Real Life Happens


What do you do when Real Life happens?

I’m going to be personal here, in this post. Because it’s about living life and we all have problems. And someone out there might be having problems. I want you to know you are not alone.

Back last June, at a back-to-back Con and writer’s retreat, I got poison ivy. Not a big deal. Steroids fixed it. I was fine in a week. But… Yeah. Real Life. The steroids messed up my body and my brain. I’ve heard of this happening to other people. Never had it happen to me. But I was also having other things going on, which I know contributed to my reaction. In June, my doctor took me off one hormone and put me on another, which messed up my brain and body again. My corn allergy took a different twist and became less breathing oriented and more total body inflammation oriented. So. What happened?

First, I put on 20 pounds. Again, not a big deal. I knew it would eventually fall off. And it has except for the last 4 pesky pounds.  My body developed a lot of irritation and inflammation when any amount of corn got into my system. It made it hard to eat out. Sometimes it was hard just being in public, but that is small potatoes.

The brain part? Oy.

I have struggled with mild to moderate depression and panic attacks most of my life. A lot of us do. But the steroids did a number on me. It was like being in junior high school again with the intensity of the depression. And depression made me mean, so I needed to stay away from people to keep from, well, being mean. The worsening panic attacks made me freeze up in social situations even worse than usual, and I freeze up all the time. So this was a really bad freeze. I found myself running away from anything that was stressful. Like, literally leaving a room full of people at a run, without apology or explanation. On top of that, I had failed to get a book ready on time it was pulled and rescheduled for August 2016. I felt like a failure. I wasn’t. But I felt like it. Feelings are not rational.

The only thing that made the mean depression go away (or made me forget about it) was to dive into a manuscript and stay there. For hours and hours at a time.

Unfortunately, that has side effects too. The lack of movement made it hard to lose the added weight, which in turn made the depression worse when I did break away from the writing. These things are a vicious cycle, I know. Balance is important . Balance in life, in work, in relationships, in food and drink. So I started exercising. I increased my panic-attack meds. Except for Dragon Con (which I *must* do for professional reasons),  I saw only friends who I thought might understand.  I went to bed earlier and got up earlier, which shocked my system and seemed to help. I took long hot salty baths to soak out the toxins. I paddled slow easy rivers. I searched for the Devine in the ways I know best, prayer and meditation and scripture. I gave myself a break, forgiving myself for mistakes.

Just so you know, I came out of it, for the most part, in late September. Now I am feeling much better. But it was four months of hiding hell. A few of my friends seemed to know what was going on. Some didn’t and I wasn’t able to explain. Because – you know – panic attacks. It was hard; it always is, getting through hard times. That is why hard times are called that and not called Whoop-ty-Do-Times. But I made it through. You can too. Find your balance. Find your peace.


(Crossposted to


8 comments to Real Life Happens

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Medications that alter my brain balance are one of my phobias, I even avoid certain vitamin supplements for that reason, and it’s why I’m a teetotaller. So glad to hear you made it through this run-in!

    And yes, remembering the things that bring us deep joy is so important, but can be so difficult when we’re deep in the pit, because the brain is pulling that ‘what’s the point’ crap at the same time. By now I’ve learned to recognize What’s-the-point as one of my warning flags, but it can still be so sneaky.

    Good luck forging forward. The point is to live and create! and that by itself is good.

  • Ken

    I know what you mean, Faith and I’m glad you came out the other side. Find your balance. Find your peace. That’s great advice 🙂

  • Razziecat

    First, virtual hugs going out to you, Faith! I can relate, somewhat…panic attacks are something that started a few years ago for me, and while there haven’t been many, they stunned me because they were so “not me”. I’ve been dealing with another health issue as well, and sometimes it’s so hard to focus on writing because all of this other stuff is taking over my brain. 🙁

    I’m so glad you’re feeling better and hope that things keep improving for you. Be kind to yourself, ok?

  • Thank you for being so open with us. And I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been going through all that, Faith. – oral steroids have a really similar effect on me too. I once accused an ex-boyfriend of wanting to murder my cat because he thought she’d be happier outside. Oy. He’s an ex for a reason, but he was hardly a pet murderer.

    I can’t help thinking this post goes really well with Tamsin’s post too. Altering your process / adjusting to life’s potholes – it’s a constant process of course correcting, isn’t it? Like Razziecat said, be kind to yourselves, MWers.

  • Faith – big hugs to you (and to everyone). I can relate. Medication and mental health can be so scarily intertwined. I went off the Pill after twelve years in February, and it took nearly six months for me to realize how badly it was affecting me (but also to determine what I am susceptible to without it). I completely get the desire to hide, to not want to interact face-to-face because it involves a level of connection that sometimes feels like overload. And exercise…boy, that definitely has an impact. I’m feeling it right now because my MS exhaustion has been plaguing me. Not being able to exercise much is frustrating, and I can’t wait to get back to it. I’m glad to hear things are going better for you now. May they stay that way. ♥

  • Thanks everyone. 🙂 Life is good. It is worth living.

  • DanKGirl

    Am a little late with a response but really wanted to send a big hug and a huge congratulations to you for putting it out there. What a horrid couple of months, glad it’s done with and if it strikes again you are stronger and ready for it. Talking, so, so important. Thanks for getting a discussion started.
    An echo on a previous comment – Be kind to yourself.

  • EliaKeefe

    Panic attacks are the absolute worst. And having been dealing with a bought of depression myself, I have a new appreciation for anyone going through it. I just never realized before how much it can sap your strength and your desire to do things. I’m glad to hear you found a new routine that worked for you. I’m still working on doing the same.

    I couldn’t figure out how to do this on your website, which probably tells you how bad I am with technology, but I just wanted to say too that I really enjoyed your Halloween short. I’ve never been big on short stories, myself, but I’ve loved all of yours so much. I just think they add so much more depth to your series. Can’t wait for the next books to come out!