Help Yourself

*H in the A-Z Writing Challenge. “Write about something you do on a regular basis that you keep learning from” in the 21 Day Writing Journey

I love words and thus I love to write. I have always been this way, keen to express myself both through the spoken word and through the written. As a girl I had to explain to people why I had huge scary looking bruises. I would come up with stories as to why. Embellishing and elaborating to distract from the fact. Not the fact of abuse but the fact I had funny blood. Blood which didn’t clot properly. I announced this to a librarian at our local library once. To her astonishment and, as I recall, complete lack of response! What do you say when a six year old walks up to your desk and proclaims “I have Funny Blood, you know!”

This love of words was only enhanced by my devouring books from as soon as I could read. Prior to that both mum and dad read to me. I delighted in the voices mum would adopt for the various characters of a tale. Such that I would read in accents and varied tones as I learned to read to myself. There is a legendary cassette recording of me reading Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile, complete with a different exaggerated intonation for each character. Mum still has that tape.

Stories were my escape from the pain and frustration of my disability and they were my refuge when I was forced to spend days in hospital recovering from one bleed or another. I loved anything magical or adventurous at that age, the more fantastical the world inside the book the better. As far removed as possible from my own.

It was when I was a teenager that I faced my most difficult bleeds with the onslaught that was periods. Bleeding for weeks at a time. So heavy it made life impossible. So heavy I was more often than not anaemic. During these times when I had the energy of a dish cloth, I took to my books. By this stage I’d progressed to horror. I loved Stephen King and James Herbert and read every one of their terrifying tales. The bloodier the better. The more limbs chopped off and bodies buried alive the better. What the heck is wrong with me?

Nothing. I have no problem with make believe. I am pretty hardy with real life too but I think these stories were huge escapism for me. I loved anything truly outlandish. As horrifying as it got. Thinking about it, I was the same with horror films. If anything, I found them amusing rather than scary. I would laugh out loud in the cinema at parts where everyone else was squealing and hiding under the seats!

It was at this time I started experimenting with writing. I don’t remember much of what I wrote back then. The odd children’s story, the peculiar song lyric. However, when I was in the sixth form I entered a short story competition. It was a fictional piece and my subject was something that fascinated me. What happened within the mind of someone in a coma. I wrote in such a way the story appeared to be about a person experiencing a beautiful moment in their life. Only at the end it was revealed that this was all imaginary and in reality, over the body of the patient, preparations were being made to switch her life support machine off. Pretty dark, huh? I won an award with that story and it was the first thing I’d won since I won a packet of Elastoplast for entering a quiz in the local newspaper!

Admittedly I’ve not won any more with my writing since then and I’ve never attempted to get anything published. I don’t do it for any other reason these days than therapy. Getting out the feelings that are within. Expressing my pain, loss, discomfort in a way that describes as honestly as possible my experience. I do it for me. I also do it for anyone that knows me but that gets the standard “fine” when they ask me how I am. It is too much to explain over coffee, here’s a link to my blog. I have also been told my writing helps other people who can relate to my life experiences but are unable to articulate them. Seeing their trauma written in my words affirms they are not alone.

My topics are a mixture of self analysis, observation and philosophy. But I find in addition to the benefit of expunging the contents of my head, I am fine tuning my awareness of myself with each piece of prose composed. I think I know what I am going to say but am often surprised. I find insight into my own coping mechanisms, develop my own self improvement strategies. I learn from myself what I need to know as I travel along a path beset with difficulties. How I have got here in one piece, how I am sometimes broken, sometimes whole. My writing helps me face the future by delving within, turning myself inside out and stretching myself to infinity. I touch the universe by reaching gently into my soul and probing.

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