When I was 17 I stopped writing.
My anxiety had backed me into a corner and I was unable to look at the art form I loved as something I could do. A few years later I thought maybe I could pick it back up but a series of disheartening events, including a distinguished writing professor telling me I would never be a good writer, led to me deciding it was something I shouldn’t even attempt. (Despite this I did keep a blog on and off from 2005-2015, because rambling wasn’t really writing. It wasn’t storytelling. It was, I just didn’t see that.)
At 27 I had finally let go enough that when the old familiar itch came back I dug into it, scratched until I bled and the words started to flow once more. At first the trickle of things I wrote was just that, a thousand words seemed in insurmountable number, but day after day I sat myself down and I struggled for each syllable until five hundred felt feasible, a thousand came to me at once. After a year and a half I was up to ten to twelve thousand a week.
That went on for a while. I felt the moment and the upswing. I was posting serial works online and gaining a following. It carried me forward. It lasted more than a year until I started getting sick.
There was a culmination of things. Work, at the time an unhealthy environment, my personal life anxiety ridden, and writing, what I had started to keep me aloft and connect me, suddenly becoming an enormous task each week to write and edit and share. There were a series of injuries, dance and repetitive stress related, indeterminate in origin that built on the basis of an underlying diagnosed condition.
For several years things had been building, really for my whole life. At age 5, anxiety. Age 7, depression. Age 9 an eating disorder. Somewhere in between were excruciating “growing pains” despite not growing very tall that I experienced even after I’d stopped growing (and still do). In 2008 came the tinnitus and Reynaud’s Syndrome. In 2010 the IBS flared up. Then at the end of 2016 everything crashed together.
By the end of 2017, the day before Thanksgiving, a Fibromyalgia diagnosis.
At that time I was struggling to write at all despite not even a year before easily writing 5-10k per week. I almost gave up again. A hundred words can still be a struggle, let alone five hundred. Often the “good” days where I feel accomplished are followed by several brain mushy days where I don’t write at all.
Even as I hesitate to label myself as chronically ill (probably having to do with growing up with a chronically/terminally ill mother who couldn’t work) it became clear I had to make a choice and a change. Either I could throw away everything I had started to build, the confidence in my own writing that I’d clawed back from the grasp of the cis/het/white/male judgement or I could cradle it, nurture it and find out what it needed to flourish in the conditions I’d been handed.
To be honest I’m still not sure what those look like. I’ve thrown myself into editing, which for me is easier than writing new, and I’m afraid to go back to putting fresh words down, but I’m working. I’m making progress, and that’s still more than I can say of myself four years ago before I made the choice to start to write again.