Why I Keep Making Goals

For some people, it seems insane to keep making goals only to change them again a few weeks later because something happened. Again and again.

Not too long ago, I was told to just take a break from everything, stop making new goals, just to focus on my health and myself for a while. While this is certainly good advice for many people who get stressed out by goals (or rather by not being able to reach their goals), it wouldn’t work for me. And here’s why:

I feel lost when I don’t have any goals. No matter how insignificant a goal might be, if I have one, I know which direction I’m trying to go. If I’m left without any goals, I won’t know in which direction to take my days. I will just be floating in the wind, powerless to choose my own direction, and I don’t like this feeling. I don’t like to feel as if I lost control of my life.

So I keep making goals. Goals give me something to move towards. They give me structure and a direction. They give me back some control, or semblance of it.

When you’ve lost so much due to health, when you’ve crashed as hard as I have (because I refused to acknowledge my growing health problems for a long time because doctors made me feel crazy so I pushed through for as long as I could), any shred of control that you can regain is huge.

Having to adjust or even throw out goals because they don’t work anymore hurts, yes, but for me personally, this is still better than not having them in the first place.

So if you need me, I’ll be here making new goals, or readjusting existing ones, or evaluating goals to see if they’re still obtainable.

Brain Fog and Writing

Yesterday started out as one of those unproductive days where I end up wondering where my time went at the end of the day. So I pulled up my WIP and forced myself to write at least something. After a few sentences (that had taken a long time to think of and write), I fixed myself something to eat and watched a Coursera video while eating. Curioously enough, my brain wandered back to my WIP and I had a hard time focusing on the video lecture, so when I was done eating, I returned to my story. And suddenly the words flowed. I still needed a lot more time than in the past but somehow, I had managed to break through the fibro fog.

I added a whopping (for me) 1,145 words to my WIP yesterday, over the course of the whole afternoon. And it felt great! I felt productive and like a writer once more.

Maybe it was just one of my better days, maybe it had to do with me sleeping better on average since I started my new meds, and maybe it was sheer good luck. I’ll take it. It was finally a day that didn’t end with frustration because I couldn’t get anything done. I even cooked for us in the evening, and had fun doing so (meatballs, potatoes, and vegetables, so not exactly the easiest or fastest dinner but also no high-end three course masterpiece). And it didn’t feel as if I’d depleted my spoons afterwards.

I did, however, forget my meds while cooking and didn’t remember them until four hours later. Yeah, made for an interesting night (my dreams! I swear, whoever writes and directs them is nuts, and my sleep in the mornings is typically so light that I weave in and out of my dreams and fully experience them for hours). Now I’m kind of hoping this doesn’t trigger a new round of side effects for me since my body was finally getting used to them. Guess I can’t win at everything on the same day.

What Doctors Actually Do When They Dismiss Your Suffering

Many people with chronic illnesses know this feeling: You go to a doctor. You know something’s wrong. But the doctor brushes you off. You leave the doctor’s office, still suffering, but now also confused, hurt, angry…and possibly, at some point, too tired to fight on. You stop going to doctors. You push on through your suffering, you may even try to hide it because no one takes it seriously. But you suffer.

I’m not sure whether doctors realise what they actually do when they dismiss someone’s suffering. I can’t believe that they simply don’t care; they swore an oath to help people, after all. But no matter why it happens, there are some serious consequences when a patient is dismissed.

Patients lose trust in doctors.

Many conditions will actually worsen if untreated. Some of them may end fatal.

Patients may start believing that nothing’s wrong with them, thus setting themselves up for feelings of guilt and self-loathing because they aren’t as high-functioning as healthy people around them.

When I grew up, I was scared that I may develop arthrosis, because a loved one was suffering from it and I was showing some symptoms that pointed to it. I was experiencing knee pain and back pain on and off, I definitely had some of the risk factors, and I went to see specialists in my teenage years almost more often than my GP. I knew *something* was wrong with my body. I hardly knew days without pain of some sort; I was always tired, I’ve been having severe sleeping problems for as long as I can remember.

But each time I went to a specialist, they examined me, then told me not to worry, I didn’t have arthrosis, there was nothing wrong with me…and handed me painkillers (that didn’t really work against that type of pain) and told me to rest. They never tried to find out why I kept having acute pain. They never asked whether I showed other symptoms that I might not immediately link to the pain, and thus not mention.

After I moved away from my hometown (and my awesome GP and gyno), I stopped going to doctors (apart from a dentist) altogether. For years, I didn’t even have a GP because I never bothered looking for a new one. I didn’t have a gyno, I skipped all those recommended annual check-ups (apart from the dentals, and I only went there because I need a retainer that needs to be replaced regularly). I was done with them. I felt like I was only wasting time going to doctors because they wouldn’t really help me anyway. I was a freelancer so when I got sick, I just rested more; I didn’t need a sick note from a doctor for anyone.

At that point, I had already been diagnosed with various chronic conditions, some of which couldn’t be treated, some others which were enough under control that they didn’t need regular treatment. When you know what you’re dealing with, and what your options are, you can learn to cope without a doctor. What will drive you crazy, though, is the stuff that’s not been diagnosed, the stuff that could be something really bad, or all in your head.

Fast forward to present day.

After another two and a half years of trying to figure out what is wrong with my knees and back (since the pain kept getting worse and more difficult to ignore), and being brushed off like before, I finally have my diagnosis. But not because a doctor finally noticed; I got diagnosed after someone online mentioned my symptoms sound like this and I went to my GP requesting being sent to a specialist to get the suspicion checked out. Turns out I have fibromyalgia, and may have had it for at least 17 years at this point (several doctors pointed out that my period pain may be partly due to fibro even though the suspicion of endometriosis has also been confirmed by now). I also have a grave lack of vitamin d, which we don’t know how long it’s been there, and what kind of damage it may already have caused to my body. Was never tested until I was checked for fibro because apparently my current (and soon ex-) GP doesn’t believe in testing for it in young patients (I got extensive lab work done to find out the cause of my sleepiness, which could have been caused by a lack of vitamin d, about three years ago but it was never tested).

Why am I telling you all this?

To raise awareness. My diagnosis came after I had to quit working because the symptoms had got too bad. I am struggling with finishing my BA even though I love learning, and always excelled at this kind of stuff. I have lived my adult life in a constant struggle of “Why can’t I function like others?” and beating myself up for being “lazy”. My sleeping problems weren’t taken seriously and I was told more than once to “just go to bed earlier”. I disappointed people because I didn’t have the energy to do something, and I felt horrible for that because they didn’t understand–heck, I didn’t understand it was because of an undiagnosed chronic illness.

I am only now, slowly, regaining my trust in doctors (because I finally have some doctors again who care). I am struggling with accepting my own limitations because, due to just pushing through my suffering that seemed to have no cause for years, I didn’t have the chance to adjust gradually and maybe stop the downward spiral before it was too late; no, I crashed hard when I had reached the end of what I could push myself through.

I am wondering whether I might still be able to work if I had been diagnosed with fibro ten years ago, or even earlier.

I have a hard time accepting that being a low-functioning adult at best (and a non-functioning minion at worst) is my normal now, and that treatment may or may not help me function better again.

I feel cheated by my body and brain for letting me down like this.

But mostly, I feel betrayed by those doctors I went to for help who brushed my suffering and my worries off, who sent me home with painkillers and told me it’s nothing.

I am 29, and I carry around a whole bag of chronic illnesses and conditions. I am not fine, never was, and probably never will be. But if doctors had listened to me from the beginning, I might be in a better place today than I am.

Getting Back into the Habit of Writing

A while ago, I started a new WIP. It’s supposed to be a series of novellas (because I can do shorter stuff much better than long stuff), not related to my children’s  books, and aimed at a more general audience (probably teenagers and up). In a way, it’s an experiment. It’s something new, something that I think may find its audience way easier than children’s and middle grade books, at least when most of your marketing is done online.

It’s been fun writing it so far, even though my initial plan to actually plot before writing this time didn’t really work out. Two days ago, my MC grabbed what little plot I had and ran away with it, laughing at me. So I’m back at doing what I always do: pantsing my way through the story. Granted, it’s fun writing this way since it keeps me interested in what happens next, but it’s not exactly the best way to make me write faster, since it tends to go slow as I may have to stop to figure out what the heck is happening in my story every now and then.

So I set myself a manageable goal of 2,500 words per week (yes, I’m a slow writer, and have always been a slow writer even before my brain fog got worse). And I’m trying to make it a habit to write regularly. My surgery two weeks ago threw me off but I’m back on it. Not up to speed yet, but writing. And by golly, I have missed the feeling of actually being a writer! It’s been far too long since I wrote my children’s books, and then there were a few years of hardly any writing following a burn-out from freelance translating and editing. Which made me feel like an imposter at times, being in those writing and writer’s groups. I hardly talked about my published books, even pulled them from sale for a while after moving since I couldn’t get myself to change the contact information and re-upload the files.

It’s about time to change that again. I am a writer. I am a storyteller. I have published some darn amazing children’s books, even if I haven’t broken any sales records with them. I know they’ve had a positive impact on people’s lives. I know it from the reviews, and from personal feedback. I know it from the excitedly glowing eyes of a girl when she heard there was a second Miro book out in German, begging her grandmother to let her buy it with her pocket money. It’s time to be proud of it again, and to own it.

I’ll make a page on this blog dedicated to my published books, just as a showcase to allow you to window-shop. And I’ll probably start talking about writing a lot more than I used to on here (that doesn’t mean that I’ll stop talking about other stuff, though).

I am a writer. And it feels good.

Hard Decisions

A few days ago, I talked to a friend about my Linguistics degree and languages, and got a bit sad that my decision to be a responsible adult and switch my focus now that I can’t teach in classroom anymore also means that I won’t be continuing with an MA in Historical Linguistics. The thing is, with an MA in Historical Linguistics, my chances of finding an online teaching job in that field are next to nothing (even teaching positions in classroom are rare since it’s a niche degree), but with an MA in Classics with a specialisation in Latin, my changes of finding such a job are a lot higher (maybe not astronomical, but definitely existant).

Now I had been thinking about taking Ancient Greek as my minor next to majoring in Latin (yes, I’m starting a second BA…and losing my scholarship because of it), but that talk really got me thinking, and revisiting the degree regulations for a few BAs and the Classics and Historical Linguistics MAs.

My findings? Much to my surprise, I can specialise in Latin in the Classics MA, meaning I’d only have one module about classical themes in Greek literature (I’d still need to actually know Ancient Greek but I wouldn’t have to do much in terms of literature studies for it). Yes! Don’t ask me why, but Greek literature doesn’t sound half as interesting to me as Roman literature does, maybe because a lot of the classical Greek epics and myths have been done ad nauseam in TV, books, etc., and because the typically treated Roman literature isn’t that limited to epics and myths.

So then I double-checked another BA I’m interested in to see whether it might be a better fit for me as my minor (I have to choose a minor with Latin), and yes, absolutely. It’s called Archeology and Culture of North-East Africa (in short AKNOA, from the German degree name), and besides a module about archeologicy, and one about writing mediums and that sort, I will be learning Middle Egyptian!

Still, Latin, Ancient Greek, and Middle Egyptian are only a few of the languages of antiquity around the Mediterranean. I want more.

I spent a great part of yesterday with research of languages and cultures in antiquity, in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, the Orient, the Mediterranean region…and realised that I’ll have to restrict myself further since there were too many. The region and time frame are too widely set. So I tried to break it down further. I looked for the major cultures and languages from the beginning of the Hittite Kingdom till the fall of Rome (which is still a frame of over 2,000 years), and then further restricted it to the two major language families spoken in that region: Indo-European, and the Afro-Asiatic languages.

From the Indo-European side, I chose Latin, Ancient Greek, Hittite, Luwian (another Anatolian language and closely related to Hittite), and Old Persian (since the Greeks had a lot of dealings with the Achemenides, who spoke Old Persian). From the Afro-Asiatic side, there are Akkadian (which was spoken by Assyr and Babylonia, two of the major ancient cultures of Mesopotamia), Middle Egyptian, Coptic, and Demotic (the latter two developed from Egyptian).

Apart from Latin, in which I want to become fluent (since I want to teach it), I’d be happy with solid reading and translating skills from the other languages. I also want to get to know the cultures who spoke these languages. How did they live? What did they believe? How were they connected to other cultures of their time, and who was influenced by whom?

It’s a big package I put together for myself, but hey, I’m still young…

First Week of Summer Semester

So the summer semester has started in Germany. Here’s a short log of my first week back (partially written thanks to my time machine):

Monday, April 17

No university due to it being a bank holiday; semester officially starts on Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 18

No classes for me. Doctor’s appointment early in the morning so being a zombie for the rest of the day. Still, excitement of going back to university after my long health-related break builds up. Also, looking forward to seeing my profs again. Double-checking online that class actually starts tomorrow; becoming dimly aware of a special event called “Tag der Lehre” (~ Day of Teaching) at university tomorrow, which I won’t be able to visit since it’s at the same time as my class. Oh well.

Wednesday, April 19

Finally, my first actual day of class! (The woes of only taking three classes because I’m almost done.) But first, another doctor’s appointment in the morning, slightly less early. Then, coffee and breakfast with hubby, a quick League of Legends game, and double-checking I have everything I need in my backpack. Leaving for class with high spirits even though I’m far more tired than I’d like. Arriving early so trip to the copy shop to get my paper bound, which I need to hand in next week. Then settling near my classroom with an interesting book I’m reading for my Thursday class (and which I already owned before it was on our reading list because it sounded pretty good–and it is!). Slowly, a few other students arrive for class. We collectively move closer to the classroom door, I settle for reading on the floor after standing becomes too painful (knees and back). Prof doesn’t show up, we wait. And wait. And wait. Until at two thirty, fifteen minutes after our class should have been started, someone took pity on us and informed us of the fact that all classes for the day had been cancelled due to the Day of Teaching event. Yes, on a day of teaching, there’s no teaching. Go figure. So I slunk home, grumbling, hurting, disappointed.

Thursday, April 20

Trying to shove away that feeling of longing for class, and disappointment, because today’s class doesn’t start until week 2. Yep, that’s right, my third and last class for our starting week has been postponed because our prof isn’t back until next week.  I may or may not contact my GP’s office to make an appointment for some time soon-ish (honestly, I’ve already had enough doctors for one week, so might not get around to do this until next week). Spending the day gaming and reading, and studying Latin. Oh, and doing Sanskrit homework for next week Monday. Yay, something to do with my summer classes!

Friday, April 21

I have Fridays off, so I’m spending the day mostly relaxing (aka gaming, reading, sleeping, cuddling cats).

Saturday, April 22

Another day for relaxing and studying Latin and Sanskrit.

Sunday, April 23

Today, I’m not myself. We’re gaming with friends, so I get to switch out my own life for the life of my character, who definitely does not have fibro, or any other chronic illnesses.

University Paper vs Brain Fog

There’s still one paper I have to hand in for university for my current BA. One paper, and then two seminars and a written exam in June. Sounds like a breeze, doesn’t it?

Well, if you pair a very complex topic with severe sleeping problems and a brain that may randomly shut down for a complete reboot (hello, Windows, no clue how I came up with you in this context), which could take anywhere from a few minutes to the rest of the day, suddenly this one paper becomes the Iron Man.

And in case you were wondering, yes, knowing I still needed to finish this paper did stress me out. Depending on my overall mood, I’d say the stress level of this knowledge was between a mild guilt while gaming (because even with a strategy CCG, it still takes less brain capacity than focusing on a complex topic that will be graded) and paralyzing horror (as in, I have lots to do but am unable to focus on anything because I’m completely overwhelmed and wondering whether I’ll get anything done in time).

“Just plan it for the next day, make time for it.” Yeah, thanks, great advice. For healthy people. I lost count of the days where, going to bed, I did exactly that. Make a mental note that the next day, I would do X for the paper. Only to have my brain turn on me (traitor!) and prevent me from sleeping, or from getting more than a few hours of dozing between tossing and turning, and getting up exhausted and frustrated–and kind of defeated.

Believe me, working on a complex thing–any complex thing–after a night of insomnia is not the greatest idea. Unless you like lots of mistakes, or re-doing your work on a day when your focus is better.

It was a long and hard battle. I paid for it in curses, stress, frustration and gifts to my brain (aka chocolate). But, I prevailed (by the way, thanks to my very helpful brain, it took me a nice improv round of Taboo with hubby, and then a dalliance with Thesaurus, to remember this word–another thing my brain likes to do more often nowadays).

This afternoon, I finished up the paper and printed it out. (Cue the hallelujah and the angelic choir. Thanks.)

Now if I can remember to get it bound on Wednesday, and then to hand it in next week Monday, that’d be great.

Victoria est meam. Vale.