My writing partner is house-sitting for two weeks. It’s a beautiful home on the bluffs overlooking the river valley. It is the kind of house that as soon as you turn onto the hidden street, and climb the hard to spot driveway you feel as if you’ve been transported a thousand miles away to a luxurious vacation spot when in actuality I’m just 20 minutes from my own home.
We are working deligently on our writing project as our self-imposed deadline nears. We are both ready for the next phase of our project, as we’ve been writing together since August. We just need to organize our notes into a coherent, well written, enticing manuscript.
After a few hours of working, I step out on the deck, look up to see a bald eagle soaring over my head, sit down and reflect over the past 15 months. Releasing Untangled, emerging from the shadows of silence, a year of blogging, speaking to groups, radio interviews, and this wonderful collaboration; I ask myself, Is this real? Is this Okay? Why am I compelled to write? The answers came easily to the first two questions. Yes, this is real, and it is okay to feel a semblance of confidence in my abilities as a writer. But why am I compelled to write?
Writing gave me the courage I needed to address the pain I was feeling. I would write even when I thought I had nothing to write about. At first, I strictly used it for bilateral stimulation. I would write and send what I wrote off to my therapist. I started to find that I was able to write down what I couldn’t say aloud. At first, I think it provided distance from having to use my voice, but then I found it actually gave me a voice. When I still couldn’t speak a truth, I found if I read it out loud to my therapist, that I was speaking the truth.
The courage to share my writing with others happened because a friend wanted to understand what was happening to me. She knew I had just been diagnosed with PTSD and wanted to know what it felt like, so she could understand and be supportive. I had always been the master of wearing many masks, and deflecting any conversation away from me, all with a supportive smile for everyone else. But when I couldn’t hide my illness any longer my friends reached out. They wanted to be there, but I couldn’t verbalize it. I was confused, ashamed, scared and thought everyone who loved me would run away if they knew the real me. Since I couldn’t really explain it, I wrote a poem (My PTSD) and began sharing it with people who asked what it felt like to have PTSD.
I write because I will no longer be shamed into silence. But, I also control the volume of my voice. I want to be effective in destigmatizing mental illness, invisible illness, for me, PTSD. I know that I’m a quiet word of mouth writer. It fits my personality. I love the writers who are more vocal, and speak with confidence and often, they know the volume of their voice and can reach a much wider audience.
I’m compelled to write. It fills my cup, it satisfies my creativity and it keeps me connected to the world. I care deeply about what I write and share, hoping that the connection continues to grow. Sometimes that starts with a simple written word, which leads you to collaborate in a house, on a bluff with a million dollar view.
Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph