Why I Write About Living with Chronic Illness  

First of all, welcome to my new readers and Facebook followers! I am excited to have you here in my little writing corner. 

I don’t really follow a strict blogging schedule, but I’m trying to get into a grove where I write two days during the week–likely Tuesday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday–and two weekend posts. Of course, chronic illness complicates that sometimes: so there will be days like yesterday, where I couldn’t write at all because my Chiari was flaring, and days like today where I am feeling a bit better and try to I look forward to sharing my writing with you!

A lot of my writing on this blog has been either about the craft of writing, or about chronic illness, or a combination of the two. I’ve been writing pretty much since I could read, but my writing has gotten more and more personal as I’ve gotten older. I am gaining more life experience to fill the pages, and more emotions for which writing is cathartic. 

The novel I am currently working on editing, Panic Cat, is not the first novel I have ever finished a draft of, but it is the first novel–and actually, first piece of writing that was designed for eyes other than my own–that I wrote specifically to have an outlet to deal with a chronic illness. In the case of Panic Cat, I was writing specifically to process my anxiety and panic attacks after my grandfather died. 

I have had anxiety issues since I was a child, and started having panic attacks shortly after I graduated high school. My anxiety for the most part has been the lowest and most controlled it’s ever been since last April, and that’s owed to a lot of things: an amazing support system, great medical providers, accurate diagnoses (as much of my anxiety was over my uncontrolled pain and other symptoms). But it’s also in a huge part because of my writing. 

Writing Panic Cat proved to be incredibly cathartic and healing: especially as I started sharing it. I have been incredibly guarded with my writing in the past. I have written at least three other full novels, and two of them no one has ever read, and one of them has only been read, part way, by one other person, a fellow writer. 

But Panic Cat, I knew from the beginning, was different from anything else I ever wrote. While there is a fantasy dimension to it, it is also the realest, rawest work of fiction I have ever written. Much of if is my life, spilled out on the page, and I knew, in order to deal with what I had spilled out and was processing, sharing it was essential. Those who have read parts, or all, of Panic Cat have been incredibly supportive, and have given me the strength I need to continue writing: and, through my writing, continue coping and healing.  

In the same way as my novel ended up being an incredible tool towards wellness and healing, so, too, has been blogging for me. I didn’t intend for my blog, when I started it, to be a chronic illness blog. But I did know I wanted it to be real and honest, in the same way that my novel, despite being fiction, is one of the most honest things I’ve ever written. And, honestly, my illnesses are the biggest challenge I’m wading through right now. So writing about them seemed natural.

Blogging is also a wonderful way for me to get words out of what is going in my life right now, and to share them with others who can relate or empathize and form a community around me. It helps my closest friends know me and my struggles better, and has helped me to make new friends and form new support systems. Novels take a long time to write and edit, so I haven’t had a chance to write anything in novel form about chronic illness, since I’m still working on editing Panic Cat. Blogging is much more instant, so I can cope with new issues through writing much quicker as they pop up. 

The sequel to Panic Cat, undoubtedly, is going to deal with chronic health issues in my main protagonist, Cat. She is stagnating right now where I was several years ago: anxiety was her main issue, and though she has had chronic pain issues her whole life, she has not yet gotten vigilant in demanding answers and better treatment plans from her doctors. I look forward to going on that journey with her in the second book. 

Noveling helps me in very different ways than blogging. When I’m writing a novel, I can detach from myself for a bit, and dive into exploring these characters I have created. At the same time, my main protagonist is very, very similar to me, so I am both detaching and processing emotions and situations, through Cat, at the same time. Blogging helps me deal with the immediate, while writing a novel helps me slow down, untangle threads, process the past, and do some really important healing. 

Whether it is mental illness, like anxiety, or physical illness, like my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, my MCAS, or my Chiari Malformation, writing publicly, whether it’s creative writing like my novel or writing on my blog, has been one of the most effective ways for me to care for my soul and process what I’m going through.

I also write to advocate for those with chronic illnesses, be they mental or physical. There is still stigma around both, and there are a lot of people who just don’t know the day to day realities that the many, many chronically ill of the world face. I write for my fellow chronically ill community members, who live bravely and inspiringly in the face of pain, anxiety, and many other myriad symptoms. I write to remind us all we are not alone, that there is hope and love and brightness in the world, and that we are so much stronger and more than our illnesses. 

 Writing about my chronic conditions has made me feel so much less alone and opened my eyes to an incredible community of chronic illness bloggers. It has also helped me talk more freely about explaining my illnesses to my loved ones who are not ill. And it really has helped me process things and deal with them, rather than dwell on them. I may always be ill, but in 2017 I’m committed to being well regardless, and my writing is an absolutely essential component of that. 

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