I’ve been battling with depression and negativity about my writing lately. Since my heart attack last November, the medication I was put on has been reacting with/to the other meds I’ve been on for years, to help me cope with the permanent pain of a disabling injury back in 2004. The combination has made it extraordinarily difficult to think and write creatively this year. Non-fiction isn’t a problem: I can continue my blog output (I try for 3 articles every day), and I’m working on a non-fiction book. However, the process of fiction writing, where I have to make up scenes and scenarios and characters . . . that’s another story. I’m assured by my doctors that as soon as I get off the post-heart-attack blood-thinner, I’ll get my creative mojo back. However, it sure doesn’t feel that way sometimes!
In my frustration at my inability to produce what I call my “bread-and-butter work” (because I literally rely on it to put food on the table), I began reading more widely. How had other authors and writers coped with similar challenges? I didn’t find too much from writers, but one person’s story truly inspired me. She writes: “I lost my legs, but I’m still dancing.“
I knew my legs and feet intimately because of my years of dancing – every callus, every sinew, every bruised toenail. I spent so much time with them, taping them up to go into pointe shoes, taping them up again after they’d been cut from pointe shoes, massaging my arches, pointing, flexing.
They were part of my body, but also tools, crucial for doing what I loved most, which was dancing.
Even as I write this I can feel the nerves in the ends of my stumps firing. The memory of my feet is a physical sensation, a pain, sometimes similar to pins and needles, but on other days the ghosts of my feet can explode like a flash, sharp and horribly painful.
. . .
“I’m really sorry but we’re going to have to amputate your right leg, it’s not healing.”
I will remember those words forever.
When the doctor told me the news, I’d been in hospital for two months and didn’t know I had the energy for a scream. But I did.
. . .
Two months into my hospital stay it was decided that my left leg would also need to be amputated, about 10 inches below the knee.
I was 19 years old and didn’t know how I would even begin to think of my body without my legs.
I remember thinking: “I’m not going to be able to walk, let alone dance.”
. . .
When I returned to university I did go back to my old dance society, to watch them rehearse and to help with auditions. They asked me to choreograph a piece for them and I agreed.
But when I sat in my room, coming up with choreography ideas that I was physically unable to do, it became too much. I had a panic attack. Heart racing and struggling to breathe, I rushed to the toilet to be sick.
And so I put dance away in a box that I firmly sealed.
Being so close to the dance community was just too hard.
. . .
I finally stepped back onto a dance floor in 2014 – seven years after getting ill – for an audition to join the Candoco Dance Company.
It took a lot of courage – a few years earlier I had turned up for a dance class only to be told I wouldn’t be able to keep up.
Candoco is a contemporary dance company made up of disabled and non-disabled dancers.
. . .
It might sound as though I have it all worked out, but that’s definitely not the case.
There are challenges – say, when your leg falls off during a performance.
There’s much more at the link. Highly recommended reading.
Reading that article gave a whole new perspective on the old Middle Eastern proverb, “I wept because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” It’s certainly helped me get over my feelings of depression and frustration, and motivate me to push onward and upward. Even though I’m still on the “difficult” medication, I’ve started writing fiction again, and I’m pushing myself every day to do a little more. I’ve just finished a short story for a new anthology edited by Jim Curtis, and I’m returning to several fiction manuscripts that were left incomplete when my heart attack interrupted proceedings. I hope to have at least one or two out later this year, along with my current non-fiction book project.
So, if you have times of feeling discouraged, depressed and frustrated . . . re-read that story above, and be grateful you have eyes to read it, and a mind to think about it. I am!