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Bruce, You Must be Feeling Better

pain looks good on other people

Yesterday, long-time reader and friend, Charles, complimented me on some of my recent writing, saying:

The several articles you put up today are very timely—-news wise—–and they are some of your best work.

I always appreciate such comments. I have never been a good judge of the quality of my work, so kind, thoughtful comments are always appreciated.

What I want to address in this short post is what else Charles said. Let me be clear, I am NOT taking Charles to task for saying this. I love and appreciate Charles, but there’s a teachable moment here that I think readers might find helpful.

Before complimenting me, Charles said:

You must be feeling better Bruce.

As countless readers, friends, and family members do, Charles sees a connection between “good” writing and how I feel physically. If my writing is perceived as “good,” then I must be feeling better. However, as my editor and my wife can tell you, some of my best work was written on days when I was quite sick, even suicidal.

I no longer have good days. I have no prospect of feeling better. The health problems I struggle with aren’t going away, and, quite frankly, they aren’t, on most days, very well managed. Writing, then, becomes a distraction of sorts, a way to take my mind off my pain and suffering. As I sit here typing this post, my body pulses with pain — and that’s after taking this or that medication. What writing does is direct my mind away from the spectacle of my life. Writing can be, for me anyway, a pain reliever of sorts. Think of it this way: your foot is throbbing with pain. You pick up a hammer and hit your hand. Problem solved. Your foot doesn’t seem so painful. This is exactly what writing does for me; a distraction that, for the time I am clicking away on my IBM keyboard, mentally reduces my pain.

Two weeks ago, I had a procedure done to temporarily lessen or stop the pain I have from gastroparesis. Unfortunately, it did not work. What treatments are left for me? Just do a Google search on “treatments for gastroparesis.” Doing so left me in despair. I have concluded that I must find a way to live with this, or not. Today, I chose to eat lunch, knowing that it would leave me feeling like I had been slugged in the abdomen. I don’t plan to give readers a running commentary on my difficulties. I just don’t have the wherewithal to do so anymore. Know that when you don’t see me post for a few days, it is for one reason alone: I can’t. And when I do post, it’s not because I “feel better,” but I do feel well enough to drag my sorry ass from the couch to the office, turn on Spotify, and write a few words that I hope readers will find helpful.

I know readers such as Charles genuinely want what’s best for me. They want me to feel better or find relief from my pain. I make no judgment on the well-meaning words of others. It beats being told by an Evangelical critic that he hopes I die and burn in Hell for eternity.

There are no more “feeling better” days ahead for me. I have resigned myself to that fact. Unless a revolutionary cure or miraculous healing comes my way, I know what lies ahead for me. And that’s okay. Not really, but hell, what am I going to do about it? Pray? Seek out a faith healer?

When you see another post by me, I hope you will say, “awesome, Bruce, is among the living!” And when the day comes when I can no longer write, please know, I will be forever grateful for your love and support.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

40 Comments

  1. Avatar
    dale m

    Life sucks. That’s when we seem to do our best work. Nothing to lose. We walk over our fears. Damn the torpedoes! This is what true leaders are made of. History will record BRUCE GERENCSER, the heavy weight fighter! The knock-out champ against all contenders. HooYa !!!

  2. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I seem to recall that during his long, difficult death from cancer, Christopher Hitchens still wrote as much as he could because he was a writer. Bruce, you, too are a writer, you have things to say, and while I hope you are not nearly as close to death’s door as Hitch was at his diagnosis, you probably won’t have an amazingly long life for a human.

    With all that in mind, I totally understand writing in pain. And sometimes, the process of finding the words, stitching them into sentences, creating paragraphs, and then figuring out if that was what you really meant to say…can be a valuable distraction from the pain. Not that you ever not notice it, but for awhile your mind is too busy to dwell on it.

    At least, as a chronic pain sufferer with about a tenth the pain that you have, that’s my take on it.

    We are not defined by pain, and there are things to say. Which is not a chant of victory, but simply a choice to adjust our pack and soldier on through the mud.

    I am honored to be able to read your words.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Thanks, Karen. I know you have dealt with a pack load of health problems yourself over the years. While I appreciate everyone’s love, kindness, and support, those who suffer from chronic pain and illness understand me in a way others cannot. Suffering is a bitch, but it does bond fellow sufferers together.

  3. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce, you have been a hero to me from the moment I found your site. And you exhibit more courage, grace and humor–and impart more wisdom–every time I read somethig from you. Thank you.

  4. Avatar
    Davie from Glasgow

    I thought I had a comment worth adding here. But MJ Lisbeth has already said most of it. Your work continues to touch, entertain and (probably most importantly) help people, Bruce. And it will continue to do so even when the time comes that you’re no longer able to add to it.

  5. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Bruce, I don’t have an adequate way to express my appreciation for what you do. Your words are a beacon of humor, hope, and good sense. Every day I look forward to seeing what you’ve managed to write, and knowing that you’re working through great distress makes your words more valuable. Your love for your family is beautiful, and the fact that someone in middle age could change long held beliefs gives me hope.

  6. Avatar
    kittybrat

    Bruce,

    People have already eloquently expressed much of what I wanted to say, so I’ll leave this to a personal context. Your writing has saved my sanity. This is not hyperbole. Living in this madness it is your writing that has helped me to see that it is not I who is unreasonable. It is merely unreasonable to capitulate to those religious tyrants that decide what we can or must do (or not do).
    I wish you would have better days, but wishes are nothing. My thoughts are that you are a writer who not only intellectually and without the bullshit exposes the religious for what they are, but encourages us onward to our better selves.
    So there!

    LOVE to you and the family, Man. Cheers to you.

  7. Avatar
    ... Zoe ~

    I found myself going back through time on my blog. Some of my posts I have now designated to the private mode &/or password-protected mode. You know who shows up there? You. 🙂 As you know, in those posts I share some of my deepest pain, both emotional and physical. I’m often overwhelmed as I reflect on the degree of depression I’ve gone through as it relates to life in general as well as living with chronic pain. Who relates? You. Who understands? You. Who has been there, done that in the Christian context as well as secular? You.

    I really was quite moved to read (this is going way back 10 or so years ago) how often you came alongside my pain to support and encourage. To connect. Pain is lonely. It is easy to disconnect from life and isolate. Writing is a tool that keeps us connected with “self” and with others.

    Before either of us go, I have truly enjoyed inhabiting this globe with you for as many trips around the sun we make. 🙂

  8. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Ah, geeez, Bruce… My sheer good luck of finding my way here and sharing your heart expressions (and the vitriol due transgressors of the Almighty) remains an essential foundation of my average day. I get up in the morning (often halfway through the night) brew a mug of coffee and click my way into your blog. My poor preacher dad never found his way out but I know a preacher dad who did, who shows the way to embrace humanity and not demean it, who says, “Ah shit, I’m down again…” but hauls himself up once more to kick against the pricks of chronic pain.
    There is a lifelong question that rolls around in my old being. Why is that Paul had to fall into visions (hallucinations) on the long road of life? Why did he not fall into embracing his journey-state, his human existence rather than go all God on us? What happens to a body to send it into seeing things, hearing voices? Is it simply somantic, a stew of genes and environment? How does a Gerencser not go gah-gah God with all the ‘accidents’ survived over the years from birth? How does he embrace life and not the sweet guarantee of gold roads and all? I don’t have an answer to my question but I keep asking it and for some reason am content to live with it as it is…
    Keep journeying my friend. I feel so grateful to share this road with you.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Thanks, Brian. You are part of the early morning contingent who read this blog. Like clockwork, they stop by and comment. I appreciate those who continue to not only read but comment. I may not answer many of the comments, but I read every last one of them.

  9. Avatar
    Charles S. Oaxpatu

    Hi Bruce. I sometimes make the mistake of judging that other people are just like me. You see. I have a very hard time writing “good stuff” when I am sick or just plain feeling bad for whatever reason. I apologize for sucking you into that.

    In addition, I should also note, just for the record, that numerous rock and roll stars do their best work when they are tripping out on addiction to drugs or in the times when their lives are a painful mess for assorted reasons. So, you are right. Difficult circumstances and pain are spurs to creativity and success. For example, it can be argued that Beethoven composed his pinnacle works in music after the personal pain of going completely deaf. Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac did some of her best work while tripped out on drugs or dealing with lasting heartbreak from her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham. In fact, this famous album was written and composed when all of the members of Fleetwood Mac were dealing with powerful emotional pain and good relationships gone bad:

    So yes, Bruce. Pain of various kinds does spur creativity and success. Thanks for your kind words.

  10. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Bruce, I am so grateful for your unique blog, how your humor and life experience comes through in your writing. I so hate what you are going through now, in this phase of your senior years ! Just the unfairness of it. When you post these days, I’m always heartened by new titles. I learn a lot. We are all vexed and in pain, knowing of yours. I won’t forget how you wrote me back when I told you of the horrors I faced in the summer of 2018, the effects of American Christianity and it’s destructive path and people on myself and those I cared for. Churches cause more trouble than one might think,eh ? I had the feeling it was difficult for you to write because of your conditions. Which is why it makes my day when you’re up to it.

  11. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Brian, your comments are so stimulating. This comment in particular reminds me of how my pain, combined with changes that were occurring in my body, caused me to think “Jesus” was “calling” me to “follow him.” What I really needed were a good therapist, good friends and to write.

  12. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Lucky for us that you braved the path, MJ… You write full-heart and are damn good with the pencil…. lucky for us. Thanks for being around (and writing about it!)

  13. Avatar
    Troy

    That’s a good question about Paul (known to be an epileptic). Why DID he go churchy? Apparently, epilepsy in the temporal lobes of the brain can create a mystical experience.

  14. Avatar
    cy

    I was just listening this morning to a podcast that was a talk with someone living with chronic health problems.
    It’s from a series of interviews by Brianne Benness with people who are living with chronic pain/chronic illness.

    They are about dealing with pain and with survival, families, doctors who are not able to help or are clueless or are actively part of the problem, suffering, overwhelming fatigue, treatments that work or not, etc. There is a fair amount about how people without the pain/medical problems don’t actually get the true impact of the situation–including the person themselves before they became ill.
    I think she is up to 70 interviews. I’ve listened to a lot of them as I have a lot of medical “issues” and often have restrictions on what I can do because of them. (Not sure if listening “helps” me . . . but maybe. . . I guess I at least use it as a “distraction”. But often I feel a kinship or solidarity.)

    If you are interested, the link is:
    https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/no-end-in-sight/id1436881583

    Her twitter is: https://twitter.com/bennessb

    Also, I have had the experience (many times!), where pain and illness has brought on attempts to bargain with god. Once my belief was really gone, I had no one left to bargain with. (sad face)

  15. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Thank you for those links you posted, CY. I can use those, and will pass them along as well. I do think that long before chronic pain and fatigue hit, there was relentless stress that never let up, first. This is the case with me, it comes from not catching a break. After decades of this pile of duties and trauma, the body goes into a kind of spiral. Going no- contact with certain people could have at least saved me from the stress damage anyway. Churches teach against the no contact/ boundaries enforced the rule, leaving way too many victims reeling. Genetic flaws aside, I fear this what befell me. I didn’t act in time. .. Anyone in this situation please exit Stage Left.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I hope to stay among the living for as long as possible. I saw my primary doctor today. He’s been my doctor for 25 years. He told that being diagnosed with gastroparesis is not a good thing. We talked about the future, mentioned that people with severe gastroparesis often have to have a feeding tube. I replied, “you know me quite well. THAT ain’t going to happen. When we reach that point, I am done.” He understood. So far, I have been able to get enough nutrition from food and Ensure+ to get by. I am fine with the weight loss, but if there comes a day when I cannot eat . . .

  16. Avatar
    Burr Deming

    I have been following your blog for years.
    I learn something about adulthood from much of what you write.
    I am older than are you, yet there is in your words a wisdom that reminds me of my long-departed father.

    My imagination tells me you forgive unwitting comments from those of us who simply cannot find the words.
    If you do not, I suspect I will find wisdom in that as well.

    Best wishes to you in your pain.

  17. Avatar
    Steve

    Bruce, I can never tell you enough what a huge influence you have been on my journey from Christian, to atheist, to atheist who lives with a chronic and serious mental illness.

    I’ve read and admired your work ever since late 2011. I will keep reading until you cannot write anymore and then I will mourn the loss of one of the most influential people in my post-Christian life.

    Thank you for all you do. Keep fighting the good fight.

  18. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Good morning Bruce. I’m hoping that today will be at least tolerable for you. Your post here have me the idea to look up gastroparesis. A form of this afflicts babies with colic, as constipation goes with it. I had that my first year of ( accidental) life, so I sure feel for you. I heard something on the local NPR and UCI Health that I’m going to investigate. If I hear of any possibilities with research and trials, I’ll pass it on. I wanted to go into clinical trials myself, but California is still under lockdown. So, sending find wishes to you, Polly and your family.

  19. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Always welcome, Bruce ! And I’ll send the information once I track everything down, and post it here. On the subway at the moment as I head back to my camp.

  20. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Good afternoon, Bruce. I looked up some clinics and called them. The ones in California are based here,. However, the Mayo Clinic does have studies for gastroparesis. I learned that there are two varieties of this condition. Diabetic gastroparesis is not the same thing as ” regular gastroparesis, it seems. The nearest clinical trial center is in Rochester, MN.They have study in Minnesota there, cannabis oil for this problem, and three others in Florida. One usually needs a doctor’s referral, especially when or if insurance is involved. I’m not sure how you’d travel, car, train or plane. It’s over 500 miles away by car, via I- 90. I can give you the Cedar- Sinai Hospital contacts and UCI Health Institute is in Irvine, Orange County, South of L.A. I looked up these places so you wouldn’t have to cope with extra typing. I’m quite happy to do the research for these trials. I have a fatty liver problem myself, all that stress eating, I love my carbs. I don’t drink, you don’t have to be, to be saddled with it. My previous doctor overlooked the fact that I needed testing for fatty liver issues. Asians are more vulnerable to liver problems( thanks, absentee Dad !)but many doctors don’t test routinely, and they ought to ! So, here’s the number for Rochester Mayo Clinic : (507)538-3270, another one for them is : (800)446-2279. It takes time to find the right one, so I’ll keep looking for you. Good hunting, Bruce.

  21. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    My phone’s sacking out again, so I’m not able to use much typing today. The nearest Mayo clinic, with it’s medical trials for your conditions, is in Rochester, MN. The number is : (507)538-3270. Insurance, if used, will need your doctor’s referral. If driving, it would be on I- 90. Train or plane would be easier, maybe. It is over 500 miles away. Four trials are ongoing, and some are of the paying variety, depending on the condition. It’s a start. If you have diabetic gastroparesis, make sure they know either way. Good hunting, Bruce.

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Bruce Gerencser