My Achalasia Story – or: “About the Foodie that couldn’t eat”

Achalasia

Being the daughter of a chef, and the eldest of three siblings, my life has been influenced a lot by really good food at our family table and during whatever kind of social event. As everyone else in my family, I cherish and love good food, the cooking of and eating it, of course. Food is such a social aspect in our lives. Living in a country in which social interaction usually takes place outside, in bars, cafés and restaurants, instead of within your own or your friends’ four walls, I am pretty used to eating out or having my coffee outside while working inside a tranquil café. I’d even say it’s nearly impossible to take part in social life if you don’t go out, here in this country. And I’m loving it! The quality – price ratio when it comes to eating out is really good here in Barcelona: when you know where to go, you can lead a really healthy, according to the Mediterranean diet, life style. And the produce of local origin is just unbeatable. So to sum it up: I love to eat – at home and outside. I love to eat good, prime quality food. I love to eat healthy.

When I was a teenager I’d eat loads and wouldn’t gain weight. This changed drastically almost overnight when in a timespan of 3 months I gained so much weight that I just didn’t know what went wrong. It turned out back then, that I was suffering, (as many of my generation, and some blame this on Chernobyl), from hypothyroidism, which resulted in a drastic gain of weight due to the fact that my thyroid gland wasn’t able to produce the adequate hormones the body needs for a correctly functioning metabolism. I never ate bad, unhealthy food. I have never been a fast food fan, except for a real authentic Italian pizza, some chocolates, or winegums once in a while. No diet would work. So I was upset accordingly.

All this changed in August 2009. I was 28 years old at that time. I had just moved to Barcelona, Spain, and my new partner (later to be wife) was currently travelling Canada. I was at home. Alone, when I suddenly experienced stabbing chest pains. My first thought was: ‘I’m 28 years old, I am alone and I am suffering from a heart attack. There’s no one nearby that could help me, and I can’t access a telephone.’ I dragged myself to the armchair, hoping for the best, and expecting the worst. A couple of horrifying & immensely painful hours went by, and finally the spasm-like pains seemed to disappear slowly. I was rocking back and forth. Not knowing what to do, crying in vain. I couldn’t think straight. After that experience I spoke to my partner about it, and decided to go and see a doctor. After a few medical respiratory tests, it was decided I had asthma. It didn’t feel right though.

Time passed by and the painful, heart attack like spasms and pain crises would become more frequent. They’d hit me out of nowhere, from behind, at night, in my sleep. I also started regurgitating food without wanting (at a table during a business dinner, or with friends, etc.). Sometimes waking up coughing my lungs out, because fluids, (and now I know that it’s been rests of undigested food) would run up my esophagus and into my lungs. I have always suffered from a lot of respiratory illnesses (including three times pneumonia up until now) – now I know why. During the next year I’ve suffered these increasing pain attacks, and they finally paired up with not being able to eat. By November 2010 I had already lost about 10kg. Sometimes – while eating – I would just turn reddish and pale at the same time, with my eyes almost bursting out of my skull, trying to swallow food that had gotten stuck in my throat. I went to see my GP again, and she still insisted on me suffering from asthma. I asked for an endoscopy and her answer was that I ‘was too young’ to suffer from a disease of the upper digestive apparatus. My answer was: ‘Well, I can breathe, but I can’t eat!’ Then one day in December that same year, I just couldn’t eat or drink anything anymore. For five long days. And I ended up in the emergency room of a private hospital where they finally ran the necessary test. After the endoscopy, they suspected a rare disease (that only occurs in 1 out of 100,000) called Achalasia. My private health insurance, upon finding out about the suspicion the specialists had (no confirmed diagnosis up to that point!), refused paying for the medical test and cancelled my health insurance with them immediately. So I was depending on the Spanish State Health Care System again. I was able to change my GP (stating a language barrier as the reason, which wasn’t the real reason at all, but I knew if I gave them my real reason they wouldn’t have accepted it). The suspected rare disease had yet to be confirmed by a barium swallow (in which the patient has to swallow contrast gel while being constantly x-rayed – it’s like a x-ray movie, and I believe I glow everytime after having it), and through a very painful test called manometry, which measures the pressure of the esophageal function (peristalsis).

Barium Swallow pre-surgery

X-Ray Momentum of my Barium Swallow (pre-surgery)

Soon Achalasia was confirmed and I sort of felt betrayed: having a rare disease is like a nightmare-like lottery win.

First of all it’s rare: as a patient you are like a guinea pig and doctors rarely ever heard about your rare condition, and if they did, it’s been treated in one of their lectures without focussing on it. A rare disease is not cancer (I want to indicate at this point that I am not comparing Achalasia with cancer here; I am not saying one is worse than the other, nor anything similar). It doesn’t have a lobby. So there’s almost no investigation, (and almost no specialists), due to the lack of funding. Then no one can tell you what to do and how to deal with it. Turns out that for almost every Achalasian, although they suffer from the same symptoms, other remedies work (it seems like each and every Achalasia patient has their own ways of dealing with eating and spasms, etc). What might alleviate one, will make the next one worse. Then you can have some treatments to improve your life and eating quality, but there is no cure, and treatments are sometimes more and other times less successful. In my case I’ve had surgery (the Heller Myotomy with a Dor Fundoplication), and since that one didn’t make it better, they also did a balloon dilatation of the esophagus. By the time of the Heller Myotomy I had almost lost 30kg. Due to the first surgery, and the accordingly developed scar tissue on my esophagus, the posterior dilatation wasn’t successful as they couldn’t dilate much (in order to prevent me from suffering the life-threatening risk of perforation). Now I take some medication, (that is not specifically for Achalasia, but relaxes the nerves and therefore might soothe the muscle spasms), from time to time when I get these pain crises and my esophagus closes up completely, leaving me unable to eat for a couple of days. Usually this type of medication provokes that I am unable to function in my all-day-life. It makes me super tired and I feel like in a daze.

Barium Swallow Post-Surgery

X-Ray Momentum of my Barium Swallow (post-surgery – unsuccessful Heller Myotomy)

So how do I live now? What is life like for an Achalasian? I try to eat whatever I like to eat. I know, I can’t eat a lot of things (like red meat, rice, acidic foods, fibres, fruits, raw veggies and salads, etc. – the list is long). Easier are: cakes, cream tarts, pudding, bland foods, soups, etc. Every time I am eating, the food piles up in my esophagus and I try to push as much of it down as possible with the help of drinking up to 2l / meal of water at room-temperature (cold or warm water, and drastic temperature changes can cause the earlier described painful spasms) directly after an eating period. I basically feel when I need to drink – I’d throw up otherwise. Just imagine having something stuck in your throat. Your first and most normal physical reaction would be to throw up. It’s a bodily function. With Achalasia throwing up is not that easy anymore. At the end of each day, before I go to bed, and in order to prevent rests of food from flowing up into my lungs (reflux), where they could cause serious infections (even pneumonia) and other diseases, I throw up. I don’t throw up stomach contents since the LES (the entrance to my stomach, or also known as Lower Esophageal Sphincter) is closed off. This is why my esophagus looks like a glass of sparkling wine: wide at the beginning and sort of very narrow when it comes to entering the stomach. Sometimes I throw up in the middle of meals. Imagine what kind of image this causes during your lunch break at your work or business dinners! I’ve been asked if I had bulimia and anorexia by the braver ones, but the cowards would bull-eye me when they thought I didn’t realise and then look away. Can you imagine what kind of pressure this puts on you in your working and social life? Can you understand the impact this has? Even if you’re dealing with the situation, there might be others that start spreading rumours about you, that might have a negative impact on your career. People that you considered trustworthy suddenly turn away from you in social relationships.

Throwing up usually causes me spasms. If my stomach entrance is forced open through the force of throwing up (which happens once a week more or less), I will suffer from very vile spasms the whole night and during the next day. Sometimes I get spasms out of nowhere. If I catch them on time I find relief in drinking small sips of water at room temperature. I always carry a water bottle with me. For me it’s life saving medicine. It’s a matter of life and death because one spasm can intensify in such a way that I pass out and won’t get rid of it for days, having to go to hospital and worst case scenario: being ‘force-fed’ (something I want to avoid at all costs). I always carry my certified GP’s letter with me that specifies that I have to carry my bottle of water with me (even through security checks at airports and in other situations). I can only recommend getting such a letter if you suffer from Achalasia and know that water helps you. It’s widely accepted and most airports (especially international ones) are equipped with liquid testing machines.

I only go to restaurants that I know serve big jugs or sell big bottles of water. Usually I drink the water right out of the bottle as this helps me, because the pressure on the food in my esophagus is bigger than the one from a small glass of water. Plus I can drink a bigger amount of water at once. The eating success rate is higher that way. So water helps me eat and deal with my spasms. Whenever restaurant staff doesn’t understand my short explanation (‘I have a rare swallowing disease which prevents me from being able to eat food and swallow it accordingly. This is why I ask you to bring me at least 2l of water at room temperature. Thank you!’), I leave. I have no other choice as most places don’t accept it if their guest takes out their own bottle of water.

When it comes to medication, I take Buscapina and Adalat (in that order), if water fails to help. I try not to take Diazepam as it is just a very drastic drug to take in my opinion, but sometimes – during very bad days – I have no other choice.

So basically I eat whatever I like to eat (I know my body very well by now and usually know very well what it can handle). I still love food and I refuse to give up my love for food and my passion for cooking. I love writing my little food blog (although I must admit that I have been kind of lazy recently, but that has been due to other events in my life), and to post my foodscapades on Instagram every week (I tried eating 95% of what you can see in my pictures – except for when it comes to things my partner had and I don’t like – and I assume I actually swallow 75% of what I post on Instagram). Good food is a luxury good for me that makes me happy. I don’t depend on it, but I cherish it because I know the better I eat, the healthier I am. I like to pig out, and I like it even more when knowing that the ingredients are of km 0 (local) and organic origin, and that they were prepared with the utmost care, attention to detail and love. Ingredients that no cook should ever underestimate in my humble opinion.

My love and passion for good food also helps me overcome the other side effects of suffering from a rare illness (that no patient, doctor, therapist, partner, friend, family member, employer, colleague or bystander) should ever underestimate: suffering from depression, PTSD and anxiety due to Achalasia and my three herniated discs, plus the resulting sciatica. I know now that during a very long time I pushed myself and my body to its limits, and its natural reaction was to collapse (the result was me being unable to walk, sit, and stand up during almost 6 months last year). A very busy work schedule, an unfortunate work situation in general, paired with unhealthy eating at work, during business trips and business dinners, lead to the ultimate blow-up 1 year and 9 months ago.

My life has changed so much since then: I had no choice but to listen to my body and my deteriorating health. I had to drastically stop all I was used to, calm down, rest and reconsider all the choices I had made up until that point. I left a career, which I mostly liked, behind, started working regaining my ability to move and walk through physiotherapy and holistic health therapies (like acupuncture, auriculotherapy, kinesiology, Psych-K®, Reiki, homeopathy, Bach flowers & reflexology), started eating healthy and consciously, and tried to push through a morphine, Lyrica and Xeristar withdrawal which I had been taking almost for a year due to the elevated pain level and to the nerve regenerating side effects of the latter. It is unnecessary to mention that the combination between the spine problem and Achalasia have been quite a challenge. Throwing up is not funny – especially when it comes with such a force – when you have serious back pain. I don’t want to go too much into the back issue though.

What I want to underline with telling you a bit about my last year is that alternative (holistic) health therapies really worked for me (regarding Achalasia, the back problem and psychological challenges I am facing), and that it was so helpful to change my life even if I am at a point now at which I don’t know into which direction to turn into (professionally and personally), since I am far from being fine on one side but am also that clear again, that I have the wish to start something new. Something which has to be adapted to my physical needs, of course. I will never work a stressful job again. I won’t be able to work in a position that requires to be sitting or standing up most of the usual 8h and more working day. I can’t work in a job which doesn’t give me time to eat, (because I obviously need more time to eat than people without a digestive illness do), or which doesn’t accept that I have to go to hospital and doctors’ appointments much more often than the average employee. My work place needs to be able to accept my by the Spanish State acknowledged and certified disability, and that I will have surgery again. All these things are obstacles in the working world and aren’t very attracting to possible employers. So at the moment I am re-thinking, reconsidering my options and what I could and would want to achieve. I am sure I have a lot of things to offer (things I don’t want to specify here since this blog post is about Achalasia, and not about trying to find my perfect job).

I want to tell everyone that suffers from a permanent (rare or not rare) disease, to reconsider your life, the options you have (when it comes to the way you live your life, you eat, you exercise, your work life and personal life, your chosen therapies). It’s always good to explore new possibilities. And: if like me you suffer from a rare, incurable illness, the first step towards a happier life is acceptance. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t fight for raising awareness and following up new therapy options and the general research. No. What I mean is that; even if it takes a long time and is much easier said than actually done; the goal is to accept yourself and your body. I am currently at a point at which I manage to do that sometimes. There are other moments in which I am just mad and frustrated and sad. This is why it is also important to never underestimate the side effects that come with a physical disease, such as depression, anxiety, etc.

Finally to the people that are not ill: the worst you can tell a person that struggles with being ill, permanently ill, or even suffers from a rare, incurable disease, is to tell them to suck it up, that there are people worse off or – the worst – that they are just making it up. Every single one of us has their own burden to carry. If you cherish the person in front of you, you should never forget to acknowledge that. If you don’t understand what they are going through, you should ask them. And don’t forget to ask them from time to time how they are, if you really care for them – as you should do with every other human being you care about. When they cancel on you, don’t be mad at them if they do it last minute: it might mean they’re having a really bad day and they just don’t want to bother you with long, painful explanations. If they come to work looking as if they had partied all night, don’t make that stupid joke! Maybe they couldn’t sleep all night long due to their illness and summoned all strength in order to lead a normal life and to show up for work as everyone else. Try to look beyond and to understand that life with an illness – rare or common, permanent or temporary, curable or incurable – is already a challenge: ill people always run into misunderstandings, are judged negatively, suffer prejudice at work and in social life, and the according disadvantages and discrimination. And those are just the secondary challenges. The first one is always: they are the first ones that have to deal with this. Not you, not a doctor, a partner, or whoever. The patient is always the first one to experience an illness and this should be acknowledged and their story shouldn’t be questioned.

So this is my story. This is why (good) food is much more important to me than to a person that can eat normally. You don’t understand what kind of importance one apparantly normal thing has until you can’t do it anymore. Especially if it is something you need in order to survive. I want to ask every reader to cherish what they are eating. To be grateful that they can eat it, and to eat every bite of their meal consciously. It’ll create a much healthier approach to food inside yourself and will make you enjoy eating! And eating good food is love, and love makes you happy. Don’t forget that!

Thank you for reading.

A little list of useful links regarding Achalasia:

International:

Acalasia, Achalasie, Achalasy, Achalasia (closed Facebook group)

For English Speakers:

Martin Mueller IV Achalasia Awareness Foundation, Inc. (Facebook)

Achalasia Awareness Organization (Facebook)

Achalasia Research UK (Facebook)

Achalasia (closed Facebook group)

Achalasia Support Group (closed Facebook group)

Achalasie Forum (English version)

For German Speakers:

ARC (Achalasia Risk Consortium)

Achalasie.de

Achalasie Forum

Achalasie – Betroffene in Deutschland (closed Facebook group)

Achalasie-Austausch-Gruppe (closed Facebook group)

For Spanish Speakers:

Gente con ACALASIA y otros desordenes del esofago

Acalasia

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The Most Special Day back in July 2014

Usually I wouldn’t write about my private life but there was one event so special & beautiful that I just have to write about it. I am talking about my media naranja’s & my wedding last year, on the 18th of July 2014 to be precise. I don’t want to bore you with yet another wedding day story – I just want to share some short inputs & impressions with you regarding the preps for the big day & the celebration itself. I found reading such descriptions quite useful when it came to getting everything planned. In the end every couple is different and has a different approach to how their special day should be like, but it’s still nice to get some input from people that ‘survived it’ successfully. 😉

Before sending out invitations / save the date cards, (that we ordered via Minted.com which offers an amazing wide range of designs, that please all different tastes out there, plus ships to Europe, as well – another great fact about Minted is that you support individual designers with your choice!), we set up a wedding website including all necessary information for our guests (like the wedding day agenda, wedding dinner options, wish list, public transport options, city maps, accommodation / restaurant / cafe / club & bar recommendations, basically whatever kind of information you consider necessary for your guests) via Zankyou.com. This free of charge website offers a variety of helpful applications such as designing a seating plan or sending out update / notification emails to your guests. This saves you some money & time as you won’t need a wedding planner for these things and can centralise all the information via a website.

Speaking about wedding planners, I am sure they make sense if you don’t have much time and can’t be bothered in your spare time to prepare a huge wedding, but in our case – planning a smaller event – we didn’t need a wedding planner in the end. Luckily we both knew what we wanted and it wasn’t too difficult to find the right partners for that purpose after researching a bit on the www.

In Carme Trias we encountered a very talented Barcelona designer. She designed both our stunning wedding dresses according to our personal preferences (and in my case drawings). Check out her small shop in Gràcia, Barcelona by going to Modart or their Facebook account.

MyWeddingDress

My design

Weddin

The Outcome

One thing that gave us a lot of headache were the shoes. We thought so much about that topic and changed our minds that often that we did almost go crazy. And then it occurred to us: do something different and walk through your wedding day in plain & simply stylish comfort. Yes, we ordered custom-made Converse according to our designs and our friends from England luckily got them for us since you can’t place orders except for when you’re located in the UK or the USA (so make sure you know someone in one of those places in order to design your own Converse).

CustomizedConverse

So we also had to get around during our big day – from our stunning prep place (that we found via Airbnb and which is just a perfect option if you need a lot of space in order to get ready separately and to hang out with friends & family before & after the wedding, instead of opting for the rather typical & much more expensive wedding night at a hotel) to the wedding ceremony at the town hall in Gràcia, from there to the photo shoot in the Raval & on Montjuic and then up to the restaurant for reception & dinner.

OurDecadentApartment

One room of our stunningly beautiful & decadent Modernisme style wedding apartment booked via Airbnb

Regarding our means of transport, we were lucky to find Conducir Clásicos, which is a great local company that hooked us up with a super trendy & restored T2 Caravelle van plus driver.

T2Caravelle

Our very original T2 Caravelle Wedding Van

We loved being driven around in the Caravelle and it was such a big surprise for our wedding guests – everyone marvelled at it – and it also made a stunning model during the wedding photo shoot which has been provided by our great professional photographers Anna & Gustavo from Nice Tales : Photography – also check out their Facebook page.

Being from a Northern European country, our families expected to greet us with a glass of Cava after the wedding ceremony in Gràcia’s town hall, but one really important fact to know about Spain in general is that it is illegal to drink alcohol publicly on the street. So we needed a convenient solution which consisted in crossing the plaza in front of the town hall and doing an afternoon Pica Pica (which is made of different salty snacks) combined with a glass of Cava in order to keep everyone going (note that temperatures around July can go up to 40ºC here, so people from colder countries really appreciate to get some sugar & drinks in-between ). We found the tasty & vibrant restaurant Amélie which offered just what we needed, and their lovely & talented chef Carlos even did our wedding bouquets & the floral table decoration at the restaurant we had booked for our dinner. The Pica Pica & Cava we had chosen together with enchanting & professional Yasmine and creative chef Carlos was just delicious and I recommend going to Amélie for lunch or dinner – they also host small concerts.

PicaPicaAmélie

Delicious Pica Pica at Amélie

We negotiated reception, a dinner menu (which has been put together by us according to our taste) with vegan options, and dance (they provide you with a DJ that will play your choice of music) with the magical & super good restaurant Can Travi Nou (also see their Facebook for updates). We’ve had lunch and dinner there before and owners as well as staff are just incredibly professional & attentive. I highly recommend Can Travi Nou for whatever kind of celebration with friends & family or for official company dinners / events. The food is supreme and meets the expectations of a Catalonian gourmet as well as it provides a delicious insight into fine Catalonian dining to the foreigner.

CanTraviNou

Can Travi Nou is a charming & magical old Catalonian Masia (farm house) converted into a supreme restaurant specialised in Catalonian & Mediterranean cuisine

A very special moment for us was when our stunning & delicious wedding cake was delivered by Sibarum cakes & catering (check their Facebook or website for further information and contact). We chose the design and taste together with the amazing mother & daughter team from the Sitges’ based pastry shop and they have been so lovely & professional, so creative & supportive throughout the whole pre-wedding process, that apart from receiving the best wedding cake ever plus some vegan cupcakes (which they all personally delivered!), a friendship has formed, and we highly recommend them whenever you need a cake, other baked treats or catering for your celebrations & events.

Sibarum Wedding Cake

That is one tasty & beautifully stunning wedding cake

Something that is not to be forgotten regarding all the planning for a wedding day are all the other creative preps and decoration tasks that you need to confront & undertake: we translated the wedding ceremony for our no Spanish speaking guests; looked for some personal wedding guest favours (that we found at Del Pot Petit while strolling over the weekend artisan market down at Passeig Joan de Borbó, and which consisted in a beautifully wrapped mini marmalade jar and a miniature bottle of ecological Virgin Olive Oil); got the artistically & beautifully arranged flower bouquets & rustic floral table decoration (that was a perfect fit for the rustic Masia) from Amélie’s chef Carlos; designed, bought and crafted all the other table, candy bar and photo booth deco; chose the music for the DJ set; etc.

TableDeco

Our personally designed & crafted table decoration

So, of course, in order to be able to come up with all of this you need time, motivation, negotiation skills, a certain amount of creativity and very, very good friends & family members that are willing to go the extra mile with & for you (a big THANK YOU goes out to all our family members & friends that by helping us decorate the tables, doing our hair & make-up [I recommend getting your wedding make-up trial done for free at Sephora] just like the most professional hair & make-up artists do, helping us get dressed, shopping for & making our dinner the night before, guiding guests to the restaurant, helping us transporting back the decoration afterwards in the middle of the night, etc., made our day so much easier – but there’s a lot of input out there and people are generally willing to help, especially when it comes down to a personalised event as a wedding. As I said, I don’t think a wedding planner is always necessary – who knows best what you as a couple want if not you and who could describe what makes your day special better than you!? In the end you’ll have roamed a lot of websites and will have found your personal preferences regarding all what makes your wedding day and you make the decision to get help from outside in form of a wedding planner or to go ahead yourself. It may sometimes seem to you that you’re stuck in the process and in so many things to do that you are about to lose yourself and give in to complete, disastrous pre-wedding despair… In those moments just sit down, have a good tea or latte and enjoy the day – do something completely different. That will help you relax and you’ll be able to focus on the wedding planning at a later moment. As someone who ‘survived’ all the craziness, I am available to provide some further insight into the organisation of our wedding and the according details, and can be contacted through eMail to laravalerablog@gmail.com .

Why a handwritten letter is still better than an email

In times of constant connection & availability, old-fashioned letter writing sort of moved to the darkest corner of our constantly connected conscience. I even dare to say that younger generations never even wrote a letter. What’s most likely is that kids nowadays swap the typical hastily scribbled notes on torn pieces of paper during lessons under the angry eyes of their teachers. At least that’s what I hope they’re still doing. But that doesn’t come close to a proper letter.

When I talk about writing a letter, I don’t mean a postcard, a note, an email or a Facebook message. I mean, sitting down with some nice paper, your pen of choice, an envelope, stamps, and most of all the right (writing) mood, amongst other things.

I started thinking about this topic back in early November last year. In my life I’ve had two constant pen-pals. One from Spain and the other one from England. The latter one became my closest friend and I still regard her as that and furthermore as a close family member. We’ve been writing long, book-like letters since I was about 11 years old and this is probably the closest I’ve ever come to writing a journal. I think, I never felt the need to since I had my constant written exchange and correspondence with those two people in other countries, that many times felt so much closer to me than most of the people surrounding me. As years passed by, things changed, the internet came and with it emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, forums for whatever kind of topic, etc. that made big, worldwide social and professional networks and their according constant information and communication (instant) flow & exchange possible. I guess, people born after the 80s might even take it for granted to receive a message, a voicemail, a picture almost the same moment it’s been sent independent of the location of its sender and recipient. I remember I exchanged mix-tapes with my pen-pals on which I also recorded a personal message for them – something one might call a voicemail.

So the occasions when I actually sat down and wrote a letter or even received one became more and more seldom over the years. Last year – with all the things that happened up to that point and on from then – I decided it was more than time again to sit down and start to write a letter. But it’s not that easy anymore. And this is not just because my life is a bit more busy than it used to be when I was 11 years old. Apart from having enough time to write one of those book-like letters, there’s also my personal need for being in the right writing mood, then the need for the right place to be in, having various decent lattes available, feeling ‘inspired’ and awake enough to keep on writing and overcoming the pain in my right hand since I am not used to handwriting anymore. I was shocked to realise that my hand started aching tremendously after having written the first half DIN A4 page (plus about all those spelling errors that I couldn’t just erase and replace by the right words after autocorrect had overflown it). This doesn’t happen while happily typing away an email or a Facebook group message. At least not to me. Well, so it took me about 1 month to write down about 8 pages. But I made it and I am very happy about that. Whenever I felt in the right mood for writing, I forced the other circumstances and myself and picked up where I last left it. It seemed ages to me that I carried around that half finished letter!

Good time for writing

The thing about putting something down on paper in your own handwriting (not even printed out after typing it into your PC), is that it is just something very personal and beautiful, even something vulnerable in its own way. You really give away something from yourself to someone. It’s brought down on paper and apart from the ink of the pen and the words you chose, the recipient will read you and your mood between the lines, will realise how your handwriting changes and what it looks like: if it’s steady and clear, or hasty, narrow, round, small, etc. All those things are able to characterise and define us partly and this is why you’re giving away something personal, only owned by you up until then, through a handwritten letter. It’s a big gift in my eyes and it’s something there to stay if regarded as that special gift by its recipient. It’s not virtual. You have to take it into your hands, touch it, you can feel it, and bring it up close to you in order to read it. You don’t have the distance between you and your PC screen. Sometimes you can even smell a letter, its paper and ink (I remember sending letters including dried flowers).

Maybe those are the reasons why I felt so intensely and deeply disappointed when the letter hadn’t arrived after having posted it more than a month ago. I felt cheated on. My friend asked me if I could print it out again, and in that moment I felt hurt. Not by her, obviously, but by the simple fact that even though a handwritten letter is not as easy to get rid of as an email or a word document, which we just move into our virtual bin to be emptied the moment of our choice, it is not that easy to ‘restore’ a lost letter. No hacker or computer geek could help us in that case. The only thing that remains as a possibility to save it is by re-writing it and if you don’t have that backup copy (which I usually don’t but I am thinking about photocopying my future written correspondence) or a photographic memory, you’ll never be able to recreate that exact same letter, transmitting the same mood and feelings through the same words, paragraphs, handwriting style, etc. that you had while you brought your words down to paper for the first time.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when the Spanish, English or whatever post finally transported it to its rightful addressee.  Plus I am now looking forward to receive an answer!