My Journey to Writing
A Tale of Self-Preservation and Mental Health
I recently read Matt Haig’s (author of ‘The Radley’s’) honest and touching guest blog on Booktrust, about how writing helped him overcome depression, to read Press Here. This got me thinking about my journey to writing, and inspired me to share it. I began reading and writing at a particularly difficult time of my life, looking back I believe it gave me the strength to get through this time whilst keeping my sanity.
In 2003 my husband and I moved house, from lovely comfortable home to what can only be described as a ‘Fixer-uper’, the new house had no working heating or hot water, it’s roof was barely watertight, and the garden had more rubbish than the local junk yard.
Then I found out I was expecting a baby, and at twenty four, being young and healthy we foolishly thought it’d be a breeze. At the twenty week scan we found that the baby had a C-Cam, a cist on the lung that was 10% of baby’s size, displacing all the other organs, and was likely to burst which would be fatal.
|Momentum of one of the best and most stressful days of our lives 20 week ultra-sound.|
After the news, the rest of the pregnancy was rather stressful, then the baby came, a lovely little girl, who seemed healthy and an x-ray indicated that the C-Cam had shrunk and was no longer an issue. However, the baby did not thrive. After six months she was still only birth weight. She could not retain food, it was expelled (with force) from both ends, and she was on a whole concoction of drugs to keep her going.
On top of this there was her skin. She was red, pillar box red, with acute infantile eczema that was constantly getting infected. This was heart breaking, not knowing what to do, and being under six departments across three hospitals trying to work out what was wrong –was exhausting physically and mentally. Eventually it was discovered that she was allergic to pretty much everything, including breast milk, and when put on pre-digested milk, she began to steadily get better.
|Me and my lovely poorly little girl|
However, she was never well enough for me to return to work. At six months we tried an hours ‘settling-in’ session at a local nursery, and ended up in hospital for a week on fluids because she caught a bug, and being so small, had not the resources to fight it.
That was it. Stuck in a ramshackle home, with a sick baby and on a tight budget due to unexpected loss of income, I began reading as it kept my mind active and was inexpensive. I discovered YA books, and found that I really enjoyed them and that they were written at a level that dyslexic me could cope with.
Everything was on the up, with the drugs and special milk my daughter began to gain weight, and began to sleep (did I mention she only slept one hour in 24!) But when she was eight months, she had a routine CT scan on her lung, just to confirm that the X-ray results were right, only to find that the cist was the lung – it was occupying the whole space, and was likely to burst and kill her at any moment. Two very stressful weeks later (over Christmas) she has an operation and had the cist, and lower left lobe removed.
|12 hours after surgery - 2 hours before lung collapsed|
The operation was a success (despite a few scary moments) and with both weight and lung fixed, it was only the skin left. The eczema we managed by wet-wrapping, and her health continued to improve. Just as things were settling down, baby number two started manufacture. This time it was me that wasn’t healthy. I suffered the whole pregnancy with PGP, ‘Pelvic Girdle Pain’, and could not walk, sit, or move as I was in agony. This condition usually rights itself after birth, but when my son arrived – bony and healthy, it got worse.
|Happy baby - poorly hips!|
So now I was stuck in a slightly improved ramshackle house, (we had hot water, and the roof no longer leaked!) with an almost healthy toddler, a demanding infant and in excruciating pain. This was when I began writing. I wrote a small passage, a re-envisioning of a fairy Tale, and decided to turn it into a book. I began to read, I spent months immersed in fairy tales, and YA novels. The reading fed my mind, inspired a story and I wrote continually. The process kept my mind active, gave me focus and something to obsess on that wasn’t pain, or worry. It also meant that when my lovely supportive and tired husband got home from work, I didn’t bombard him with idle chitchat (just because he is another person over the age of three) and give him space to wind down.
It turns out that my pain is caused by shallow hip joints, and that my hips are wearing themselves out, at 30 I found out I needed hip replacements, and at 31 I went in for surgery which halted half way through as I ‘fainted whilst already unconscious under the anaesthetic!’ As half the surgery had been done, I was in more pain, and not fixed! At this point I read constantly, and wrote lot of scenes featuring pain!
Happy and healthy!
It is now a few years later, my daughter is in full health, my son is full of mischief, the house has been pulled down and rebuilt (another blog maybe), my husband is still supportive and working hard, but my hips are still not fixed! However I manage my pain with a combination of physiotherapy, exercise, and keeping healthy mentally - through reading and writing.
In short, reading and writing served as my personal solitude and therapy, keeping me strong when my family needed me most.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my story.
If you or someone you love are suffering with any of the problems above here are some places you can get support...
Eczema - British Skin Foundation - Click Here
PGP - Pelvic Girdle Pain - The Pelvic Partnership - Click Here