This is a good news / bad news sort of thing. Good news is I did get a job, fairly quickly AND with a 40% pay increase. The bad news is my ‘creeping malaise’ has been identified as chronic fatigue, or, more scarily, Myalgic encephalomyelitis, and now I’ll be out of a job again. It’s an explanation for why I’ve been feeling so poorly the last nearly year and half, not to mention progressively getting worse. Some relatively good news is my employer has short-term and long-term disability and, assuming they don’t jerk me around (haven’t heard back from the insurance agent yet), I should be able to provide for my family without making changes to our lifestyle. If I do get screwed, then draconian barely begins to describe what’ll have to happen to our lifestyle, starting with selling our ‘ranch’ in the country. Fingers crossed that won’t happen.
The way CF is diagnosed is by exclusion. Basically, the doctors try every test they can think of, results come back negative (meaning nothings wrong), but they still believe me. I’ve had a complete cardiac workup, including being injected with, I’m sure, more radioactivity than I used working nearly 7 years in a laboratory, 2.5 of those years in the lab that used more radioactivity than the entire rest of the (Virginia Tech) campus combined (or so I was told). Since I’m an old fat white man, it made perfect sense to check that, but, alas, I was given a clean bill of health. Same for pulmonary, nerve tests (quite painful!), MRI of my head, hormone checks (though low on testosterone). I’m sure I’ve ‘donated’ a quart or more of blood with all these tests.
A common complaint along with the fatigue is fuzzy thinking, or mental fog. Looking back at my blog posts when we went to Germany for a week last June, the mental effects were already present, just not to the degree I could recognize as an issue. That started to change a few months ago, I was actually thinking I was developing dementia. The ‘senior moments,’ coupled with an interesting/terrifying dream, prompted me to start writing a screenplay inspired by the thoughts I was having, but it wound up short at 50 pages and I have (so far) lacked the focus to work on the excellent suggestions my editor made.
It was a coincidental reminder of CF that triggered a reread of the symptoms and when I saw ‘mental fog’ I realized that was most likely the problem. I reached out to my GP and, after a few more tests and visits to specialists, she agreed I had CF. She put me on a drug that’s supposed to help with the mental fog of CF patients (Cymbalta, if you care), but things seemed to get worse. I was told by the doctor and my lovely wife (a research nurse) to suck it up, butter cup (well, they might have been a bit more polite), it can take 4-6 weeks to find out if it has any benefit. Oh joy. Well, one of the specialists I met with is a psychiatrist, someone who specializes in these exotic drugs, and she felt I’d do better combining with yet another drug, Lamictal, which has some scary potential side effects. More ‘suck it up’ from the wife, so I started that. Shockingly (not), I was worse after I started it. As I write this, I feel slightly better able to think, but still struggle reading or writing, or, really, much of anything besides watching TV, then taking a nap when that gets too exhausting.
So what does this mean for my movie making ‘career’? If (and I sometimes feel that’s a real ‘if’) I can regain some level of mental acuity (I have, a few times here and there, felt lucid for as long as a couple of hours, but have yet to find a way to be productive during those brief intervals), I intend to write again (screenplays as well as novels) and, perhaps, do some programming for a game I’ve wanted to write for a couple of decades and some biotech research, the reason I got a biochem degree in the first place. Directing, though, I think will be entirely beyond me, unless some magic happens and I can recover from the fatigue (I don’t think I’ve been awake 8 hours continuous in over 4 months). Producing is a possibility, at least in the preproduction stage, where being awake on other people’s schedule is less critical.
Where does that leave Treasure Hunt and my other projects? Well, I found two volunteers in England to help me with it, for credit. For audio, I got Jamie Stowe (didn’t find anything to link to online) and he reworked most of the flick (except the begin and end credits). He suggested Jamie Bulman (pretty sure that’s his website) to do coloring. The good news is they both got their material back to me. The bad news is I’m too addle headed to do anything useful with it to this point. I did have a movie making friend look at the colored version (Jamie B.) and sent me a few frames of before and after and we agreed there was improvement, but at this point I’m too scatterbrained to do anything more with it. Hopefully the drugs will reach a point where I can focus long enough to get something done (this post, while lengthy, was a pain to write – I misspell words I used to type correctly and sometimes forget what point I had halfway through a sentence; conversation can be even weirder than usual as the exact same thing happens, but I can’t go back and edit before saying it). If so, I’ll finally create the DVDs I owe the crowd funders.
I was working on a short, called “Fuck Retirement,” that’s on indefinite hold, as is my Lily’s Party horror. I was working with an actress intending to be writer/director for her short (well, I did write it), but, even when the virus has blown over, I doubt I can continue. Even my billion-dollar energy idea languishes in limbo, I can’t seem to do a damn thing. Even if I can think again, I don’t know that I’ll ever have the energy to direct, even if we keep the days short and I sit most of the time.
So, there you go. Totally too much information. But at least those handful of people that have been wondering why I’ve been so damn quiet can now have an explanation. Even if it doesn’t explain anything.