I’m thrilled to be blogging at DIK! Thanks so much for having me!
I thought a lot about what to write—everything from writing to publishing to finding agents. But they always say to write what you know, so I’m veering a little bit to talk about what it’s like to be a writer with a “silent illness.”
What do I mean by silent? I have lupus. If you see me, you’d say, “You look perfectly healthy!” Well, yeah. Thanks. I do.
Let me back up a second and explain what lupus is. Our bodies have the great ability to make antibodies to kill off things that attack us. Like viruses. These little soldiers go to war and kill off whatever they are sent to attack. In people with autoimmune illnesses, those fantastic little antibodies decide to target a certain part of the body and set about destroying it.
In my case—which is fairly typical of women with lupus—the main symptoms are fatigue and pain. And I’m not talking the I’m-dragging-and-need-some-coffee fatigue. It’s more like moving-is-simply-impossible-for-a-while fatigue. But I swallow it down best I can and drag my behind out of bed to face a classroom full of far-too-energetic high school seniors every day. I’m lucky because I can do that. Many lupus victims can’t. In fact, many victims of “silent illnesses” can’t.
Another author friend of mine has multiple sclerosis. You’d never know it from looking at her, which is my point. I admire that she keeps churning out bestselling novel after bestselling novel regardless of the disease. She’s an inspiration to me and one of the reasons I keep my butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard despite how blah I might feel.
Perhaps the message here is more along the lines of “never assume,” which is good advice in general. If you see a woman in her thirties getting out of a car she just parked in a handicapped spot, but she isn’t limping, doesn’t need a cane, and looks fine to you, never assume she is simply looking for a great parking spot. Maybe she has rheumatoid arthritis. Or chronic fatigue syndrome. Or even a severe case of lupus.
As I said, I’m lucky. The pain I have tends to be in joints and places on my body called “pressure points.” The way it affects my writing is that I sometimes have to coax myself—a lot—into churning out a few thousand more words instead of taking that nap. And if I sit too long in one position, when I get up, I look a little like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Nothing works quite right, and it takes some work and quite a bit of grimacing to get things functioning again. I don’t let it stop me. Probably because I’m more stubborn than God should ever allow a person to be. (At least that’s what my husband tells me all the time…)
I think being stubborn is important to a writer. We have to persevere because the road to publishing ain’t easy. In fact, it’s downright treacherous. So we have to keep plugging away, no matter the obstacles. Illnesses. Family obligations. Rejections. All these things—and more!—we simply have to learn to address and compensate for, or they will become nothing but excuses.
So what are the hurdles you have to jump to be able to write? I’d love to hear your story!