How Writing Helps Me Fulfill a Greater Purpose in My Life With Illness
While scrolling through my Facebook memories this morning I realized something: it’s been six years since I had my first major symptom flare. I’m still a little shocked by how all that has happened in that time. I’ve had to leave my career and adjust to being disabled. I’ve had to leave my house in a wheelchair or scooter. I’ve been to some of the top ranked medical centers in the world. I’ve learned to study ingredient labels, request accommodations and make contingency plans before I do anything.
Of all the things I do now that I never would have dreamed I would be doing, writing is by far the nicest surprise. I’ve always loved writing. I still write stories in my head when I can’t sleep at night – the same as I did in elementary school (although there are way fewer talking unicorns in my stories now, sadly). However, in spite of the fact that writing is something I enjoy, it is serving a greater purpose in my life at the moment.
It’s how I processed my feelings.
You guys, I have so many words to say. When I was undiagnosed/newly diagnosed, I had so much I needed to get off my chest. To be honest, no one was up to the task of listening to all of it. I was wearing Joe (my husband) down with the daily monologues when he came home from work. Blogging, journaling and eventually writing (co-authoring) a book has given me a place where I could say as much as I want without worrying about exhausting someone else. If someone doesn’t feel up to the task of hearing me out, they can stop reading. That’s way less awkward than having to say, “Girl, stop talking. I can’t handle all your feelings right now.”
I’ve become an advocate.
For a long time, I shied away from the word “advocate” because I thought it sounded hateful or confrontational. However, at this point in my life, I am grateful for the chance to wear that title. Being an advocate doesn’t mean picking fights – it means speaking up for others. I am touched when my words give a voice to someone who is struggling to find their own voice. I am glad that I get to stand up (or, you know, lie in bed) and advocate for my chronic illness family, because I’m tired of feeling like I’m worthless just because I’m sick. Being a blogger has helped me to be bolder, more resilient and more aware of others’ struggles.
Writing helped me find meaning in the chaos.
Being sick is exhausting. There are still days when I’m aware that I’ve been in pain for so long that it has become my normal, and that’s a bit of a hopeless feeling. While I believe those who struggle have beautiful souls, that doesn’t mean I enjoy or appreciate illness. When I had to leave my job as a teacher, I felt like I was losing my ability to make a mark on the world. If I couldn’t teach and encourage kids anymore, what could I do? Through writing, I have met many other people with chronic illness. Sometimes we read each others’ writing. Other times, we cry over new diagnoses, or laugh at the futility of our tears. Regardless, through writing, I have connected with a whole new world of people who need support. Maybe my mark on the world isn’t what I thought it would be, but if I’m helping to ease someone else’s pain, that’s enough of a mark for me.
Friends, I know writing isn’t for everyone, but I encourage you to find a medium to express yourself. Our community needs more voices, more art, more music, more of whatever you do. I am grateful for the ways writing has enriched my life, and I look forward to seeing where it will take me in the future.
Peace, love and health, friends.
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Thinkstock photo via Sasiistock.