Friday November 02 2018 07:46 AM
This week Willeke Van Eeckhoutte shares with us the value of writing about living with MS. She’s an award-winning, irrepressible blogger and we are delighted to have her continued contribution to the MS and Me team.
When tasked with an article about writing and MS, my mind always does summersaults because what could be better than writing about writing?
My love for anything written has been as old as I am young. Being a proud library member, ex-library assistant and forever-friends with books, putting pen to paper was always going to happen. Two decades ago, MS crashed headfirst into my life. There was no introduction, no. This was MS, a foreign entity that lacked basic social skills. Writing was an expert psychotherapeutic net that caught me when I was in free-fall after hearing, “You and MS”. Then I went to “Teach your environment about MS because too many people have the wrong idea about it”. Teach I did, only not quite as professionally as I would have liked because of lack of time. That was until my pen found its way to a notebook about two years post-retirement.
In 2011, I created a blog, Ireland, MS and Me and slowly, writing about Ireland morphed into writing about MS. I didn’t want an overly edited site where the relationship between MS and I would be squeaky clean. No, I wanted it to be warts and all- raw, simple and calling out everything that affects me physically as well as mentally and emotionally. After all, I wanted to connect with others who were in a similarly devious and loveless relationship with their illness. As the mission statement on my blog says, I tried to make sense out of MS nonsense together with my readers.
The following two years, I began to see how writing about MS brought a significant shift in my thinking. I was discovering what the new me was all about. It was as if portable X-ray images continuously peered deep inside my mind. Stress levels went down and clearer thinking about MS emerged from what I thought would be an increasingly dark, unhelpful attitude. Unshed tears turned into words and my agony healed into non-judgmental self-acceptance. Writing like this came at the right time and in the right place for me.
Because I love writing by hand, I feel I can address my emotions that surround life with MS on a deeper level than when I write on a laptop. My hands, brain and environment are locked in a vacuum that is the present tense- the Here and the Now. Paper is a natural listener, one that will not leave when your sixty minutes with a therapist is over. There is an instant connection, even if your Wi-Fi goes offline.
MS subconsciously began to take a step back. Of course, my symptoms were still there, but I started to recognise their value to my writing. As George Bernard Shaw once said, ''I enjoy convalescence. It is the part that makes the illness worthwhile.''
In my case, the worth of writing is felt especially when anxiety shows up during the trigeminal neuralgia attacks I get. The pain gets to hear the sound of my pen flowing on paper and that powerful pen is saying, “Shut up, you! Get the hell out of here!”
The benefits of writing are legion. Writing has been scientifically proven to boost your immune system, help you feel happier as well as sleep and think better on a long-term basis. It has shown me that it is more than just a tool- it’s an excellent way to learn not just about MS but about yourself as the person you never thought you could be.
As such, the MS voice in my own blog has ‘grown up’. I have been recognised by Everyday Health for having “a more jovial approach to MS while consistently ending posts on a happy note”. This is how I feel about my life with multiple sclerosis now. An often slapstick version of what an elegant woman should be like in an often-hilarious back-and-forth between MS and me.
Writing and MS have given me so much more than just giggles. This year has been very eventful what with changing DMTs and writing about it in ‘3443 Needles’. Quite unexpectedly, I won the 2018 Best Blog Post award in the Ireland Blog Awards competition last week, something I never thought possible.
MS and writing? Definitely something to consider!
Check out Willeke’s blog Ireland, MS and Me