It’s been a while, right? I know. I have a million and one reasons why I haven’t written anything of substance in a while, at least not anything worth publishing. I’ve got a journal, and I write in that, lots, but no one should read that! So, where have I been? To be honest, I’ve been a million places: depressed, sick, focused on my son’s diagnosis. But, I have mostly been nursing my own wounds.
I’ve been sicker lately. I’ve gotten new diagnoses, worse ones, new questions and lots of new appointments. For the last two weeks, I’ve had at least one appointment a day, for example. And, as they pile on, I’ve retreated into a pit, one that gets covered by a special door for those with chronic illness. That door has a sign on it that says, “don’t bother getting up and doing anything today; you’re useless.” It hangs above a lock that keeps you in your pit, the lock gets rusted shut, every day that you stay in bed, or in your pajamas, or every time Netflix asks “are you still watching,” and you click “ok,” instead of getting up, at least to go outside and check the mail, or to go make a sandwich.
Everything that you love loses meaning. For me, that means my art, writing, drawing, painting, caring for myself, my family, everything. That looks like depression to the rest of the world. And it is. It means not showering for days on end. It means not getting dressed. It means that the further and further you sink down into that hole, the harder and harder it is to pull that sign down, and the harder it is to dig yourself out of that pit, to unlock the lock.
You remember that you’ve already given up your whole life to this damn illness. For me, it’s my job, my son (I kept focusing on the fact that I can never pick him up again --- forget that fact that he’s almost nine!). I gave up my favorite hobby: working out. Gone. Poof. So, all the other things that came to matter, were gone in this pit of despair that I’d thrown myself into. I could see my paint supplies up there, but I couldn’t reach them. I could see my computer, my writing notebook, but they were too far away, just out of reach…on the nightstand…right next to me.
When you are in the pit, you are fragile. So, when someone said to me, “why write only about being sick?” I heard those words, over and over and over again, like an echo. Nasty, thoughtless words echo off the walls of your pit, and instead of forgetting them, or shaking them off, they became the only words I heard in my pit. I stopped writing. They became criticism of my life, myself, my soul, what I was trying to do with my writing. They stuck with me.
I can't lie, creative people are fragile about their craft, their art, anyway. It isn’t that we need constant praise, but criticism should be constructive, not flippant. When we are at the edge of a pit, and especially fragile, criticism like that is dangerous, inflammatory and cruel. They are words that not only push you in, when you are standing on the edge, but keep you down there.
I’m out of my pit now, not all the way, of course. But, I’m clawing my way to the top. I’m painting again. And, look, I’m writing. So, yeah, I write about being sick (fuck you). Why? Because it’s interesting to ME. And, I’d rather listen to the voice(s) of those who told me that I’m the most creative person they know, that I’m talented, and that they’d love to see me write a book one day about my experience. This writing is, first and foremost, for me. This blog is about working out ideas and notes for what might, or might not, one day, be that book. But, it’s more than that; it’s my pit-prevention. It's also my pit rescue rope.
So yeah, I’m going to write about what it’s like to be sick. I’m going to write, and write and write. I’m going to write about what it was like to get sick. I’m going to write about what it was like to get sick and (hopefully) get better. I’m going to write about what it was like to be sick and be a teacher. I’m going to write about how horrible it was and is. I’m going to write about my pit days. I’m going to write about my good days. On days that the pit is too dark and I can’t crawl out, you won’t hear from me, but I’ll know that I’m going to make it out and write again.
If you are looking for stories about turtles, or bodice-rippers about pirates, look elsewhere. This place is about my life, and that means it’s going to primarily be about being sick and well, with a smathering of raising an autistic kid, for good measure. How do you get out of your pit, on the worst days?