What Doesn’t Kill the Writer…

Like other writers I draw from many influences and experiences, good and bad. This past Tuesday I had my bi-annual visit with my pulmonologist. He’s done the impossible, my lung function steady for two years now (following seven years of medical ineptitude by different doctors). My lung function might only be 60-65% of normal, but I’m grateful for what I have.

Photo: CA Hawthorne
Another pulmonary visit. Photo: CA Hawthorne

Lung function aside, seven years ago initiated a different, more troubling tale…

When I was hospitalized in May, 2010 I was placed on a high dosage of Prednisone. The drug helped saved my life, keeping my lungs working when they wanted to quit. After, I was left at that dosage. So slow that I didn’t recognize the changes, the drug altered my perceptions of reality.

*This doesn’t happen to everyone, of course, but it’s my reaction that matters here.

At mid summer I was rushed to the ER suffering manic episodes. I’d weep, laugh hysterically, hallucinate, lose the ability to communicate, and so on. I also had zero sense of time and struggled to comprehend what was real. There was no one to monitor me while my dosage was lowered so I was sent to a facility where they could do that.

Except, my orders were bungled. At the facility they continued the high dosage for more than 10 days before they discovered their error. Believe me, it wasn’t a good high. Later that year I was sent to National Jewish Hospital in Denver where I received the care that saved my life.

That should have been the end, but it wasn’t. The drug left behind the seeds for what I call Prednisone Moments. Fortunately, when they occur I don’t become manic. Instead, I endure a Moment several minutes long during which time becomes meaningless and I doubt reality. I walk around touching surfaces while describing what I see and feel.

Photo: CA Hawthorne
Photo: CA Hawthorne

It’s terrifying and reduces me to tears. Worse, for days after I feel violated because a part of myself was stolen from me, no matter how briefly. Already having issues with depression, that rushes in behind.

Over time the Moments have become less frequent, the gap between stretching to weeks, months, and upwards of a year. I’d begun to think they were gone for good, but last Saturday I suffered one that derailed my weekend. Only now, the Wednesday after, are my feet back beneath me.

What doesn’t kill you…

Between 2012 and 2014 (until a health relapse) I worked as a CNA. My Moments provided insight into what many of the elderly residents were going through. Too, having gained an appreciation for having others look at me like I was crazy, I was sensitive to how I treated them. They weren’t insane, merely suffering the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Photo: CA Hawthorne
Photo: CA Hawthorne. Back in my CNA days.

Over time my Moments have become words. I don’t (at least not yet) duplicate my Moments verbatim, instead letting them influence scenes.

In Trust in the Forgotten, Riparia is tested when she’s thrust back into a moment she’s already experienced, but that’s playing out differently. In River in Each Hand, a character in Meldenphire struggling with the continual residual magic questions her grasp on reality. Residual magic is again at fault in So Others Might Remember when a character both questions reality and, to a degree, hallucinates.

I can at least say I know what it is to come back from these Moments. For those first encountering Alzheimer’s they know what’s happening, but there’s no improving. It’ll tear your heart out in that moment when they realize what’s happened. The fear … I’ve been there. Maybe, just maybe I won’t have to go back again.

This is but one case of this writer repurposing a terrible experience for the sake of story. One of the beauties of writing is that it provides a place for the bad to go.

3 Replies to “What Doesn’t Kill the Writer…”

  1. Pingback: What Doesn’t Kill the Writer… | Christina Anne Hawthorne

  2. Oh Christina…my heart and soul go out to you now, and into the past. The world is lucky to have kept you, as a person and a writer. It is our great luck that you’ve channeled your experiences into something so beautiful as the world of Ontyre.

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