Indie Authors Take Note: NOW is the time to prioritize your health!
Don’t leave it until tomorrow, the way I did.
I’ve been having a few health challenges lately. I’ve murmured in public once or twice over the last year about pinched nerves and back issues, in particular, my neck, which was giving me a lot of grief. I reported fully on the condition, as I currently understood it, some time ago. It’s a common condition for office workers and writers like me who spend hours a day in a chair staring at a screen. [And if you spend your day at a desk, I strongly urge you to read it.]
In May, things took an interesting turn, when I fell off a shovel and broke my forearm. At the time I figured I was just going through a crappy run of luck, health-wise.
I finally got rid of the splint and had the use of my arm back, then my back started misbehaving.
More pinched nerves, more pain-killers, more out-of-it days. Chiropractor appointments. On and on.
I spent most of my days stretched out on our recliner, working as much as I could on the laptop, trying to keep up with deadlines and posts and emails.
I stopped going to the chiropractor because it hurt more after visiting him.
Instead, I researched the best exercises to rehab pinched nerves and forced myself to move more–particularly gardening and housework–to try to rehab my back and get back to normal.
It was taking way too long, I was still heavily relying on pain killers, and I fretted for my partner was doing most of the heavy lifting around the house.
A Diagnosis, At Last
Finally, I got a doctor’s appointment, which led directly to x-rays and a diagnosis.
The pinched nerves I thought I was dealing with were actually four fractured vertebrae and a fractured rib.
In other words, I have a broken back. (Not something I *ever* thought I’d say out loud and actually mean it.)
It was a relief to know what’s going on, because for weeks I’ve felt like I was being a gutless wonder because a couple of pinched nerves were keeping me chair-bound. I kept thinking that I was pathetic for not handling the pain better, when people with pinched nerves got up and got going after a few days and I couldn’t seem to.
For the next week I was on prescription pain killers, that let me sleep through the night (heavenly!), but also wiped me out during the day. So I’ve been getting steadily further behind on books, on posts, on conversations and more.
But for that week, I stopped trying to push myself to move, to do things. Mostly because I was too out of it to focus, but also because I was now deathly afraid of hurting myself even more.
I’m no longer using drugs because the prescriptions were for a week, for highly addictive pain killers, plus everything I take increases my blood pressure. Now I’m drug-free. But it’s taking a lot of energy just staying upright and moving around. On the positive side, I can think, at last. My mind is clear. And I’m starting to feel a but more enthusiastic about working.
The Latest Developments
Yesterday (from my perspective, writing this), I had a bone densitometry test, and that was very interesting indeed.
There are three “stages” of bone density: Normal, Osteoporosis, and a phase in between called osteopenia. This is when a bone density scan shows you have lower bone density than the average for your age, but not low enough to be classed as osteoporosis.
I am in the osteopenia stage, which shocked the hell out of me. I had fully expected to be at the extreme end of the osteoporosis stage.
How I got here.
I can’t say for certain what exactly caused me to end up where I am, but I can give you a handful of factors that all of us, including you, have known for many years are risk factors for impaired health, that most likely contributed to my current painful state.
- Lack of exercise (because you just have to get this book done, dammit).
- Crappy diet (take-out saves time that you can use for more writing, and munching at the desk takes away the angst of writing).
- Sitting all day (because walking takes you away from the desk. So does anything else.)
- Ignoring little health niggles (because finding a family doctor and going through the often painful process of booking an appointment and attending it takes up so much time).
- Poor posture (from using a cheap chair at your writing desk, and not moving enough)
- Any health-promoting activity at all, no matter how small (what, and not write???)
I’m into full-on Damage Control
I have to swing into recovery and rehab. Most of the literature says that there’s no way to “cure” osteoporosis or osteopenia, but there are some alternative sources that suggest that diet, weight-bearing exercise (especially walking), and carefully selected supplements will help rebuild bones.
I have nothing to lose by trying.
I’ve faced the fact that I must give up some writing time to work on my health, which must now become my priority (after years of fierce focus on writing more).
I’m going to miss a few release deadlines, too – but I’ve already explained to my readers why that will happen and they have, for the most part, been super-supportive.
Don’t put this off
Your readers will, I’m sure, be just as understanding as mine if you explain that you’re going to slow down the pace of new releases a little bit in order to get healthy, which will let you write more in the long run.
The collapse of your body sneaks up on you. One day you’re fine, the next, you find your body is refusing to let you work as much as you once did…or at all.
It’s not just an age-related phenomenon. Writers in their twenties and thirties are suffering the same debilitating issues as me. I know this because since I went public and told my readers what was happening, I’ve been inundated with emails and communications from readers and writers with the same or related health challenges, and nearly all of them are younger than me, some of them much younger than me.
If you put some sensible, simple practices into your day, such as moving every hour, or using a standing desk, cleaning up your diet and working toward optimal health, you should be able to avoid a lot of pain in the future.
I really, really wish I had.
Don’t be like me.