and lifestyle changes, but there are limits to how rotten you can feel before you bend to the call of conventional medicine.

For the last few days, each morning I’ve taken taking the minimum dose of thyroxine (25 mcg). The doctor will review this in about 5 weeks, after I’ve had a further blood test. If my levels are up to a healthy level, I’ll continue on 25 mcg. If they are still too low, then the doctor will have to try me on 50 mcg. Whatever dose I end up on, I will need to take thyroxine for the rest of my life (let’s hope for my sake and Mister’s, there isn’t a shortage of medication if there’s a hard Brexit, as the scaremongers are forecasting).

I am not out of the wood yet, but there’s a slight improvement. Firstly, I’m getting my appetite back, which should help me gain some weight. Secondly, I’m much warmer than usual. Thirdly, I took myself out for a brisk quarter-of-an hour walk following my usual half-hour plod with the dog. Not sure about the creativity but at least I’ve motivated myself to write a blog post, my first in over two months, which is a good start.

The anxiety is still there, but with good reason. In just under a fortnight, my beautiful 11-year-old chocolate Labrador bitch has to have some lumps and bumps removed, one of which is an aggressive malignant mast cell tumour. The good news is that she’s otherwise in excellent health and blissfully unaware of the planned operation, which means she can enjoy the next few days and leave all the worrying to her family. The brilliant vet, who’ll carry out the surgery, specialises in treating mast cell tumours and I have every faith in him to do the best for her.

Madam’s favourite armchair

So there we are; that’s life in the Potter household at the moment — some good, some bad, but always full of love and hope.

Monday Morning #Haiga 01 — Sheep Chic

No, I haven’t made a spelling mistake in the title of my post. Due to having shifted over to the more mobile friendly Gutenberg editor, it’s no longer possible to display haiku the old way. As you’ll see with my last few haiku posts, I’ve had to display my words as a caption to the photo, which means the font is far too small. When I tried it as separate text, all the words jumped into one line on publication.

Rather than persevere with a less than perfect solution to the problem, I’ve decided that the post celebrating my 200th week of Monday morning haiku  was my last.  Instead, I’m going to post a haiga on Mondays, which is the name for a haiku integrated into a photo.

Back in the days of the Japanese masters, haiga were paintings but, as my photographs are better than my paintings and my haiga quicker to produce with the help of Gimp (GNU image manipulation programme), please forgive me if I don’t go down the purist’s route.   

Review — The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad by Sam Jordison

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sam Jordison has packed his non-fiction book The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad with mindboggling facts related to our past and present, which he displays in countdown lists from ten to one, with the worst offenders left to last. The author must have carried out a tremendous amount of research both in compiling lists from scratch and in sourcing existing ones.

I love it when a book teaches me loads of new stuff in an entertaining way. The author’s subjective comments are often hilarious, maybe some of them tongue-in-cheek, but who knows? He enjoys making passing jibes about Brexit and Trump, although for him he’s showing amazing restraint on the political front! I didn’t always agree with his choice of worst things. For instance, I happen to be a great fan of Game of Thrones (no. 9 in his list of worst TV programmes of all times) and adored the movie Dances with Wolves (no. 5 in the list of worst winners of the best picture Oscar).   

He has divided the book into ten main sections that, in turn, he divides into sub-sections. You may not find each one of equal interest but there’s something for everybody. I read the whole book from cover to cover, but struggled a bit with lists appertaining to sport. Also, I think there’s one too many lists dedicated to The Beatles, where just one would suffice. On the other hand, I’m quite tempted to check out “The Worst Duets in Pop History” on YouTube, especially as his footnote warns you against doing so. His list “The Ten Most Brutal Shakespearean Insults” has filled me with the desire to re-visit the bard’s works, following their past slaying by the school curriculum.    

For me, the two most fascinating main sections of the book were “Bad Nature”, which includes the deadliest insects and plants, scariest human parasites, and most venomous snakes; and “The Olden Days”, which includes punishments in ancient mythology, the craziest Roman Emperors, worst Popes, absurd popular scientific theories, and worst medical procedures.       

Ultimately, this book demonstrated what a miracle it is that the human race has survived for so long, despite… well, I’ll leave you to fill in the ellipsis by reading the book in its entirety. And when you reach the final sub-section “The Ten Most Likely Ways the Earth is Going to End”, you’ll be delighted to discover that humans could prevent five out of ten of them.

A highly recommended read.                 

Sam Jordison is a journalist for The Guardian and writes regular articles about books and publishing on their website . He’s the author of several bestselling books, including the Crap Towns series, Literary London (co-written by Eloise Millar) and Enemies of the People. He’s also the co-director of the award-winning publisher Galley Beggar Press.

The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad is available from all good bookshops in the UK, as well as from HiveWaterstones, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Get On Your Bikes, Gremlins!

When I announced at the end of September my intention to take a month off blogging and concentrate on doing an intensive edit of my latest novel, I might as well have sent out a party invitation to every gremlin in the neighbourhood.

Here was the gremlins’ idea of a party

  • Turned my landline into a homing beacon for international call centres.
  • Made sure that everything I needed to buy wasn’t available in the local shops, so I had to search for the items online, which, in turn, distracted me with things that I might like to buy in the future.
  • Compelled me to google for the perfect cure for being underweight.
  • Put the idea into my head to take fish oil supplements, which caused me the rarest side effects of insomnia and anxiety attacks.
  • Blew up my mobile phone charger with an almighty flash and bang.
  • Knocked out the speedometer and petrol gauge in my car.
  • Ensured no family chilling out time in front of the TV in the evenings by damaging the satellite dish.
  • Caused instant narcolepsy to anyone in the household trying to read a book after supper.
  • Then finally, as if this wasn’t enough, those darned gremlins decided to make Mister so ill I thought he was going to die. This necessitated him being admitted to hospital as an emergency and undergoing every test under the sun.*

[*It reminded me of an episode of House, whilst the team search for the cause of Mister’s symptoms like medical detectives, finally diagnosing the problem. I can’t praise them more highly. They’re my heroes. They are the reason he’s still alive. Thank you, NHS. You are a national treasure. May this Government and future ones always see it that way and provide the necessary funding.]

As you can imagine, I haven’t finished editing my novel but have only completed a third of the task. Neither has my son managed to complete the first draft of his novel as intended. Now we’re both working hard to stay below the gremlins’ radar to complete our missions, although, if I’m being realistic about it, I can only manage an hour a day of intensive work. On the plus side, I admit to achieving more in one hour than I sometimes achieve in four!

Please bear with me, my dear blogging friends, if my participation in the WordPress community is rather intermittent for a while longer (maybe until the New Year).

Next week, I will post a 5-star review of Sam Jordison’s most entertaining non-fiction work The Ten Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad, which, despite the title, is incredibly funny in places and helped me put my own trials in perspective.

Please note, that if you add the fact I haven’t finished editing my novel to the nine bulleted ingredients of the gremlins party, it equals TEN BAD THINGS – a most interesting coincidence, indeed.

So how did everybody else’s October go?