Sunday, January 20, 2008

Writing to Heal

It's unusual that I post on the weekend and posting twice is still more unusual. Still, I feel compelled to do so because of a email exchange with my friend Howard from Mead on Manhattan and author of Lullabye, Memories, Madness, and Midnight Snacks (which I highly recommend). It was more of a philosophical discussion on why and how we write. I realized that I rarely have the opportunity to write about writing but my observations (stimulated by Howard's) may have application for other bloggers. I've decided to post an edited version of my side of the conversation (with a few additions).

I find that when I write out of anger rather than love, it makes me feel worse. Even the "angry" pieces about my mother's care or my siblings behavior were okay for me because the overriding theme was my love for my mother. Awhile ago, when I wrote about friends who had disappointed me, I felt better having done it because it was so heartfelt (for me) and seemed to release the sadness and disappointment I had been feeling.

In a way, I think that writing slice-of-life posts about the people we love is like writing prayers. We're expressing gratitude that these people are in our lives, that we can enjoy the pleasure of being with them, and that we notice and delight in the "small stuff" that makes life worth living.

For years, writing humorous pieces--when I was so sick--was my salvation. Although I was furious at the hit-and-miss nature of the treatment, the incompetence of doctors, and the shamelessness of charlatans promising "false cures," I found that poking fun at everything was the only way to made it bearable.

I realize that lately I seem to have lost my sense of humor and I finally understand how important it is to find it again. At first glance, perhaps the more whimsical posts don't seem to have as much value for people seeking information about bipolar disorder.

But, in a way, they are equally important as the most serious essays because they reflect our attitude about life. If we allow it to, this illness can rob us of our everything we hold dear. But humor and laughter can be a restorative. And just to prove my point, here are a few quotes you might enjoy.

"If all the medicine in the world were thrown into the sea, it would be bad for the fish and good for humanity."
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, writer, and professor of medicine, Harvard University

(If we substitute the word cancer for bipolar mood disorder, the following quote has great application.) "Laughter in and of itself cannot cure cancer nor prevent cancer, but laughter as part of the full range of positive emotions including hope, love, faith, strong will to live, determination and purpose, can be a significant and indispensable aspect of the total fight for recovery."
~Harold Benjamin

And finally, one of my favorite quotes about mental illness bears repeating:
"The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans are suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you."
~Rita Mae Brown

1 comment:

Merelyme said...

oh great quote! yeah...mental health is on a continuum. everyone has a little something.

i think you should write for you! people can read about bipolar disorder in a book but only you can describe your very unique experiences.

i write for healing and connection and hey...if someone learns something along the way...that is a plus.