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.

#Home Produce 01: Redcurrant Jelly

Some of you will know that my attempt to make gooseberry jam a few weeks ago ended in disaster. I burned the sugar and ended up with dark-brown jam that smelled like a bonfire. Mister Potter was not pleased, as he’d picked the fruit and had numerous arguments with thorns in the process.

It was my job to pick the first batch of redcurrants. This involved doing battle with bindweed-imprisoned nets for two hours; no blood drawn and 2 lbs of fruit yielded. Since then, Mister has picked another batch, which I’ve put in the freezer to make some jelly for Christmas.

So here’s how to make redcurrant jelly without burning it, even if (like me) you don’t own a preserving pan but use a large stainless steel saucepan instead…

  1. Match the weight of sugar to the weight of redcurrants — 2lb (900g) of each is a manageable quantity. Unrefined golden caster sugar or soft brown sugar are best.
  2. Wash the fruit in a colander and leave the stalks on (my son will kill me if he reads this, as he spent an hour removing the stalks, only for me to discover afterwards that this wasn’t necessary).
  3. Put the sugar in a warm place.
  4. Slowly bring the fruit to the boil in the pan, continuously pressing down the fruit with a spoon to squeeze out the juice. I use a wooden spoon. This takes about 10 minutes. If you get bored, read a book while stirring but don’t set fire to the pages.
  5. Take pan off the stove temporarily and add warmed sugar, stirring until totally absorbed.
  6. Turn on the oven (Gas Mark 3/Electric 170 C) ready for heating jars. Boil the tops of the jars in a saucepan of water for 10 minutes.
  7. Bring mixture up to rapid boil. Boil for 8 minutes (no need to keep it at maximum heat — just bubbling nicely, like a witch’s cauldron). Important to keep stirring throughout. Read some more of your book!
  8. Tip the mixture into a large nylon sieve and press the mixture through into a large bowl. If you want a totally clear jelly, you’ll need to line the sieve with a double layer of gauze, so the jelly drips through, but obviously this takes longer.
  9. Put your jars into the oven on a tray for 5 minutes.
  10. Pour jelly into warmed jars (with them removed from the oven, of course!).
  11. Cover jars with waxed discs, or put a piece of baking parchment on top of the jar, screw on the lid, then trim the parchment to look tidy.
  12. When the jars have cooled, store them in a cupboard until required. Once you’ve opened a jar, keep it in the fridge.

September’s Allotment Beauties

marrows-courgette-and-squashes

Let the judging begin, from smallest squash to largest marrow!

I’m just taking a break from my preparations for tomorrow’s book launch of Noah Padgett and the Dog-People, to reflect upon other ways of being creative: that of growing your own food and using it to create yummy meals. In the case of the beauties in this picture, Mister was responsible for their planting and nurturing, and I’ll be responsible for their cooking.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love inventing recipes and hardly ever refer to cookery books, so maybe one day I’ll take a break from writing fiction to produce my own book of tasty and nutritious meals.

https://sarahpotterwrites.com/2013/08/14/wordless-wednesday-from-garden-to-table/

https://sarahpotterwrites.com/2014/06/05/allotment-to-table-artichokes-on-the-menu/

https://sarahpotterwrites.com/2015/09/02/wordless-wednesday-wholemeal-rhubarb-cherry-jam-double-crust-pie/