Monday, April 7, 2014

Why I Write

I'm really excited to be participating in the WEGO Health Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge.  I'm hoping that the challenge factor will motivate me to write more often (every day this month, in fact!), and that that will develop into a habit of writing regularly after the month is over.  More importantly, I'm hoping that by sharing my experiences, thoughts, and insights about living with chronic and invisible illnesses, I'll be able to bring comfort to someone struggling with the same issues.

*Note - I'll be including this introductory paragraph at the beginning of every post, so that anyone who's checking in will have that background info.  If you come back another day (and I hope you do), you can skip this part!

Today's assignment: Why I Write.  Tell us why you write about your health. How long have you been writing? What impact has it made on your life? Write for 15-20 minutes without stopping.

When I first saw this assignment, I thought I could get off easy.  After all, I’ve already got a separate page dedicated to how and why I came to write this blog.  I figured I could just give you the link (like I just did) and be done with it … but that wouldn’t really live up to the spirit of this challenge, now, would it?

I couldn't just leave it at that.

Writing has always been an outlet for me to express my feelings about whatever I was going through at the time.  When I was younger, I often wrote poems - sometimes I shared them with friends or family; other times they were just for me.  Years later, I journaled as a way of tracking my food, but it led to tracking my emotions even more. 

When I taught composition classes, I often gave my students free writing assignments.  Sometimes with a prompt (not unlike those in this challenge), but more often without: I asked them to just put pen to paper and write whatever came to mind.  As I explained to them, writing like this can help uncover what’s on the mind (or in the heart), just under the surface.  It has often helped me to better understand how I felt about a given situation; more than that, it helped me work through those feelings.

Writing when I’m upset or angry is a cathartic experience.  I can get all the negative feelings out onto the paper (or the computer screen), and write through it into some sort of resolution.  I may not always be able to control my situation, but I can control how I respond to it.  Writing offers a way to comfort myself – to speak as kindly and optimistically as I would to a friend who was struggling.  It allows me to be a friend to myself when I need it most.

With the blog, though, I am able to console more than just myself.  Though my experiences feel unique to me, they are not really that uncommon.  The lessons I learn from them can be shared, so that others may be comforted as well. 


This is not, however, a purely selfless act.  As I share my experiences, my lessons, and my optimism with others, a connection is made.  Writing – and reading the comments that follow – allows me to connect with the people who read my blog.  As a person living with chronic illness(es), that connection is even more important.  During the years when I felt unexplainable symptoms and got dismissed by doctor after doctor, I felt completely alone.  Sure, there were people who cared about me, but they could never really understand what I was going through.  They could sympathize, but they could not empathize.  Through this magical creation we call internet, though, not only have I learned that I was not alone in my experience, but fellow chronic illness sufferers (aka “Spoonies”) have found my blog, read my words, and reached out to thank me for sharing my experience.  I have likewise contacted others whose stories have moved me.  From some of those moments, there was a simple moment of validation.  From others, a friendship developed.  This is why I write.

**If you like what you read, tell a friend.  In fact, tell me, too - post a comment below!  If you don't ... well ... I'm all for honesty, but ... please be gentle!