I’ve always loved to write but the longer I did it professionally, the less inclined I became to write for personal enjoyment. Occupational hazard perhaps? I’ve been a literary publicist, a federal disaster employee/public information officer, a hotel marketer and now I work at a hospital. You would think, given the fact that I transitioned between those disparate subjects, I could and would write for myself. So what the heck took me so long?
Much like when I started therapy, I had imposter syndrome. I felt like I didn’t have the right to be there because I hadn’t really gone through anything. Similarly, I knew I had opinions and feelings, but who would want to read them? I’m pleased to report I got over both asinine opinions.
This past summer I did an Instagram takeover of Shift.MS, a social network for people with multiple sclerosis — founded by MSers, for MSers. The charity supports many thousands of recently diagnosed people across the world as they make sense of MS. Each weekend a different volunteer takes over their Instagram account, sharing stories and answering questions. I hadn’t outwardly acknowledged on social media that I had MS, refusing to claim MS as one of my many descriptors. But in doing so, I broke my silence. In one weekend, I found a voice, received validation and felt less alone.
I must also acknowledge my deep-seated fear of telling the world I had MS. Ableism and prejudice are real. If I didn’t maintain a healthy façade would I be passed up for promotions? Would I be judged? Would I be made to feel different, guilty, other? The answer is yes — all those things happened, I just care less now.
Now, I would rather share my experience than pretend I’m ok, fine or always 100% healthy. I discovered, the more I opened up, the more the people in my life surprised me with their understanding and support. My family, friends, coworkers and kind Midwestern strangers continue to surprise me in ways I never imagined.
I didn’t have to be OK. In fact, in sharing my story, I allowed both the chronically ill and seemingly healthy in my life to set clear boundaries, advocate for what they need and be a bit messy. I led by example and was thanked for it. My body’s response to stress is absolute crap, but I feel that my mind is stronger than ever been. I resolved to only do what I can, what I want and what I need — and that is incredibly freeing. I also no longer say I’m fine when I’m not. It’s a perfectly acceptable answer when asked to say, “Today is awful and I’m struggling.” Why did I wait so long?
Do I have everything figured out? Heck no. Is my mental health sometimes in a dark and twisty place? Unequivocally, yes. But talking about my experience makes me feel better. I will continue to lean on those in my life who make up my exceptional village — and my therapist, too.
2 responses to “Why I Write”
I admire your candour, and your pics show such a playful side of you. We all have our battles, and it’s great that you’re sharing yours, if only to let others feel like they’re not alone.
Thank you, Stuart. I appreciate your comment and feedback.