First Time Submitting to a Literature Magazine

*flails*  I finally did it!  This is the first short story of original fiction that I’ve written, polished, and submitted to a literature magazine.  I’ve mentioned it a few times on this blog as the suicide story.  I’ve also referred to it as Short Story D.  I’ve spent several years writing, but it was exclusively fanfiction, which can’t be published.  I sent my story to Glimmer Train and will send it to a few others in the next week.  The rate of acceptance for this magazine is 1/1000, so the odds are against me.  I guess that’s a bit of an understatement XD  I’m expecting it to get rejected, but that’s okay.  The endpoint for me is becoming a good writer, and I improved so much in the process of writing and editing this story.  Although, getting something published would be a nice bonus 🙂

I’d love to post the story or snippets on my blog, but I can’t because the majority of literary magazines want first publishing rights.  By posting it to the internet you’ve published it, so most literary magazines won’t accept it.  Although I’ve seen some in the past year that have deleted that clause from their submission guidelines.  The exception is critique sites that are password locked.  Glimmer Train takes blog published fiction, but many others do not, unfortunately.

I spent about a week writing the rough draft of this story and months revising it.  I don’t delete anything, so with each revision I just opened a new document.  There are 18 drafts XD  I’ve never revised something so much.  Complicating factors were the non-linear storyline and my rough transition from fanfiction to original fiction.

Now I start work on another short story.  I’m not sure if I want to do the one about the little girl with an abusive father or the mother that loses her son and develops a relationship with the little girl that gets his transplanted heart.  I’ll probably do the transplanted heart one because I’ve already started that one.

I took a break from blogging because I just had so many things going on in my life.  I’ve taken numerous 7 day+ writing/reading hiatuses as well.  I might talk about it at a later point in time.  I wish my life was more stable, but it’s not and probably never will be.  I’m flying to the other side of the country tomorrow to meet up with Dr. Millis, one of the best hip preservation surgeons in the world.  It’s looking like my last hip surgery in May 2014 has failed.  The surgery wasn’t with Dr. Millis, but I saw him in 2013 and really liked him, so I’m hoping he can help me.  I’ve had 3 hip preservation surgeries at this point, so I’m hoping I can hold off on another one for 1-2 years.  My right hip is still partially dislocating, which is as painful as it sounds.  Did I mention how much I hate my hips XD  Wait, I mean hip in the singular sense.  The left one had a scope and is behaving quite nicely.  My right hip is a factory reject 😦

The Light Flickers Within Our Hearts

A close friend of mine is struggling, and she’s much younger than me.  For her birthday, I got her the book All the Light We Cannot See.  It’s a beautiful metaphor for life.  As an aside, it’s an amazing book. Anyway, I went searching for an inspirational quote to put inside the front cover, but I couldn’t find one that fit her specific situation and used light as a metaphor.  So I wrote some inspiring words for her, or at least I attempted to do that XD

“During the bleakest moments we walk in the shadows, fumbling around in our search for answers. If we look hard enough we’ll find that the light is within our hearts. Sometimes it is buried under so many layers of grief and sorrow it seems an impossible task to uncover it, but it has always bee there. Never give up. Even if we can’t see it, the light flickers within, a bastion of hope in the desolate landscape of life.”

Inside of the Book Cover 

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I cut the names out for obvious reasons.  I could probably write something better if I spent enough time on it.  I just realized I used the word “within” twice.  Oops XD  Hopefully she likes it 🙂

I’ve been away for a bit.  It’s a combination of things.  I became addicted to the literary critque site Scribophile.  I’m editing the umpteenth draft of my suicide story, and will then submit it to a few literature magazines.  I’ve started on another short story.  I’m getting an MRI + contrast/lidocaine injection on Oct. 14th.  My hip surgery may have failed, and I’ve cried so many tears over it.  It might not be so bad without the partial dislocations, but they are frequent, sometimes happening 4+ times a month.  It’s as painful as it sounds.  My husband’s family is coming over from Japan in October.  I’m so excited 😀  I haven’t seen them since I hurt myself seven years ago.  I’m still working full time as a retail pharmacist, which can be very stressful.  My parents moved to the other side of the country, and our relationship has improved.  In the midst of it all I’m trying to get pregnant XD   I’ve been having issues with anxiety, but I try to just take each day as it comes.  I find it helps me cope with life.

One Step Forward, One-hundred Steps Back

This blog is in reference to my health.  Things were actually going okay (for me at least) till January.  I’ve been living with chronic pain in multiple joints, so okay for me means I can go to bed without crying because the pain is so bad.  I believe I tore my hip capsule on the post-op hip.  I felt a sharp pain when it happened.  Afterwards, I was in a lot of pain and thought I had torn my labrum (would be the third time for that side).  Over the next few days and weeks my right hip started sublaxing (partially dislocating).  It hasn’t done that since before the surgery.  It hurts like hell.  What else would it feel like XD  I don’t think I retore my hip labrum because I’ve had that happen three times, and this is different.  But the days after a sublaxation are horribly painful.

Everything comes to a halt when I’m in severe pain.  I still had to work full time, and I cried a lot before work because it was so painful.  Of course at work I pretend everything is fine.  I’m good at hiding my pain behind a smile.  It’s also very hard to sleep when I’m in a lot of pain, so I had to work several days on 4-5 hours of sleep.  I withdrew from everything, even my friends.  It’s not just the pain, but also fear.  I’ve had three surgeries on my hips, and the last one was with one of the best hip surgeons in the world.  If he can’t fix me who can?  Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is playing a huge role in the sublaxations, but my left hip doesn’t sublax, so I’m concerned I still have an unstable right hip joint.  But I really don’t want another hip surgery because each one carries a risk that I could get worse.  I heal about four times slower than normal people, so I won’t know till at least 2 years post-op whether this surgery was successful.

Part of me feels guilty like I wasn’t trying hard to enough with my friends or that I haven’t been dedicated enough to writing.  But a larger part of me realizes there is little I can do about it.  I’m very self-critical, and part of letting go of some of that self-hate is letting go of the guilt.  It does frustrate me that I have written so little since starting my job as a pharmacist in September, but I only have so many spoons and work takes up most of them.

I’m not a normal person.  I can hardly walk right now.  We hired house-keepers because I couldn’t do it along with working full-time.  My last sublaxation happened after I spent several hours cleaning the house.  I have been doing strengthening exercises as well, and I have gone 13 days without a sublaxation.  That’s the longest since the beginning of January.  My right hip joint didn’t start sublaxing until I had been bedbound for several years, so I think my weakness is playing a big part in this.

My husband and I are also planning on starting a family soon, which probably sounds crazy.  It is I guess, but my health is only going to get worse as I age.  That is a long story in and of itself because I will be a high risk pregnancy due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.  I’ve already consulted a high-risk gynecologist about several issues, and will be seeing him again after I get pregnant.

I don’t know what the future will bring.  I try not to think about it because it scares the hell out of me.  When I have kids I will only be working part-time.  I try to focus on the things that I can do instead of the things that I can’t, but that list of things I can’t do keeps getting longer.  *sigh*

Now I’m off to read, The Road for like the fifth time XD  It’s become a comfort book of sorts for me.  When I’m not doing well I like things that are familiar to me.  It reminds me of everything that I love about writing ❤  I’m reading that and short stories published in Glimmer Train, a literary journal of short stories.

Writing a Character with an Illness

I’ve talked about my struggle with both physical and mental health issues.  I have seen more doctors in the past 5 years than most people ever see in their life.  I have been bedbound and crippled by debilitating pain.  I know what it’s like to be sick.  I know what the emotional aspect is like as well.  Because of that I’m very aware of the problems facing “sick” people.  I’m not claiming to understand every illness, but I have a general understanding of the issue.  I can spot glaring errors with a sick character pretty easy.  I’ve read quite a few fics where the character has an illness, and it doesn’t feel believable at all.

Sometimes the writer mentions that the character has a debilitating disease, and then doesn’t mention it anywhere else in the story.  If your character has a debilitating disease, it affects everything that they do in life.  As an example, a friend of mine visited this weekend.  We were going to go to the museum with her boys, but I was not doing well physically so I couldn’t go.  And I sat for much longer than I should have because we were having so much fun, so I started to get a bit less cheery because my pain was ramping up.  Then the following day I was in more pain because my joints were all flaring.  I didn’t mention any of this to my friend because I didn’t want her to feel guilty because she shouldn’t.  This is just something I have to deal with.

I’m not saying you need to go into full detail about a character’s illness.  But you can’t say that your character has a debilitating illness and never bring it up again.  I worked with cancer patients in my internship.  Those with advanced cancer have horrible pain.  They are on Fentanyl patches usually, which makes you really nauseated and sedated.  I’m not even going into chemotherapy because those all have different side effects.  Being on heavy duty opiates influences a lot of things.  If you are really nauseated you don’t feel like eating.  Often their nausea is so bad it’s refractory to most anti-nausea drugs.  And when that happens you just want to stay in bed all day because it’s like having the flu.  You can generally only keep 1-2 things down, so you’re starving, but can’t eat because you’ll just throw it up.  It’s very frustrating.  If you’re really sedated then you sleep a lot, and when you are awake you are pretty groggy.  And pain affects people whether they want it to or not.  When I’m in a lot of pain I don’t want to talk to anyone because I’m just miserable.  I blast music in my ears and cry because I can’t even focus long enough to watch TV.  I know for myself, some days are better than others, and you can’t always predict it.

The best advice I could give someone wanting to write a character with an illness is to research it.  I think visiting blogs and reading about people’s experiences is very helpful.  I’ve been reading blogs about PTSD to help me accurately portray a character that has it.  Because I can’t just say a character has PTSD and then write them as a normal person.  I have to get inside his head and see the world through his eyes, not my own.  I think I’ll talk a bit more in another post about the emotional impact of illness because that’s a fairly complicated issue.

Anorexia Triggers

Today is one of those days I want to starve myself because I’m in so much emotional pain.  I’ve been in remission from anorexia for about a year and a half now.  Reviewer X that I referenced in another post left a 2,000 word flame on my fanfiction story today about how I’m a narcissistic bitch who writes horribly.  And he had to tell me about how my health issues are insignificant.  I have not talked much about anything besides my hips on my fanfiction profile because it directly influenced how often I updated.  Only he said that in 2,000 words.  I blocked his other other profile in Feb, and haven’t talked to them since.  I hardly know this person so I’m not even sure why they hate me so much.  I’m not blocking or replying to him.  I’m done with fanfiction.  I’ve been there for five years, but at this point it’s not worth it.  I can’t ever publish the stuff that I wrote as well.  I have had issues before this with plagiarism, and it’s not worth it.  I was hanging onto fanfiction by a thread and he came and annihilated me.  My heart hurts so much and I just want to starve myself until I disappear.  I’ve been crying for the past two hours.  I can’t delete the review either, so it’s on there forever.  That’s why he made another profile to do it.

I know that my writing sucks.  That’s why it takes me so long to write anything.  I spend so much time trying to improve, but I’m nothing like McCarthy or Faulkner, and I never will be.  I could tell you more about how much I suck at writing than how I’m good at it.  I feel stupid for being proud of anything I write because I’m not very good.

And I’d say the worst part about it is that my pain spikes when I’m stressed out.  I will never get rid of that little voice in the back of my head that tells me I’m such a worthless piece of shit.  I’ve hated myself since I can remember.  Lots of suicidal thoughts.  I wanted to kill myself at 8 years old and had my first bout of anorexia at 10.  I hate the way that I am, and the fact that I want to starve myself.  I feel like I deserve to be punished.  I hate the fact that I thought I had come so far, but that someone telling me what a horrible person I am just reduces me to a blubbering mess.  It hurts because there is a part of me that either knows or worries that it’s true.    I talked to my sister, but none of my friends are online right now.

God have mercy on my soul. . .

I’ve Been Screwed (My Hip That Is)

I finally feel like talking about my most recent hip surgery, which was on the other side of the country.  I now have screws in my right hip, so the title of this post is apt.  I was talking to one of my hip friends last night, and she asked for my blog.  It made me realize I haven’t talked about my hips for a long time.  This is going to get pretty technical, so this is directed towards the hip chicks that read my blog.  Right after my open surgical dislocation surgery I was pretty upset, which I will explain.  But this is why I couldn’t talk about it for weeks post-op.  I didn’t want my emotions to influence my thoughts, and thinking about hips was really depressing post-op.  I think I cried every day for at least a week after surgery.

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A photo of me right before discharge.  You can see how happy I am here XD

This is my third hip preservation surgery in 5 years.  This all started when I was 24, and I tore my right hip labrum doing ballet.  I’ve had a scope on each side, but the right one failed and my labrum retore.  I consulted 10 of the country’s best hip preservation surgeons in 2013 because my right hip is an orthopedic nightmare, so all the experts were disagreeing on what should be done.  I was told various things: nothing was wrong, I was a good scope candidate, I needed my pelvis broken and hip socket derotated (aka PAO), I needed my femur broken and derotated (aka FO), and/or I needed a trochanteric plasty.  The consensus seemed to be I have excessive femoral and acetabular anteversion, but it’s mildly excessive.  And it was the combination of those two causing the anterior instability of my hip.  An excessively anteverted hip socket and femur, or a retroverted socket and femur are worse than an anteversion/retroversion combo of socket and femur.  The measurement of the version of the hip socket and femur is called the McKibbin index.  I have a great paper on it by Tonnis if anyone would like to read.  Dr. S even went to a conference to talk about my case, and they all agreed a derotational femoral osteotomy was the right procedure.

I was scheduled for an open surgical dislocation + femoral osteotomy (aka FO) + trochanteric plasty + labral repair + capsule plication.  At no point prior to surgery did he ever tell me he might not do the FO.  So when he told me after surgery that he didn’t do the FO, I was confused and scared my hip surgery would fail for the second time.  There’s another part to this.  I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes defective collagen, so my soft tissue heals about 4-5 times slower than a normal person my age.  My recovery from any surgery is much longer and more complicated than someone who doesn’t have EDS.  I had a failed hip scope from March 2010.  And my hip labrum retore so easily, I was terrified it would happen again.  So that’s why I was bawling post-op when he gave me the news.

I’m feeling better about it now, but I’m even less trusting of doctors now.  I will talk about that another time, but I have a very long history of doctors trying to convince me I’m fine, and they have all been wrong.  Doctors have a bias against young, healthy APPEARING adults.  Not all doctors, but I’ve seen a lot, and I can’t tell you how many times they have tried to convince me I’m making up my joint problems.  But I digress. . . If my labrum tears again, Dr. S wouldn’t be my first choice because I have no idea what surgery he’s going to do.  He’s incredibly smart and talented, but I’m scared he wouldn’t do the planned surgery, and I’d wake up again with something else done or not done.  I have seen lots of doctors do something different than the planned surgery, but they almost always tell the patient prior to the surgery that the planned surgery may not go as planned, and then they explain why.

Dr. M said the next step would be a femoral osteotomy (aka FO), and if that failed a periacetabular osteotomy (aka PAO).  What bothered me is that Dr. S would not measure the femoral or acetabular version on my CT.  He told me a radiologist should do it.  Dr. M got a femoral version of +28 on the right and +20 on the left.  The radiologist at Boston Children’s got femoral measurements of +15 on the right +11 on the left.  And I have no idea why they got such different numbers.  I didn’t see the radiologist measure it, but I saw Dr. M do it.  My gut says Dr. M is more accurate because he is untwisting or twisting femurs and hip sockets for a living.  I don’t live anywhere near Boston, so I can’t ask Dr. M about it.  And they did an MRI at HSS with a rotational component and my femoral version was +15 supposedly on the right.  MRIs are notorious for under-measuring femoral version.  Dr. Mayo got mid-20s for both femurs, but he estimated it because he couldn’t open up the measuring software that came with the CT.  So, I’m guessing my femoral version on the right is closer to 25-30 than it is 15 because Dr. Mayo and Dr. M got a similar measurement, and I trust them over a radiologist.  That was part of the reason he didn’t derotate my femur.

The other reason he ended up not derotating my femur is that my greater trochanter was huge, much bigger than he anticipated.  Post-op he told me that I had the biggest greater trochanter of any non-Perthes patient he’d ever seen in his 10 years of experience.  He said my hip popped out of the socket at 35 degrees of external rotation because the greater trochanter leveraged my femur out of the socket.  I retore my labrum doing a passive external rotation stretch called the butterfly stretch.  I put no force on my legs at all.  It retore that easy 2.5 years post hip scope.  I think this is the other reason he decided not to derotate my femur.  The damage appeared to be from the greater trochanter, not the anteverted femur and socket.  He continued to say that if I had a total hip replacement without the trochanteric plasty, my hip would dislocate anteriorly within a month.  Prior to surgery I told him my right hip was popping out of the socket about once a week, usually when I got up from a chair.  I had to stick my butt out and waddle to get my right femur back in the socket.  Sounds fun right?  He told me it was my IT band, but after surgery, he said I was likely having lots of hip sublaxations.  And he told me that I couldn’t externally rotate my right leg past 35 degrees without it sublaxing.  So when I told him how flexible I was in ballet he was like O.O  I had pretty good turn out and all the splits, so I guess the sublaxations only became painful when the hip labrum was torn.

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This is how I retore my right hip labrum

I would like to add that I think Dr. S is brilliant, and he’s very skilled, but I’m just sharing my experience here.  I don’t know what my hip looked like once he got me open, and I certainly don’t want an FO if I don’t need it.  I’m hoping this surgery will be successful.  I’ll know in about 5+ years.  But given everything I’ve been told from other doctors, I think it was reasonable to be scared, confused, and upset in my situation.  I would have liked to have known prior to surgery there was a chance the FO might not be done.  There are a lot of pros to not having the FO done.  It’s a much shorter healing time.  My tibias are more twisted than the femurs, so I was really worried if he derotated my femur it would exacerbate the twisted tibias, and then I would need a tibia osteotomy.  Since I only had borderline version problems, if I had a complication from the FO, I might regret having it done.  If my surgery fails for the 2nd time on this side, it will be obvious the rotational issues are a problem because Dr. S fixed everything else.

I’m trying to think positive because thinking negative is too depressing.  I can’t live my life everyday thinking that if I’m not careful enough my hip labrum will retear.  I’m not doing any exercise besides walking and swimming for the rest of my life.  Dr. M told me that due to the EDS, it doesn’t matter how well he fixes my hip, if I’m not careful I’m going to reinjure it.  So yeah, no more ballet for me.  I was training to be a professional ballet dancer as a kid, and I did it off and on as an adult, and that’s how I got my first hip labral tear that ended up setting off a cascade of joint problems.  As soon as one joint gets better it seems another one gets injured.  That’s the beauty of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.  I finally got over it and realized I’m going to have to live with chronic pain every day for the rest of my life.  It is what it is.  That’s not pessimism, it’s reality.  I had to let the person I used to be die, so that I could be reborn as a new person.  I’ve had friends try to tell me not to think that way, but I needed to accept reality and stop waiting for something that was never going to happen.  I spent 4 out of the past 5 years waiting, crying, begging, hoping, pleading with God to take away my chronic pain, and it didn’t happen.  So believe me when I say I spent years hoping the pain would stop one day.  And I let life pass me by in the process.  I’m focused on making the most out of my life given my current health situation.

I also get off crutches in a week 😀  I have a shoulder injury, so crutches have been the bane of my existence these past few weeks.  And my left hip is flaring along with my whole spine (I have degenerative disc disease due to EDS).  So I’m super excited I’ll be off them soon ^^  Bouncing on my fitness ball for 10-20 minutes a day has been one of the only things keeping my spine pain under control.  It was really bad 3 weeks ago, and my doctor started me on a medication for nerve pain, and it helped a lot.  I can’t take NSAIDs either because it will inhibit bone healing.  So I was also give Voltaren gel to put on my spine.  Systemic absorption is only 10% so S said it was okay.  At one point I was in bed for 23 hours and I couldn’t sleep or eat due to the pain.  All I did was bawl my eyes out.  I was also scared because I’m not even 30 and my spine pain is so bad.  Spinal fusions increase the degeneration of adjacent discs, especially in EDS, so if I have one spine fusion I’ll need like 5.  It’s usually not this bad because I have managed it with PT.  I’m not ready for more surgery, so I’m hoping to postpone it for as long as possible.

I will leave you with a picture of my right hip.  The screws will likely come out six months after my surgery.

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I Thought Ballet Was My Life

I thought ballet was my life, but then I lost everything, and I realized ballet didn’t mean that much to me.

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A Photo of Me in My Last Ballet Performance

I’ll start off with the back-story.  I started dancing when I was little, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t.  It became a serious passion around eleven years old.  My younger sister and I were enrolled in a pre-professional ballet school when I was fourteen and she was thirteen.  Many ballet dancers are already auditioning for companies at sixteen, so my skills were not where they should have been for my age.  But I loved ballet and decided I was going to work harder than everyone else to catch-up.  I just wanted to dance, and nothing was going to stop me.  Dancing was an exhilarating rush of adrenaline, coursing through my veins, and it felt like I was leaping over rainbows.  There was nothing else like it.

I was away at a ballet summer intensive when I got a bad case of Achilles Tendinitis in my right foot.  All of my friends said they had it too, so I brushed it off and convinced myself I was just being weak.  I saw the doctor on campus, and he told me to ice it.  I danced about seven hours a day, and it kept getting worse.  In the final week it was so swollen my shoes barely fit and it had turned an ugly purple-blue color.  I could barely walk, but I still dragged myself to dance class and smiled through the pain. After I came home we went to another doctor, and she confirmed it was a bad case of Achilles Tendinitis.  She instructed me to wear a removable cast, and to not dance until I recovered.

It took over a year to recuperate, and by that time I had started college.  I relapsed into anorexia and depression due to my injury, and I had become apathetic about life.  My mother taught ballet at her own studio and enlisted the help of me and my sister.  A few years later I was in remission from anorexia, and I started to dance again.  I had forgotten how much I loved it.

Then I got married and moved to attend grad school.  I had been dealing with undiagnosed hypothyroidism for the past few years in college, so it took all my energy and willpower to focus on school.  Once the hypothyroidism was treated, I found myself again, and I agreed to help my mom teach ballet.  I had lost all of my flexibility so I diligently stretched for about an hour a day.  It only took six months to tear my right hip labrum, and reinjure my Achille’s Tendon, again.

Ballet was everything to me, and I felt lost and hopeless without it, so I fell into a pit of despair and relapsed into anorexia.  That was five years ago, and at the time I didn’t know I had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (a genetic disease causing defective collagen), and that my health was headed for a downward spiral with no end in sight.  Since then I have had three hip labral tears (two hip scopes and an open surgical dislocation), I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, and I injured my shoulder.  Some of this is normal to a certain degree, but not in your 20s.  For the sake of brevity I have only divulged my main health issues.  One of my hip surgeons told me that it didn’t matter how well he fixed my hip, I would have to be careful for the rest of my life because I have multidirectional instability.  It was a confirmation of what I already knew.  I could dance again if I wanted to, but I already lost several years of my life, a prisoner to my own broken body, laid up in bed, drowning in sorrow.

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A Picture Taken After My Health Declined

I found writing, and that helped soothe the heartache and gave me a creative outlet to vent my angst.  I don’t miss ballet like I used to.  There will always be a small part of me that wishes I could still dance, but over time it’s been easier to suppress that desire.  I still taught ballet for several years after that first right hip labral tear, but my health kept declining, and it got to the point where I couldn’t demonstrate anything anymore, so I had to quit.  I live vicariously through several of my students, two of which are on the road to becoming professional ballerinas.  I take pride in knowing that I was their first ballet teacher.  I enjoy following their progress and watching them become beautiful dancers.

Five years ago I thought ballet was everything, but as my health declined, I realized there was more to life than that.  It was a hard lesson to learn. . .