MS and the writer’s life

It seems like, in many ways, being a writer would be an ideal job for someone with MS. You get to work from home and because you set your own hours, you can nap whenever you need to.

But even writing can be too much. It’s not the same as writing a personal blog post, which is easy and relaxing.

Instead, it taxes my cognitive skills and requires me to organize my thoughts and synthesize information. I had reached a point where I could do it again and thought I could handle it. After all, I just had an MRI the other day that showed that my disease-modifying drugs are working–and even reversing some of the previous damage.

But even though the drugs are working, I still have MS. Lately, I’ve had close to full-time writing work. It’s enough that if I were to continue it, I’d definitely far exceed the amount I’m allowed to earn on disability. And as a result of doing nearly full-time work, my brain is telling me it’s had enough. I’m having more cognitive problems again and forgetting my train of thought pretty regularly. It feels like my brain is melting down. I know I’m not as good of a writer lately.

Of course, there are also other factors at play. It’s summer and it’s really hot, which is a recurring theme. Every summer, I start having more problems again. I had an ER visit last week, which was when I had the MRI. It turns out that I’m not in the middle of a relapse, just dealing with the normal effects of MS. But the “normal” effects of MS feel pretty intense.

I have also been getting too little sleep, which is far and away my number one predictor of relapse-type symptoms. My youngest has been going to PSAT prep classes early in the morning, which has resulted in me getting less sleep all summer. They will finally taper off soon, but then that time commitment will be replaced by my physical therapy.

Even little things like having to go to the post office or make an eye appointment now feel like very huge deals. I have to work hard to even motivate myself to go anywhere because it feels like I’m trudging through quicksand with weights on my ankles.

I just want one day of not having to go anywhere or do any work. I’ve been working seven days a week for months now.

I just need for things to slow down. I need to get more rest. I need to recover from the summer of early morning PSAT classes (which allow me just enough time to come home and take a shower before heading back out to pick him up.) Summer has been far less relaxing than the normal school year.

I am acutely aware of my to-do list and it just seems to be getting longer every day. I would still find the number of things to do difficult, even without so much writing work. But with the writing work, I just feel like every day is running on a treadmill and someone keeps turning up the speed.

I have no choice but to probably drop my biggest client right now. I can make pretty good money from them but then I can’t do work for other clients. And frankly, the one I want to drop is not the kind of work I thought it would be anyway. I thought it would be writing informational articles about health conditions. But instead it’s writing articles about sketchy plastic surgery and chiropractic treatments (even though I told them at the start that chiropractic was a subject I didn’t want to write about, when they asked us for our preferences.)

Having six articles due in one day feels like the content mill work that I fought so hard to break out of. It’s really well-paying for content mill work but that’s still what it is: short deadlines and formulaic. I can’t write well when I’m doing it assembly-line style.

Still, this all makes me feel like I haven’t beaten my tendencies toward perfectionism and beating myself up. I feel like it’s a failure that I can’t do this work. I have to remind myself that I am on disability for a reason. That is my primary job and I’m supposed to be healing and recovering and doing what’s necessary to stay well. I don’t even have time to do those things now.

I wish I could go back to grad school this fall but I didn’t finalize the application. And my husband understandably asked me not to do it while he was undergoing chemo. I would much rather be teaching sociology classes as an adjunct professor or working as a therapist than continuing to be a freelance writer. It seems like right now, those are my only choices.

I’m not positive that I could do well in grad school right now anyway. But I need to make some money and really wish it wasn’t from freelancing–or at least not the kind of freelancing that I’m currently doing. I’m burning out pretty hard. I want to like writing again and be able to get enough rest, maybe even have time for things I want to do.

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