I lost yesterday to “gluten-brain,” my term for the way my mind feels a day or so after I accidentally ingest glutens. As a celiac, glutens are like poison to my system, and I try very, very hard to avoid them. Having just moved, though, I’m not sure what restaurants are “safe” for me and which aren’t. And Sunday, I found one that wasn’t.
When gluten gets in my system, the worst effect (as a writer) is the way it makes my brain fuzzy for a couple or three days. It’s like the feeling you have when you’re recovering from the ‘flu, when your mind (and body) is simply exhausted and you just can’t think or focus, even though you’re really not all that sick anymore. You feel weak, and listless, and guilty for not doing anything, but everything seems somehow beyond your capabilities.
When I started writing, I was still undiagnosed. My brain got worse, and I got more and more tired. Writing a coherent sentence became hard. I was trying to write a novel. (yeah, that was fun. NOT.) But in a strange way, that experience of focusing on writing, on the story I was trying to tell, and failing at so terribly, was life-saving. Despite my exhaustion, I wanted to write. And during that time, my internal editor was pretty much shut off (Hmm, I wish I could access that part again. It seems like my I.E. wants to make up for that lost time.). Writing gave me something to focus on other than how miserable I felt. I became, in that way, “a writer.” My dedication was enforced, since I was too confused to find anything else to focus on.
Now, those dark days are (thankfully) behind me. When I get accidental glutens, my symptoms reappear, and I know what to expect: a couple days of “gluten-brain” and poor writing. And while I may be resigned to this, I still don’t like it. Losing days of writing for this reason, especially, is just … just the pits. It sucks. I hate it. But, I keep coming back to writing. And I keep getting better at it. Celiac disease, and my body’s response to gluten, will not keep me from writing for long. That is a promise, from and to myself.
Whatever else I may be, I am a writer. Writers write. Now, I am off to write that too-long-delayed story. And I hope that, if you’re a writer, you make yourself writing promises–and keep them.