Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Catching Up: Living Statues, Music, Meds, and More

Hi everyone,

Sorry I've been absent, but for once I can say that I haven't been sleeping my days away due to depression... I was actually doing some things.

Of course I wore myself out the first week of NaNoWriMo and have been in rest and recovery mode ever since (to prevent me from going into mania.) The undeniable difference that the aforementioned green pills make was obvious as my word count started from zero on day one and rocketed upward.

My totals on my story about street performers who work as living statues went as follows... (if you don't care you can scroll down for other news.)

Day 1: 12,362 words
Day 2: 13,088 words 
Day 3: 7876  words
Day 4: 17,042 words (new personal best, and took me over 50k)
Day 5: 10,152 (total, 60,520, novel technically finished:  typed THE END)
Day 6: 1690 words (filling in here and there)
Day 10: 930 words, (filling in a hole in a scene)

Grand total for this NaNoWriMo novel, called Still As Stone: 63,140 words.

So I hit my goal of finishing the book within the first week (the rest was just tinkering) hitting 50K on day 4. I was driven, I was living the story in my head, it was heaven after being blocked for so long. Heaven.

This is a 'trunk novel' (meaning I don't mean to make it public, it's just for me) but writing it was worth every single moment. I loved the characters, I love the story, I felt like me again for the first time in so long.

Then, I got out my paint brushes and I painted my book's female lead character, Rosalie, who performs under the name The Wallflower. Here she is, as a living statue:

I actually painted something I don't completely hate: another sign the green pills were working.

My husband bought me a very thoughtful gift that week, something I've wanted a long time; a pink typewriter.

It's not vintage but it has a retro design and it's so pretty. I've designated it as my poetry typewriter because, being its manual, it's difficult for me to use with my weak left hand (I can't make the " mark to save my life.)

I've started writing a poem a day on it, and posting them on Twitter under "Typewriter Poems". There have been eight so far and people seem to like them. I'd like to keep it up even if I can't post them to Twitter every day, and I am thinking maybe I'll post them to Wattpad under my experimental collection of bits and pieces called Wishful.

So, I used up my supply of green pills in two weeks right on schedule, and as soon as I went back to the generic blue pills, I felt my mood and energy dropping. I was exhausted again; even after a normal night's sleep. Couldn't think to write much... it was all going back to the way it was before.

Then the miracle happened.

My husband did some research and found out that you COULD request what is called a formulary exception from the insurance company; meaning you could request they cover the green pills even though they don't usually because the blue pills failed to work in their place.

When I asked about this before, I was flat out lied to, and told it was not an option for this med. That was wrong.

So my wonderful doctor spent half an hour filling out paperwork on Monday and filing it online and by that evening, I had confirmation from the insurer: they would cover the brand name med.

Thing is it's really expensive, but my husband insisted that we had to fill it. I think he was more relieved than I was when the approval came through, and I guess that makes sense since he has to live with me every day and it is so much easier when I am up, awake, out of bed, and reading, writing, or painting if my body feels up to it instead of a depressed, totally non-functional mess.

(Speaking of my body cooperating, I locked up my arm, neck and hand after that 17k word day... but we won't talk about that... ouch. Not to mention what it did to my eyes...)

So I now have a two month supply of the brand name med, and then in January we have to go through the whole process of asking for an exception again, because I will be with a new prescription plan. I am cautiously hopeful... I have to be. We have tons of documentation on how I've failed on three different generics for this med and how it is the only one that really helps that my body can tolerate (in combination with the rest of my 'cocktail') and hopefully my doctor can work her magic again and get them to approve the exception. If not... well I don't want to think about 'if not'.

I don't want to talk about the election, but I will just say this, I am on FB hiatus right now and am not sure when I will be back. I miss friends there, but things just got too ugly to watch for awhile there and I don't know if they've calmed yet to the point I dare wade back into those waters. So look for me on Twitter if you were looking for me on FB, at least for the time being.

In music news, my husband also did another truly thoughtful thing for me; he knew I was dying for the new Tom Chaplin solo album (lead singer of Keane) but it wasn't going to be available here until January and I so desperately wanted to write to it for NaNo, so he ordered a copy from the UK and it arrived the first day of NaNo.

The album, called The Wave, is immersive and thought-provoking and heart-string pulling and I love it. Thank goodness for Amazon UK and thoughtful husbands; I know it helped me shape and finish my NaNo novel. So the album, I highly recommend it.

I have also been listening often to Michael Buble's new cover of The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" which is just lovely. It worked its way into my story too. If you haven't heard it, I recommend a listen.

I read a couple of books over the weekend: catching up on Jennifer Gracen's The Harrisons series. If you like sweet romances steamy enough to fog up your glasses, I recommend these books. The first one is called More Than You Know, the second is Someone Like You, and the third (and my favorite) is Tis The Season. The fourth book is due out in late 2017, and I look forward to it.

So what's next for me?

This morning, after taking green pill number 1 after a few days of blue pills, after about two hours, I had a character name and face pop into my head. I grabbed a pen and notebook and wrote down, "Who is Rory?" Slowly I started filling in a sketchy bio.

I'm not sure who Rory is or what his story is yet, but he's in my head now, I know he's going to have to get written out of it somehow. I am wary of starting another project during NaNo (guarding against flipping into mania...) but my mind is so curious about him. I may end up writing some, we'll see how I'm feeling, one day at a time.

To close: My heart goes out to everyone who is feeling lost right now. As a disabled person, I am afraid, too, believe me. All I am going to add is that I am an ally; a safe person for LGBTQ+, POC, people of different faiths... all those who are afraid right now. My heart goes out to all of you, and I hope that things won't go as dark as they can possibly get. We have to look out for each other, as best we can.



Monday, November 7, 2016

Little Green Pills Versus Little Blue Pills

If you're not interested in NaNoWriMo and think this will only be a post about that-- I ask you to please bear with me and keep reading. Because while it mentions NaNo, that is far from the real subject at hand.

It's no secret that I've had serious writer's block for a long time.

In fact, the last time I wrote anything of length was last year's NaNoWriMo novel; which has been pared down and is now available as the novella Each Little Soul on Wattpad (link in sidebar of this blog.)

Aside from a few lines of flash fiction, writing to short prompts and a little bit of poetry here and there, there has just been nothing in my brain to write. 

It was as though someone tripped a breaker and turned off the section of my brain that processes creative ideas and thought. I've been struggling with painting too (which has become more of a frustration than anything else) and became extremely depressed, I am certain in part because of my inability to produce anything creatively.

The reason for this has been clear to me, and to my doctor, all along; but the past week has provided absolute, concrete evidence as to the cause behind my inability to write, and to tell you the truth finding this out for sure has led me through the gamut of emotions from relief and elation to fury and despair.

The reason I haven't been able to write is because one of my generic medications does not work like the brand name version does.

I had kept a bottle of the brand name of this med in storage at my doctor's prompting... holding on to it until it was just about due to expire, just in case the depression got so bad we ran out of other options to try to get me at least a breather from it.

So I wrote to her about ten days ago and told her I couldn't take any more. I needed to take those pills and see if they worked better than the generic. I needed an escape from the unrelenting depression and the exhaustion that accompanied it.

I needed to know if taking the brand name med would help me be able to write something-- anything-- again.

She agreed now was the time to try. So I opened that precious bottle of medication, worth 900 dollars retail, and I started to take it.

Two days in, I started writing down every random idea that came to me in a notebook as potential NaNo story. That was my first indication it was working: suddenly, I had ideas again.

Three days in, I had decided on a story that I really liked, and had drawn a sketch of what the main characters would look like in their costumes as street performers (my novel is about performers who work busking as living statues. It's a romance.)

Five days in, I sat down at the keys and starting with zero words written on the story and only very basic character bios and story notes, I started to write.

That was day 1 of NaNoWriMo 2016.

I wrote 12,362 words that day.

The next day, I wrote 13,088 words.

The next, I wrote 7876 words.

Then, on day four of Nano, I hit an all time personal best for writing in one day: I wrote 17,042 words, and reached the 'goal' target word count of 50K with 368 extra words on top.

But the story wasn't done. So on day five I wrote 10,152 words. 

Yesterday, despite the fact I'd locked up my neck, shoulder and arm by typing so much in so short a time I wrote 1690 words to fill in a gap in the story that needed filling in the middle.

So the novel sits now, a 'finished' first draft at 62,210 words (I tinkered a bit here and there the past two days) and now I have to tell myself to keep my hands off of it before I start editing. I always let my NaNo novels sit for two months before I edit them, and this one should be no exception.

All of this writing made possible by the little green brand name pills that work, as opposed to the little blue generic ones that do not.

So why can't I just take the brand name all the time, you ask? Then I'd be able to write, and in theory paint, draw, and do all kinds of creative things whenever I had the physical energy to.

Because Medicare will not pay for the brand name med. Under any circumstances. Period. No way to appeal it. Also, I do not qualify for any manufacturer discounts or assistance, because I have Medicare. Why that is, I cannot fathom.

It's hard enough to find a Medicare Part D plan that pays for the generic at a percentage that you can actually afford. Believe me, after several trips through the so-called 'donut hole' (the Medicare D coverage gap) there is no way we could afford to even keep me on the generic unless I switched Part D plans in 2017, which I have set in motion.

It makes me so angry that there is medicine that helps my Bipolar more than others do (and I've tried the cheaper alternatives, my body couldn't tolerate them) and I can't have it all the time to help make life more livable. To give me back my sense of purpose I feel when I can write something... anything... instead of sleeping all the time, feeling even too numb to cry over my mental state as the Bipolar depression kicks back in and takes over my brain.

People have asked if I just flipped over to being manic and that is how I wrote so fast. No, not this time. In the past, yes; I did go on manic writing sprees to write most of my other books. But this time was different. I ate, slept, rested, and went at a comfortable pace instead of feeling so driven, driven, driven to get the word count up. 

I just let the story tell itself to me and went where it wanted to go.

I need to remember that even if no one else ever sees it (and that is the current plan... this was written just for me, what I call a 'trunk novel') I was able to write it, and that's a personal victory.

It's also a powerful reminder for when I run out of the brand name med in five days time and have to go back to the generic and the depression creeps back as I know it inevitably will... I now know for sure that it's not me; it's my brain. It's the disease. It's the medication used to try to treat the disease. These are the things preventing me from writing; not being lazy or not trying.

No one will ever know how hard I tried during all that time when I couldn't write.

So now I'm left feeling the range of emotions... and most of all sad knowing that soon, feeling better will come to an end, and all because of the almighty dollar.

Those forced to live with a disease like Bipolar-- we all deserve better than this.

We all deserve access to the medications that can actually help us.

May the day come when we finally have it.

Until then, even when I can't write I need to look at this story, Still As Stone (working title) and remind myself that I am a writer.

I still am a writer, after all. I'm still me.