I found a prompt today that I felt drawn to write for only to discover that my work over the past three days has left me cognitively and creatively drained. So today I thought I would take my post in a slightly less fictional direction. As I am struggling to produce even a smidgen of flash fiction, I decided to produce, instead, a personal article on how writing has helped me over the years.
1) The outlet: this is actually a fairly standard reason to write. I claim no originality on that front. Around those I don’t already know I’m quiet, shy, and awkwardly social. Big surprise there, right? I think I have scared people in the past with my ability to talk the legs off a donkey when I’m in my comfort zone, and, for me, my ultimate comfort zone is the written word. The written format allows me be far more expressive then a social situation ever will.
2) The challenge: I always was the one who could never refuse a challenge – creative writing provides one at every turn. There is always something to read and always something to inspire.
3) The confidence booster: When I was in my teen years I had anxiety attacks at the though of anyone reading my work (even the bits Mum claimed were good and the short stories my teacher insisted I submit for competition.) This extended from and feed into my social anxiety (again, who didn’t see that coming.) I began blogging fiction precisely because it was against the grain – and, of course, I gained more confidence in my writing and, because I was putting myself out there, social situations seemed less nerve wracking.
2014 was not a good year for me, so feel free to skip this paragraph if you are not interested in the reasons for 4 and 5.
Shortly after my birthday I began to experience grand mal seizures with no history of epilepsy. 2 days in critical care and an Mri later I was discharged with a brain tumour diagnosis. One week later my neurosurgeon told me he felt it might be cancerous (thankfully it was not!). After the seizures my partner of 4 years began to distance himself from me and then, on the day I was told it may be cancerous, his uncle died suddenly; meaning he had to go back to his family. With the funeral scheduled for the day before my time on the surgical table, I only saw him once before he broke of with me 5 days after my operation (and, yes, I was still hospital thanks to an infection and temporary paralysis of my foot) and on that day he was more interested in spending time with his friend then with me (God, I choose well). The minor details here are that I am still not sure I can return to care work thanks to seizure that give me muscular weakness in one leg and a lack of a driving licence on which my current job depended. I am still ‘in recovery’. It’s safe to acknowledge that sense of self and self worth died for a little while.
4) Occupational therapy: Brain surgery has some pretty powerful after effects. Between fatigue, lethargy, inability to focus, cognitive deficits, and ongoing seizures any form of work, no matter how easy it was. Continuing write allowed me to build up energy levels, cognitive functions, focus and resistance to screen triggered seizures (being that most of my writing is done via computer.) I also managed to regain fine motor control of my right hand on the occasions I did resort to handwriting prose.
5) Returning to myself: Character exploration and plot building combined with the expressive nature of prose allowed me to get back in touch with fundamental parts of my self when I was no longer who my self was. This is aligned with the principles of art therapy. From a personal view point I would actually recommend creative therapy to anyone regardless of state of mind. Even without the therapeutic aspect, creative methods of exploration of who you are as an individual is certainly freeing; you are sure to facets of yourself you did not know existed.