Silenced: Looking for My Writing Voice





Four months ago in the ICU, I looked at the retreating figure of the respiratory therapist and wondered if I’d ever be able to write again. They’d talked to me about the process of weaning off the trach. In a completely reasonable and diligent fashion, they went through what normally happens, and the rarer cases, as well. The ones who end up living with the trach for the rest of their lives.

“But I write by talking,” I thought, looking at The Boy in the hope that he’d say it for me because the trach meant that I couldn’t speak. And he did, explaining that I needed my voice for my job, that I was a writer who used voice recognition software. And the respiratory therapist tried to reassure me, saying it happened only in the small percent of cases. I tried to do my best to forget about this, focusing instead on putting everything I had into weaning off the trach in a completely normal manner.

Thinking positively was key to not dissolving in a hysterical mess. Because underneath it all, a small part of me was curled up in a gibbering fetal position, terrified of being silenced, of losing my ability to write. It is not just my job, it is who am, it is what makes me happy, it is what keeps the really crazy dreams at bay.

Here I am, four months later and my voice is almost completely back to normal. But my writing isn’t. Although I have my voice, although I have the ability to dictate to Dragon, I feel silenced. 

These days, the act of writing is like pulling teeth for me. That joyful connection to creativity, the tumbling of your brain, the play with words… Well, it’s not really there most of the time. There are moments when it pops up, only to sink below the surface again, into the murky fog of my brain. And the thought that it will never come back has been haunting me. 

What if I have lost my voice?

It is almost four months later, and I am still exhausted. Today is my first day back at HealthCentral after taking a month off to recover more fully and I am still tired. Something I have resisted acknowledging since sometime in May. It took me three weeks of resting in July before I realized the facts. I was at an event and someone asked me if I was back to normal, clearly really, really wanting me to be fully myself again. And without thinking about it, I told him that I was about halfway there.

It echoed within me for days because of the overwhelming truth of it. I am halfway there. It has taken me four months to regain half of my strength. And that is why I am still so very tired.

And that’s when I forgave myself and my body for not being able to keep up. It is when I starting putting away the fear that I had lost my ability to write and began to have faith that it would come back as my energy comes back.

But there are still some projects that need my attention. Work I want to do. Writing that calls my name. And the frustration of not being able to do this nags at me constantly. Every day, I get up with the hope that maybe today, I can get started. Maybe today, I can write a few paragraphs.

And then the day trickles through my hands like sand and at the end of it, I am exhausted and have written nothing.

Last week, I talked to a friend, a writer whom I admire, about this inability to connect to the part of me that’s a writer. In this conversation, she told me I’m inspiring, not because of how I deal with my chronic illness or disability, but because of the way I write. And I felt the lump in my throat and the tears that welled in my eyes, as I was reminded that I am a writer` and I will be again.

Pain and fatigue take up a lot of room in your head. Right now, my mind is busy with getting through the day, with processing what happened, with recovery. There simply isn’t room or the energy to set my mind free to play with words. Right now, my mind and body need all my energy and focus as they do their best to carry me through the day, to take care of me, my cat, and my home. And right now, that takes everything I have.

Someday and hopefully soon, I’ll write about it. Until then, I’ll leave it to percolate at the back of my mind.
  
  

Comments

Rick said…
Lene, a friend of mine, once gave me the best blogging advice I have ever received. She (yes almost all of my good friends are female) said Rick; you have to write to make yourself happy. If you have nothing to say, you must be happy.

Yeah, somedays I am just too happy to write.
Judith said…
You have written very eloquently about how you cannot write. So obviously it's still there, it just needs more rest. Maybe watch this discussion between Jamie Lee Curtis and Lady Gaga for Variety and PBS’ “Actors on Actors” series:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwwBKt_DUqE

There's a bit where Jamie Lee talks about acting being the only creative profession where one is expected to make art on command. She may not have counted tasks like writing on contract.
ten said…
Thank you. I needed to hear this today.
carlascorner said…
Lene: I am sorry that you're struggling. Honestly, given everything that you went through, I'm pretty amazed you're as recovered as you are. It takes a while, especially when your body is also battling a chronic disease. (You know that, right?) I know this is frustrating for you, but just remember you are an inspiration for all of us just by example. (I know that doesn't help you, but it does make the rest of us feel better.) It will come (trust me), just probably not as quickly as some Type A personalities I know. Thanks for checking in and letting us hear from you.
Linda Perkins said…
Love that, Rick! You (and Lene) are so right! All kinds of thoughts and feelings fuel my writing, including happiness, but there are indeed some days I just want to enjoy. Or I take out my camera (Lene, I know you do too!) and can capture some of my emotions through its lens.
Linda Perkins said…
Lene, you inspire so many of us - those of us who have RA and those of us who write. I know I can get in a funk when I haven't written, or at least journaled, in awhile. But my husband, who is a quiet introvert, has taught me much about the beauty of silence, of small touches, of communicating with they eyes, and of just taking things in - whether visually or auditorially - and enjoying them without necessarily expressing back verbally that joy. Yes, it is hard for a communicator not to communicate! But I believe in you, and know that you will get through this setback. You're in my thoughts and prayers, and I'm cheering you on!
Linda Perkins said…
Lene, you inspire so many of us - those of us who have RA and those of us who write. I know I can get in a funk when I haven't written, or at least journaled, in awhile. But my husband, who is a quiet introvert, has taught me much about the beauty of silence, of small touches, of communicating with they eyes, and of just taking things in - whether visually or auditorially - and enjoying them without necessarily expressing back verbally that joy. Yes, it is hard for a communicator not to communicate! But I believe in you, and know that you will get through this setback. You're in my thoughts and prayers, and I'm cheering you on!
Linda Perkins said…
Love that, Rick! You (and Lene) are so right! All kinds of thoughts and feelings fuel my writing, including happiness, but there are indeed some days I just want to enjoy. Or I take out my camera (Lene, I know you do too!) and can capture some of my emotions through its lens.