Posted in Health, Writing

Why Writing Can Heal You Physically and Mentally


In his 2000 craft book On Writing, Stephen King says,

And in the midst of all this, something else happened. On July twenty-fourth, five weeks after Bryan Smith hit me with his Dodge van, I began to write again.

What healed Stephen King after Bryan Smith hit him and almost killed him in 1999 with a Dodge van?

Sure, there were lots that helped him during that trying time. His family, of course. And luck as well. King talks in On Writing about how if the truck had struck him just a few inches to the left or right, he might have been killed on impact. It’s terrifying to read about how close King came close to death on that fateful June day twenty years ago.

But one element that helped heal King a great deal? His writing!

Five weeks after he almost died, and before he was even able to finish the first draft of his craft book On Writing, he sat up and began to write again. And he talks so articulately in that last major chapter in his craft book about how writing in so many ways brought him back to life.

There truly is a healing aspect to writing.

I have been lucky enough to not be a situation where I needed writing to heal me physically, to bring me back to life in a way.

But writing certainly healed Stephen King. He talks in On Writing how difficult it was to write for long periods of time during his healing process. He could only sit up for so long before the pain hit, and he had to take a break. He ultimately couldn’t write as much day after day as he would have wanted to.

But even that small amount of time writing each day absolutely helped heal him bit by bit, both mentally and physically. When you’re in the zone as a writer, I truly believe you leave your body. You become one with the words, and the story takes over. I’m currently writing 3,000 words a day on my twentieth novel. When I really get rolling, everything in my own life takes a back seat to what’s happening in my narrative. And you truly do forget about your problems, both mentally and physically.

Writing helped Stephen King heal in both ways. Twenty years since his accident, he is in good shape physically and he’s still writing fantastic books mentally. Writing took King to a place that another person who didn’t write might never have been able to reach, I truly believe that.

Write because you love writing. Write for whatever reason you want. But remember it’s also a tremendous way to heal.

I love to write for all sorts of reasons. I love writing because I love stories and characters. I love to get lost in narratives that takes me out of my real life. I love the feeling that happens when your characters take over and you find yourself in an out-of-body experience.

But always remember as you go on in your life that writing has the ability to heal, both mentally and physically. I’ve sat down to write on bad days, where I was feeling down or bad about things, and writing helped. I’ve sat down to write on days I didn’t feel well, like having a cold or having a terrible stomach pain, and writing helped.

Writing absolutely has the ability to heal. It played a major role in healing Stephen King, it’s healed me throughout the years, and it can heal you, too.

There’s simply no reason to not be writing as much as possible. If you love to write, keep writing, and do it every day.

There’s no telling how much benefit it will add to your life!

Posted in Health, Writing

Why a Walk Every Day Will Help Your Writing


In his 2000 craft book On Writing, Stephen King says,

I walk four miles every day, unless it’s pouring down rain.

A little bit of exercise every day is good for your health, first and foremost.

Especially for those of us writers who spend far too many hours every day on our asses in front of a screen, even just thirty minutes of moderate exercise a day can work wonders for your health.

I don’t know about you, but on the occasional day I write too much and don’t plan well and end up not doing any exercise of any kind, I feel almost sick to my stomach. I exercise enough now that when I occasionally do skip a day, I feel it, from my head down to my toes. And I don’t sleep as well, either.

I wish writing was a more active endeavor, but sadly, it’s not, that’s just the way it is. So you have to do a little bit of extra work day after day in that you need to find time to write and find time to exercise. Both help the other, I think. Exercise clears your mind so you can write better. Writing exercises your mind to the point where eventually you need to go outside and work your body instead of your mind.

Something as simple as a short walk is all you really need.

Because you know what else exercise helps with when it comes to your writing? The moment you clear your head and just focus on physical activity, all sorts of ideas might hit you when you least expect it.

Stephen King walks every day (or at least he did prior to writing his craft book On Writing, I’m not sure if he still does), and there’s a fantastic story he’s told before where it took a long walk for him to figure out how to finish The Stand. He had written 500 pages… and then had no idea where to take the story next. It was only on a walk where the idea hit him like a lightning bolt, and he was able to complete what is to this day one of his all-time greats.

I can’t tell you how many story problems have worked themselves out in my mind when I go for a walk or a run. When I’m able to step away from the laptop screen and just look at the world around me, not thinking about my story any longer but ideas still coming anyway.

So if you don’t exercise as much as you’d like, try to find at least thirty minutes a day to go for a walk.

I exercise five to six days a week. Most of these days I either go for an hour run or go to my gym for an hour workout. But sometimes I just want to take a short walk with my dogs, too. As long as I get some kind of physical activity in during the day, I feel better health-wise, and my writing improves considerably.

Again, you don’t have to do a hard workout. Sometimes a hard workout can make you feel extremely good, and I try for at least two of those a week. But other times a brisk walk will do the trick, too. It depends on what you’re comfortable with, and, of course, what you have the time for.

But I guarantee you that even a thirty-minute walk every day will not only help you physically but will also improve your writing, especially when you’re at a point in your latest manuscript in which you don’t know where to go next or you’ve hit a story problem you can’t seem to fix. Go for a walk, the longer the better.

And maybe by the time you return home, the perfect idea might have fallen right into your lap!

Posted in Food, Health

Why You Should Eat Six Meals a Day


It’s a myth that dates back decades: eat a hearty breakfast, a decent-sized lunch, and a large dinner, and avoid snacks and desserts. But will eating like this day after day really keep the pounds off? It sounds ludicrous and always will, but eating six meals a day, not three, will actually help you lose weight, as well as feel better!

Here are some recommended meals throughout a day to help you keep the weight off…

Meal #1: Breakfast

No matter what time of day you have it, breakfast is an essential start to your day. But instead of going for the pancakes and high fructose corn syrup (aka artificial maple syrup), eat a small portion of eggs and toast, or a protein shake.

Meal #2: Morning Mid-Meal

A couple hours before lunch, take a quick minute and have a snack. But a snack doesn’t mean a bag of chips. A perfect snack is an apple and a slice of cheese, or a handful of blueberries with cottage cheese, or a nutrition bar.

Meal #3: Lunch

Don’t go crazy on lunch and load up on burgers, fries, and chocolate milkshakes. Have a little bit more than you would in a mid-meal, but don’t go overboard. A sensible lunch is a turkey or ham sandwich with a handful of grapes. If you must have a small handful of chips, go with a more natural kind.

Meal #4: Afternoon Mid-Meal

This might be the most important mid-meal of the day, as taking a minute to eat a healthy snack in the late afternoon will help get you all the way to dinner without that dangerous coma we all enter around 4 o’clock. Try a banana with peanut butter at this point of the day, or raspberries with cottage cheese.

Meal #5: Dinner

This can be the biggest meal of the day, but again, don’t go overboard with the portions. A sensible dinner would be teriyaki chicken with generous portions of rice or steamed broccoli. Another great idea is a turkey burger with sides of sweet potato fries and sliced cantaloupe.

Meal #6: Dessert

That’s right. To lose weight you must eat dessert! Now don’t think of dessert as your favorite ice cream covered in microwave heated chocolate sauce. A great dessert is a health shake, or your favorite pudding mixed in with some protein powder. But the easiest, and most delicious, dessert to make is a dish with bananas and cottage cheese, covered with warm all-natural maple syrup.

Eat six nutritious meals a day, and you will be on your way to looking, and feeling, your best.

Posted in Health, Uncategorized

My Life-Long Journey with IBS, and What I Did to Cure It


The Amusement Park Incident

I was a big boy now, standing in line for the newest and most radically intense rollercoaster in the park, Top Gun. It was October 28, 1994, and I was celebrating my tenth birthday at the Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, California. I was surrounded by four of my best friends, and even though a light drizzle was coming down from the black, cloudy skies, I couldn’t have been happier. We ascended the winding staircase, watching in terror as the rollercoaster swung from side to side and catapulted into three loop-de-loops above our heads. We reached the top and stood, antsy and slightly panicky, in the final line before we would board the ride.

But as we walked farther down the line, however, I became antsy and panicky for an altogether different reason. We had just eaten a cheeseburger-and-fries lunch rich in fat and grease, and my stomach was starting to churn. Sweat seeped from my forehead, and my heart started pounding. I felt like I was going to be sick — and I hadn’t even boarded the ride yet. I reached the front of the line, and as my friends all found their seats, I stepped past them, toward the exit, and ran for the nearest bathroom. My stomach felt like it was going to explode — the pain was excruciating — and little did I know at the time that I was going to spend many more years battling debilitating stomach issues.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The Great America incident is the first memory I have of the disease I would be diagnosed with ten years later — irritable bowel syndrome. It’s a disease that affects fifteen percent of the population, with chronic abdominal pain and major disturbance of the bowel functioning. It won’t show up on any CAT scans or in any blood work, and a diagnosis of IBS is typically the last resort for a doctor who’s out of options.

Worst of all, it’s a disease many don’t feel comfortable talking about — who wants to discuss their stomach problems and bowel dysfunctions over lunch with friends? But irritable bowel syndrome is a serious disease, and one that can’t be ignored.

I’ve suffered from IBS for twenty-four years now, and over the years I’ve attempted all kinds of remedies, from healthy eating, to exercise, to herbal medications, to hypnosis, to acupuncture. I’ve endured two endoscopies as well. For so long I thought alternative medicine was the answer to my problems — it has been known to help IBS sufferers — but in the end it turned out to be a waste of time and money, never once ending my suffering.

Appendix Removed?

In those early years of my chronic stomach pain, I thought the key to solving the problem was to have my appendix removed. My grandparents told me that my father had debilitating stomach aches leading up to the summer of his twelfth birthday. The family doctor, having exhausted every avenue of treatment, finally opened up my father’s stomach and performed an exploratory, finding an appendix that was inflamed and ready to burst. The doctor removed the appendix on site, and fifty years since, my dad has been pain free.

When my pain continued into my middle school years, I waited for that special day when I could have my appendix removed. I’d sit in Algebra class at Swope Middle School, trying to focus on my note taking, wishing deep down inside that the lower right side of my abdomen would start aching and allow me the pleasure of going to the hospital.

By the time freshman year of high school arrived, I was ready to have my appendix out — I just knew it was the instigator of all my health problems. One night in 1999 I went to see the movie The Bone Collector with my dad, and, starving, I ate one of those icky, lukewarm movie theater hot dogs. The food made me so sick that I spent most of the movie not in the theater, but in the bathroom. But most disconcerting on the drive home was the pain I felt down low, which was so sharp that I screamed for my dad take me to urgent care. I hoped and prayed the doctor would remove my appendix, and that all my problems would go away. But instead, the doctor gave me Pepto Bismol and told me to go home. I soon discovered that my pain went far deeper than this made-up appendix problem.

College Pain

My first year of college was not a happy time. I was in a new city, on my own, trying to make friends, and still suffering from chronic stomach pain and bad bathroom trips. I tried everything that year — eating plain turkey sandwiches, running a few miles every morning, trying to get a good night’s sleep even when my partier of a roommate forbade it. I went to a doctor in L.A. who gave me a prescription for Prevacid, a medicine that specifically treats acid reflux.

But the product didn’t help me, and I still didn’t have any concrete answers as to what my problem could be. I met with a Reno gastroenterologist, told him my symptoms in detail, and prepared myself for multiple tests. An endless amount of blood samples were taken — all turned out normal. I endured a CAT scan, where I had to spend the morning drinking giant bottles of chalky liquid and spend the afternoon lying down in a giant machine that made me feel like a biology specimen — as expected, nothing out of the ordinary was discovered.

Oh, God, That Endoscopy

The worst ordeal I endured that summer, one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, occurred when the gastroenterologist recommended that I have an endoscopy. In this procedure, my doctor told me, I would be sedated while a doctor pressed a tiny scope down my throat and took pictures inside my stomach to see if I had any abnormalities. I didn’t think it would be that bad of a procedure — I would be sedated and lost in my own little world, after all — but the doctor carelessly failed to give me anything in the way of anesthesia.

Before the snake-like scope was lowered down my throat, I could tell that something was wrong — not only was I not sedated, but I was completely awake and aware of everything around me. My throat had been numbed, thankfully, but as soon as the scope entered my system, I started choking, and instead of removing the scope for safety reasons, the doctor continued to cast it down. I still remember him saying to me, “just relax… relax, Brian… I’m almost done… it’ll be over soon,” as I gagged and choked on my own vomit. Even worse, the sensation of a small camera poking around the inside of my belly is one I will never forget. And what came of this moment of sheer terror? Nothing. The endoscopy pictures found nothing unusual in my system.

Alternative Medicine the Answer?

Therefore, at the end of the summer, the gastroenterologist diagnosed me with irritable bowel syndrome and told me to turn to alternative medicine to alleviate my systems. I was excited about the possibilities — any natural solution that wouldn’t make me choke on my vomit was a good thing — and I became obsessed with alternative therapies. But soon I ultimately realized they drained my bank account far more than they ever pacified my symptoms.

I started having sessions with alternative doctors both in Reno and Los Angeles. One man I saw, who looked like a modern-day version of Albert Einstein, spent an hour with me performing all sorts of silly tricks. He dropped a round rock against my palm and studied in which direction it slipped out of my hand. He laid me down on a flat surface and tapped two small mallets against my elbows and ankles. He gave me a mix of herbal pills I was to take every day for three months to see if the mix of so-called magical herbs would heal my symptoms — they didn’t (in fact, this alternative medicine “doctor” died of cancer less than a year later).

Hypnotize Me! Acupuncture!

I frequented the website for food and diet tips, and I also used it to research the power of hypnotherapy. For six months or longer I spent the last hour of the day in bed listening to a soothing male voice on a CD that was supposed to hypnotize me and wish all of my negative symptoms away. Unfortunately I ended up falling asleep before any hypnotization took hold, so this method didn’t help, either.

In 2006, when my symptoms became so painful that I often refused to leave my apartment, I took on — more like endured — eight sessions of acupuncture at a small office run by an even smaller Chinese man. He spent a few minutes sticking fine little needles in places all over my body, including my scalp, toes, rear end, and belly button; then he left me in a dark room for close to an hour while I listened to New Age artists like George Winston and Enya.

As much as I wanted to convince myself I would grow out of my health problems, I spent the next three years in more pain; clearly alternative medicine wasn’t working. Even worse, I was putting my health at risk. In 2009 my IBS symptoms ruined a first date, and I almost suffered a nervous breakdown — I was ready to try anything, literally anything, to get my stomach pain to go away.

What About Paxil?

I saw a gastroenterologist in Los Angeles and spent close to twenty minutes discussing with him every procedure, experimental method, herbal medicine, and wacky out-of-the-box procedure, that I’d endured over the years, and he looked at me, his lips pursed, a curious look on his face. “Have you tried anti-anxiety medicine?” he asked. I said that I hadn’t, and he wrote me a prescription for Paxil. I really didn’t want to take any pills, especially ones that came with enough side effects to fill a fifty-page novella. But he said that anti depressants, like Paxil, had been known to help and sometimes nearly cure patients with aggressive IBS symptoms.

After a few weeks of hesitation, I finally decided to give the drug a try. It took two months to feel the benefits of the drug, but I soon started feeling noticeably better, and by the end of the year I was a whole new person. My IBS symptoms became so infrequent that I was able to spend more time focused on what I wanted to do — spending time with friends, going on dates, traveling the country, falling in love. Most important, I was able to commit to all my dreams and ambitions.

I Finally Have My Life Back

Today, I’m the healthiest I’ve been in my life, and although I don’t know if Paxil is the source of all my transformation, I’m glad to report, after so many years of seemingly never-ending pain and turmoil, I’m happy, and that I’m able to see every day for what it is — a miracle. In 2013 I weaned off the drug, and for the past five years I’ve been mostly pain-free, aside from the occasional stomach pains I’ll get here and there, maybe once a month, usually after a heavy lunch or dinner.

Since that distressing, humiliating tenth birthday, I have experienced ups and downs in my health. Sometimes months would go by without many problems; other times I would go three months straight with unbearable pain. For so many years I tried to go the alternative medicine route, but in the end I turned to western medicine in search of dire help, and help I received. While Paxil hasn’t 100% cured my IBS, it helped make me a different, more hopeful person than the one I used to be. My ambitions are greater, my relationships are stronger, and my outlook for my future is one of excitement instead of bleakness.

Alternative medicine is an option for anyone trying to solve his or her health problem, but I’m here to say that in my case the alternative options led me only to dead ends, and that western medicine, while not perfect, is still the best road to take when it comes to unusual, hard-to-diagnose diseases like irritable bowel syndrome. I ultimately learned from my mistakes, and after so many years of uncontrollable and unpredictable stomach pain, I’m finally healthy. And even though the source of my well-being may have been unexpected, I am forever indebted to western medicine not just for making me feel better, but for ultimately saving my life.