Thursday, May 1, 2014

HAWMC Recap

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 for the first time will have that background info.  If you come back another day (and I hope you do), you can skip this part and jump straight to the day's post, below!
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Today’s assignment: You did it! You've crossed the #HAWMC finish line. Recap the past month.  What did you enjoy, what didn't you enjoy? Favorite prompt?

Yaaay!

I did it!

I’ll be honest – I wasn't sure if I’d be able to do this.  Writing every day for 30 days – and writing meaningful posts at that – it’s more than I've ever done since I started the blog (though I’d always wanted to), and it was definitely a lot to ask of me.  That said, I've never been one to back down from a commitment, so once I decided to start, I knew I had to finish.  There were days when my post wasn't finished until 11:59PM … but that still counts – I got it done!    

Overall, it’s been a great experience.  As I explained in Day 7’s Why I Write, when I've written for this blog over the past few years, it’s been a cathartic experience for me, and a way to cheer myself up when life brings me down.  At the same time, it was a way to connect with others who have had similar thoughts and feelings, showing that there is always a silver lining, and that together we could get through anything.  With the specific focus on chronic/invisible/autoimmune illnesses, I’m still doing that, but there are two new – and very important – goals to my writing:
  • To show others with these types of illnesses that they are not alone in their experience
  • To educate those who love and care about us but don’t really understand what we go through day after day
What I didn't expect was that I’d also connect with so many other bloggers through their writing.  Even with different illnesses, we've surprised ourselves (and each other) with how much we have in common.

If I had to pick a favorite post from the past month, it would have to be Day 12's piece about the Catch-22 that we all face: the symptoms and medication make us gain weight, and the excess weight makes the symptoms worse.  They tell us that exercise will help, not understanding that we’re hurting too much to move.  So many times, I've felt like I needed to walk around holding a giant sign, screaming “IT’S NOT MY FAULT I’M FAT!”  Though I know in my head it’s (mostly) not true, I often feel like people judge me for how I look.  So many of us with illnesses that make us gain weight (especially autoimmune arthritis diseases, which people mistakenly think is "just arthritis") are often told that we’d be fine if we just lost weight.  As if it were that easy.  As if it’s our fault that we’re heavy … more than that, as if it’s our fault that we’re sick.   This post was my opportunity to hold that sign up, to explain to anyone who will read, that it is not our fault.  What we have is not simply a weight problem; it’s a real, diagnosed, chronic, life-altering disease (or quite often, a few illnesses at the same time).

Something else that I really enjoyed was Wordless Wednesdays.  It was fun to find and/or create images that reflect the struggle we go through, but still keep a positive outlook. 
The first week, I showed all of my medications, but included a peace wrap, my IAAM wristband (a symbol of hope), and positioned the wires of my TENS unit (electrical stimulation for pain relief) to form a heart.  Through all the pain and illness, I hold on to peace, love, and hope.
The second week, I chose an image I've seen many times before, and always loved: an elderly woman in a wheelchair looking at her shadow on the wall.  The reflection appears to be a dancer, showing that what matters is now how others see us, but how we see ourselves.
The third week, I combined three versions of my favorite painting, Edvard Munch’s The Scream.  In the first, the character is screaming in the middle of a tortured environment; in the second, he is looking at himself; in the third, he faces us again, but with smiles in his eyes.  No matter what hell surrounds and envelops us, we can always look inside ourselves and find our smile.
The fourth was quite possibly my favorite: the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter, with two simple additions: a tattoo of a purple ribbon with a butterfly, and another tattoo of a butterfly handled spoon.  Rosie is telling all “Spoonies” that we can do it: we can fight our diseases, we can get through another day, we can hold on to one last spoon, and we can float like a buttahfly.
The final Wordless Wednesday post was more autobiographical – I showed the life cycle and transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, with an image of myself in the middle.  I have struggled, and I have emerged … there will always be continual struggle, but I will never give up; I will keep going, spread my wings, and share what I learn along the way.
Writing over the past month has also made me think about the future of Float Like a Buttahfly (I was going to abbreviate, but FLaB is not how I want to refer to myself or my work!).  It’s a little intimidating, as I know I cannot keep up the pace of the past month.  I do want to write regularly, though: perhaps 1-2 times per week (more if possible, but I don’t want to overcommit).  I will likely continue to write more health-focused posts – this seems only fitting, that since my health issues are taking up a larger part of my life, they will take up a larger part of my blog.  It feels good to have this more dedicated focus, and (as noted above) I have an important mission in that.  That said, FLaB Float will not be exclusively about chronic illness.  There is more to me than my diseases; likewise there will be more to the blog, as well.  Either way, I hope there will always be something to appeal to young and old, sick and healthy, old friends and new readers.  I hope you’ll stick around, and I hope you’ll be glad you did.

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