Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why I Write (A Chronic Illness Blog)?

For the next edition of PFAM, Sharon asks us, as chronic illness bloggers, to reflect on why we write/blog.  I think this is a great question.

Writing is in my blood.  It’s what I do.  I’ve been writing since as far back as I can remember.  I was born to write.  I’ve always kept journals, but in the past, most of the writing about myself has been a private venture.  I think it’s a big step to share your story publically, regardless of the topic. 

When I was an undergraduate, I wrote for the school newspaper, had an internship for two summers at a small-town, community newspaper, and wrote a 125-page honors thesis.  Now as a graduate student, I’m writing my dissertation, which will become a book-length opus to my sociological research. 

I write all kinds of things; poems, fiction, non-fiction.  I’m pretty much an equal opportunity writer. 

I would like to think that I would be blogging about something if it weren’t for chronic illness, but I didn’t even know what blogging or a blog was before I got sick.

When I think back to my summer internship at the newspaper, a blog would have been the perfect format for me to have chronicled that time.  Instead, I sent out weekly e-mails to a list of family and friends.  A blog would have been much more user friendly.

But alas, I started blogging a week after my “official” diagnosis of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis in 2008.  At the time, I was floundering.  Physically, I was in pain and felt like I had been hit by a truck.  Emotionally, I felt like I had been steamrolled.  I wasn’t in a good place.    

From the beginning, I have prided myself in being open and honest about my illness experience.  I have had a no-holds-barred approach, sharing details, maybe to a fault.

But no matter.  The thing that I like about blogging is that, at least as far as my own is concerned, it is happening in real time.  My thoughts and feelings are documented, sometimes looking back, but mostly as they are occurring.   

I started writing to the cosmos.  It wasn’t quite an abyss because I imagined that there was at least one person out there reading what I was saying.  I started writing about my illnesses as a way to keep the people in my life abreast of what was happening to me, as phone conversations and in-person meet-ups weren’t necessarily often enough to have people stay current and not be overwhelmed by information. 

But soon my writing became a life line to the outside world.  It provided the opportunity for people I already knew to get to know me better, and for those new to my life, it created a connection that wouldn’t have occurred any other way.   

Writing is food for my soul.  When I sit down and write the shit out of something, it makes me feel better.  Writing helps me to express my thoughts in a way that other types of self-expression don’t. 

For me, blogging has given me the emotional support/commiseration that I wasn’t always finding in my “real” life.  If I hadn’t started blogging, I might still feel like the only one in the world that this is happening to, that I was the only 22-year-old (at the time) ever to be diagnosed with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. 

And I’ve met so many wonderful and amazing chronically ill people, that it’s easy to see our illnesses are not a result of inherent personal failings, but some happenstance flip of a switch or roll of the dice.  I am grateful for all of the amazing connections I have made with people, near and far. 

I am grateful for this medium because it has helped me document things – and there have been so many over the past several years – that I’m glad I can be reminded of them now, even if I don’t remember the particular instances by heart anymore. 

Without all of my readers, I truly don’t know where I would be. 

This blog has become life-sustaining.      

I write for you.  And I write for me.

(I’ll be hosting the next, and final edition of PFAM for 2011, so be sure to check back here in the coming days for more information)

6 comments:

  1. Beautiful! I identify so strongly with what you write here.

    And Leslie, I'm so thankful that you did decide to blog and that you continue to do so. You inspire me in so many ways!

    And hey, I learned something new about you that we have in common: Our forays into journalism. :)

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  2. Aviva - Thank you! You inspire me, too! And it is cool to find out we have journalism in common. Would love to chat about your experience some time.

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  3. Thank you so much for contributing this beautiful piece for PFAM!

    I have been asking the bloggers who have word verification (Captcha) to consider disabling it to allow more ease of access for people who are blind or have other disabilities that make Captcha unusable. However, Kelly told me (and maybe Megan, too) that "new Blogger" makes it harder to get rid of. I think they went back to old, disabled it, and then switched back. I have no idea how difficult that is. Blogger L-Squared of Dog's Eye View (l-squared.blogspot.com) said, "They can report it using the Send Feedback option in the Nav bar & for now they can switch back to "old Blogger" to disable it." But, here is a post on disability access and Captcha, that others found helpful, I think. http://aftergadget.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/waspish-wednesday-about-captcha/

    I know this is not something everyone has the spoons to deal with, but I wanted to provide the info so you have the option.

    Thank you so much again for your participation!

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  4. Great piece - I know I shouldn't be surprised that so many of the PFAM bloggers write for the same reasons, but this part in particular "If I hadn’t started blogging, I might still feel like the only one in the world that this is happening to.." was just identical to my own feelings. I would never understand my illnesses, or any illnesses, for that matter, half so much, if I didn't interact with other people with chronic illnesses on my/their blogs.

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  5. I love your blog and am grateful for people like you who are willing to put their life out there in order to help others. My husband and I are in the adoption process and I also struggle with chronic illnesses, so I feel very drawn to your blog. Thank you!!!

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  6. It is nice to see you are using to let out your emotions. Blogging is an excellent way to vent pain out.

    Nothing is chronic. You are in my prayers and I am very strong that you will recover.

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