A Sky Full of Stars: Hyperparathyroidism versus the Writer

On Saturday, something happened as a result of the parathyroidectomy that was totally unexpected.

My spontaneous story ideas came back.Sky full of stars

I hadn’t even noticed they were gone.

I’ve been working hard for the past couple of years trying to get the site fixed, I’ve been under a lot of strain both physically and financially, and my processes for creating fiction without having an idea in mind actually work, and I really do use them, so I was still creating (the Longview stories were all written from those techniques).

I didn’t think about the fact that I didn’t have spontaneous story ideas anymore. Unlike most fiction writers, I’m not dependent upon random ideas for my work.

So I didn’t notice when they disappeared.

But Saturday the mental clouds rolled away and suddenly things that I saw and heard and experienced began sending little pings to my right brain again, and my right brain began building them into little spontaneous stories and sending them across the corpus callosum to the left brain again.

And because it had been a long time since this had happened, it felt like suddenly seeing a sky full of stars.

So add as a symptom of hyperparathyroidism: Spontaneous story ideas disappear.

If you’re a writer and your ideas have disappeared, consider getting your calcium and PTH levels checked. You might be able to get them back.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

20 comments… add one
  • Margaret Apr 6, 2016 @ 17:28

    That’s great news, Holly. That’s what got me to act in my own case. The fog, that is. I don’t have everything back, but I have time outside of the fog, which is worth its weight in gold.

  • Julian Adorney Apr 1, 2016 @ 17:37

    Holly, this is genuinely wonderful news. I’ve read about your struggles with your health, from icepick migraines to the tongue issue; and hoped things wouldn’t get worse.

    Hearing that things are actually getting better, and substantially better at that, is amazing. I hope things continue to improve. You deserve it.

    • Holly Apr 4, 2016 @ 11:55

      Thank you, Julian. I’m still having some headaches. I’m wondering if these are first-in-last-out symptoms, and if they’ll take longer to go away because I’ve had them so long.

      But even with them, I feel great.

      And the fact that I’ve started waking up at five AM again with story ideas and writing concepts…every freakin’ morning…suggests that the fact that this wasn’t happening for quite some time may not have been work exhaustion.

      I’m still working as hard as I was.

      I just feel worlds better.

      • Margaret Apr 6, 2016 @ 17:29

        You might look into butterbur. It helps with migraines and helps me a bit :).

  • Amy Keeley Apr 1, 2016 @ 9:05

    That’s fantastic news and not the kind I was expecting. O_O I’m definitely taking notes on this since I’ve struggled with low progesterone in the past and have had hints in the recent past that something might be going on with my thyroid. Thank you!

    • Holly Apr 4, 2016 @ 11:51

      It wasn’t what I was expecting either, really. I went in thinking that I didn’t feel that bad. I new my blood calcium level was just awful, but I truly didn’t think it was having much effect on me.

      Now that the first stack of symptoms are gone, I realize how terrible I actually felt.

  • Melissa Walker Mar 31, 2016 @ 10:23

    Love this! It’s so funny when you realize that something had been gone all along without you noticing until it came back! I love your writing style! I also notice a couple of posts about the thyroid problem, so it’s obviously been affecting your life pretty significantly. It’s nice that you use it to come up with some great blog posts.

    • Holly Apr 4, 2016 @ 11:22

      It was strange. And I’ve woken up every morning since eager to write.

      On my posts…I figure I get one shot at being alive—and I love being alive. If I learn useful things in the process, I share them, because that way even when I’m not around anymore, there will still be folks around who will maybe get to live longer or enjoy their lives more because I did.

  • David L Minton Mar 31, 2016 @ 8:15

    So good to hear you’ve joined the clan of Norman Parathyroid Center surgery alumni. Those of us whose lives have been impacted by this underdiagnosed (yet so easy to cure) disease are a very dedicated bunch. I bet you’ll become yet another strong voice bringing this underdiagnosed disease to greater awareness (and educating doctors along the way)

    Your description of the wonder of noticing the “brain fog” has lifted is spot on!!!

    For me and many others, you’re gonna find yourself with a sense of “times a-wasting” as you get on with all the time you lost during the years of hypercalcemia.

    How I came to know Jim Norman and subsequently to self diagnose myself years after meeting him might be of interest: http://dlmweb.com/demo/news68.html

    • Holly Apr 4, 2016 @ 11:41

      I loved the Rolex story. And I agree with your description of Jim Norman on your blog. He’s good, he knows he’s good, and he lets it go at that.

      He was one of the funniest and nicest doctors I’ve ever met—and for ten years before I sold my first novel, I was an RN, mostly in the ER, but also in ICU and Med-Surg.

  • Rez Mar 28, 2016 @ 17:09

    Such a good result!

    This is really interesting as a specific symptom, because it implies that a particular bit of brain chemistry gets shut down by the hyperPT (or by some sub-effect thereof).

    And I would make this more general: If you experience ANY sort of persistent unexplained shift in how your brain works (including depression, fatigue, or “brain fog”), and you’re lucky enough to notice it — get an in-depth endocrine workup, because chances are something in that complex system has gone awry and is starving your brain, and no amount of merely treating symptoms will truly fix that.

    • Holly Mar 29, 2016 @ 6:13

      I’d be interested to know if writers who’ve hit a writing dry patch that didn’t go away later discovered they had hyperparathyroidism.

      This isn’t the the most common thing in the world. Wondering, though, if those of us who wrote with our noses jammed up against CRT monitors for a decade or more are more prone to get them.

  • Deb Salisbury Mar 28, 2016 @ 8:30

    That’s great to hear! Spontaneous ideas are so much more fun to write. 🙂

    • Holly Mar 29, 2016 @ 6:11

      Well, they’re certainly fun to have. ? It’s a sort of “bubble-up” look at the world, that sets reality slightly askew and tosses a hint of mystery into each face and each shadow.

  • Jean Mar 28, 2016 @ 7:30

    So much good news for you.

    • Holly Mar 29, 2016 @ 6:06

      I’m grateful for it. Now I have to go back to see my GP to see once again if I can get cleared for the OTHER surgery. The one I’m not looking forward too.

      • DeAnn Winter Mar 31, 2016 @ 6:54

        I totally understand Holly! It’s unbelievable what hyperparathyroidism can do to a person and all the other “doctors” claim it’s not really happening, you just need to relax, you have anxiety and maybe some cognitive behavioral therapy will help. And then you go and see Dr. Norman and it all changes!

        • Holly Apr 4, 2016 @ 12:09

          Yeah, being told, “It’s just that your in your forties now,” and then, “It’s just that you’re in your fifties now” is not helpful.

          REALLY not helpful.

          If you used to feel great, and suddenly you don’t feel great anymore, assume until proven otherwise that the problem isn’t in your head.

          And then find a damn doctor who will assume the same thing.

      • Eileen P Landreth Apr 2, 2016 @ 12:28

        Holly I had to inject parathyroid hormone every night for two years to rebuild the loss of bone density I had from taking pretnisone for several years due to my occular sarcoidosis and eye surgeries. The name of the medication was Forteo and you can only take it for two years or face worse side effects then the actual disease. I mention this because you may have to take a med for osteoporosis now, as para thyroid maintains your bonetissue. It is something to look into at any rate. My prayers are with you during all of this. Yours as always, Eileen P. Landreth, give my best to family….

        • Holly Apr 4, 2016 @ 11:19

          Hi, Eileen! I’m so happy to hear from you. It’s been YEARS!

          I’ll have to have bone density tests, and checks on other things. I’m taking a plain old calcium supplement right now, though, and my parathyroid glands kicked back in pretty quickly.

          I know this because two days after the surgery, I was a few hours late with my morning calcium, and had numb lips and fingertips to remind me not to do that again. Yesterday, because it was a day off and I’m still not back to full energy yet, I slept in until noon with no side effects (though I did take my catch-up dose).

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