Writing, a quiet observation

There is something about words, something fluid, warm, recognisable and true.

While putting all my books back onto their shelves after a short break from the living room, I was once again reminded of my love for anything written, and how it came to be.

As a child, I was an enthusiastic reader, and going to the library was always the highlight of the day, and the cherry on top of the cake. Because we lived above a local branch, it eased the path towards it and it unquestionably turned me into a bibliophile. I fondly remember the countless hours I spent walking between book shelves, searching and nurturing books.

When my Dutch language teacher put me on the spot when I was 14 years old, he made me admit blame for a silly grammatical mistake in front of the whole class, asking me if I had any dictionaries at home, and if so, why they weren’t on my desk when I wrote that essay.

While I already spent half my childhood with a book in my hands, he taught me about the artistry of words by not only reading and writing even more but by deliberately watching my words while I was writing. Thirty years later, I still value what he unintentionally did.

Just as unwittingly, my illness came to be, writing took centre stage once more. Gone were the days of writing poetry for library events, present became the need to express what physically went on within me.

Spreading awareness about MS by writing and helping the outside world see my story from my point of view, it has helped do just that. I was firmly put on the road to writing once more, and I never looked back since.

I daydream of writing a book, the physical act of writing, pen in hand, copy book ready, daydreaming of what would happen next. Words flowing from my fingers into my keyboard, seeing things take shape; it is a soft murmur getting louder, a flicker of my unconscious mind taking place.

I am now a firm believer of writing therapy; seeing things written down makes whatever goes in your mind clearer. What you wrote cannot be unsaid, but it is up to you if you want to share it. It’s the first step in taking ownership of your thoughts, your mind. The only thing required is time, a pen or paper or your laptop, and the willingness to address what comes to mind.

Scientific research shows you can boost your immune system by writing. It is also a cathartic way of letting go of anxiety or traumatic experiences. In my case, I was dealing with the aftermath of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and subsequent relationship issues. Once I starting writing again, I saw things more clearly. My late physician later acknowledged that I became better equipped to deal with mental and emotional stumbling blocks caused by MS symptoms.

Many people experience paper as a willing ear that listens without judging. The writer is in control of what happens next; it doesn’t require you to be there at a specific time or place. From studying Counselling Psychology, I already knew of the many benefits of writing, but it was not until I sat down the first time and dedicated myself to pen and paper, that I realised the potential of writing therapy.

Over time, writing became a drug, not only one easy to sustain but one that harms no one. Bad memories disappeared if not eradicated; new, fresh and good ones were created. What I do about running into bad memories is independent of what therapists would tell me to do. I can leave writing for another day, or address it now. I can keep what I wrote in a diary, or I can throw it into the garbage.

Not everyone is interested in seeking a mental health therapist when they feel overwhelmed. However, writing can be helpful and it can be a stepping stone towards individual or group therapy. Any behaviour or emotion can be put to paper without fearing the outside world.

Writing now is a daily reflection, a midnight thought turned into inspiration. By reading even more than you already did, writing can be remarkably improved. Rereading old blog posts and catching one or two grammar issues turns me into my own worst critic, one that is harsh on me but one that shows me that writing is a conscious process of unconscious ideas.

I don’t have to be a female Shakespeare or Tennyson, a Joyce or Yeats. As long as my mind can be improved upon by writing daily, my words will remain the only witness they always were.

Quiet, respectful and non-judgmental.

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