13 Ways Writing Is Easier Than My Autoimmune Disease
1. It’s an invitation.
The blank page and/or screen is always there, ready and waiting for me. I can accept or decline the invitation at my convenience. I was not invited to have an autoimmune disease. It was thrust upon me without the option of declining the invite.
2. It’s a gift of power and control.
I make all the decisions on the blank page. Font size and color. Single or double spacing. Page numbers or no page numbers. Chronic illness, on the other hand, has taken a lot of my power and control. I can’t control my leg twitching. Or my calf swelling. Or how my body will react to a new medication. It’s a lot of wait-and-see, and I’m just along for the ride.
3. It’s an opportunity to experiment.
Generally I write nonfiction — informational posts for MomsLA.com, weekly blog posts (www.wendykennar.com) and personal essays. But a blank page is a chance to try something new, like writing a third-person point of view essay, just because I wanted to try it. It’s not quite so easy to experiment where my body is concerned. Trying a new food could be detrimental to my sensitive stomach, for example.
4. It’s a chance to express myself.
On the blank page, I can show different versions of myself. I can be serious. Reflective. Informative. Educational. Based in reality. Or living in a fantasy. My autoimmune disease, on the other hand, somewhat restricts how I can express myself. Sometimes I can be silly and try to moonwalk when my son does. But sometimes I can’t.
5. It’s endless.
There are no limits to what I can and can’t do on the page. The only limits are my imagination. My body, however, has definite limits. I can’t walk as far or as long as I’d often like to. Sometimes I can’t even keep standing or sitting as long as I’d like to.
6. It’s easy to make a change.
Highlight and click. In the time it takes me to snap my fingers, the document on my computer screen can look completely different. There are no quick, easy, finger-snapping changes possible when it comes to chronic pain.
7. It’s on my timetable.
I write when I want to write. I start and stop according to my needs and my schedule. It doesn’t work like that in the medical field. Appointments, scans, even taking certain medications — all dictated by someone or something else.
8. It’s predictable.
In writing, there are rules that are followed. If I hit delete, I know the letters on my screen will disappear. If I press return several times, I know my cursor will move down the screen. There are no predictable patterns when it comes to chronic pain. It can hit randomly and seemingly without reason.
9. It’s an example of autonomy.
I can write without needing anyone else’s approval. I write when I’m ready to write. As a patient, everything is dependent on someone else — an insurance authorization, a referral from my primary care physician, a doctor’s approval for a prescription refill.
10. It’s a privilege.
I know not every woman has access to books or the right to state her opinions in written form. I can write what I want to write, safe in knowing my words and I are protected. However, I don’t consider it a privilege to be living with a chronic illness. It may have lessons for me. But a gift, a privilege, it is not.
11. It’s private.
No one has to ever read what I write. Or even know that I wrote it in the first place. It’s entirely up to me. And though I live with an “invisible” disability, it’s not completely invisible. Look closely, you may see me limping. You may notice one leg is more swollen than the other.
12. It’s less-risky.
I could write something potentially upsetting, offensive or confusing, but if no one else reads it, no harm done. An autoimmune disease is inherently worrisome, confusing, upsetting. There is the very real possibility of body systems falling like dominos, being impacted by an immune system that doesn’t work quite the way it should.
13. It’s fun.
I still marvel at the seeming magic of it all. Taking 26 letters. That’s all we have to work with. But it’s using those 26 letters and putting them in different combinations of words, sentences, paragraphs and pages to create something that didn’t exist before I wrote it — that’s where the fun is. Living with a degree of pain each day is entirely not fun.
Getty image by Iskarka