Friday 23 January 2015

Chronic Illness and the Writer's Path

Sometimes writing takes on the aspect of being called on to do a public speech at very short notice, the blank page mirroring the expectant faces of the audience as they await your words. Your chest might tighten, your hands might tremble and your mind unleash a host of unhelpful thoughts about your abilities and your right to even try.

As with many things, even if you are strong enough to not worry about what other people may think of you, the voices in your own mind may well be the hardest hurdle to overcome. Yesterday I wrote a short paragraph that could have led into a quite satisfying story but anger flared and I deleted it as I declared it to be “A load of bollocks!” I then felt ashamed at treating myself that way. It is said over and over and over by experienced authors: “Write first, judge later!” or words to that effect, so why didn’t I do that yesterday? Who knows?

My health has been very poor, both mentally and physically, so it could have been pure frustration that writing one crap paragraph took more effort than seemed worthwhile.

My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has been dragging away parts of my life for years. While I have made what I feel to be good progress in many areas, the ones that are left are particularly hard to deal with. It is a mental disorder that is very treatable and I have had various help and treatment over the years. There is nothing else left for me to try, but as with many things, knowing and doing are two different things. I know my OCD inside out, what is going on, why and what I need to do, but when the fear grips you and your body is in fight-or-flight, that is far easier said than done. It still claims a large amount of my time and energy; energy I can ill afford to lose.

My Chronic Fatigue Syndrome forces me to rest for hours on end, my body trying to deal with the pitiful demands I actually ask of it. CFS is a very misunderstood and devastating illness, and far more needs to be done rather than just diagnosing by exclusion, spouting trite advice and then being baffled when the very unwell person fails to improve. I was relieved when I was given the official diagnosis of CFS some 12 years ago, having a name for how I was feeling and some measure of recognition. Now I see it for what it is, a license to be pushed aside and forgotten about, all effort to really find out what is wrong seemingly ending overnight.

I very rarely mention my illnesses on this site as I wanted it to be all about my writing and less about me. I know that, by virtue of the processes involved, my writing is about me in many ways, or aspects of me, but I don’t feel I have blatantly revealed much of myself in this way before. I think now is the time to inject more of myself into this site, especially the parts of me that play such a large role in who I am and what I do. I feel ashamed of being ill, inferior, jealous of others and bitter about life. I am also working on these things and trying to accept myself for who I am.

I am really trying to do something with my life, and have been for many years, but the struggle and strain skewers any feeling of progress or achievement, comfort or connection. I have things that I am thankful for and I know things can always be worse, but damn it, I’m exhausted and about ready to drop. Writing is my thing, the thing. Those blank pages I mentioned at the start of this piece? They won’t be blank for long, even if it’s not words, it will be something of me, a doodle, a rant or a smear of blood from my bleeding hand. Whatever it is, it will be something!