Today's guest post is by writer Sam Rose, an amazing woman who has survived cancer and blogs about her experience. Here is her post:
Writing About Mental Health and Cancer Survivorship
While I was making notes on how I might approach writing this blog post, I jotted down “talk about writing in the context of dealing with cancer survivorship”. But the truth is, these days I find myself writing about little else. Cancer has had a huge effect on my body, my mental health, and subsequently my creative work.
I had colon cancer in 2010 when I was 22. The offending organ was whipped out but since then I have had yearly screenings and check-ups, as well as a handful of scares and other unrelated health issues to worry about – all fear-inducing, but luckily leading to nothing sinister so far. When these things happen (or even when they don’t), it can really take its toll on my emotional state. Over the last seven years I’ve dealt with varying degrees of nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and poor self-confidence.
I don’t have a diagnosed mental health problem. I used to wonder if I did. I looked up PTSD. I looked up dissociation. I looked up depersonalisation. I decided I didn’t have any of those things exactly. The therapist I saw for a handful of sessions confirmed this. She said my reaction and feelings about my illness are all perfectly normal.
That hasn’t made dealing with it any easier.
Enter: writing. Well, writing has always been there, for me – I’ve made up stories and written them down for as long as I can remember. When I was a teenager, I turned from fiction, to song lyrics, to poetry. Now I write poetry, I blog, and I write the occasional story. Even my fiction is shaped by my mental health these days. Writing is a way to get out what I can’t bear to say out loud, to speak uninterrupted about the things that matter to me. I don’t know how I would manage at all if I couldn’t write down all my thoughts and worries. Even before cancer, as a child and a teenager I used writing as an outlet for anything I needed to. These days I am very lucky that people enjoy, relate to, and sometimes even want to publish my work.
Writing about my physical and mental health gives me a way of turning something bad into something good that I can be proud of. I can tell my story in whatever way I see fit – while cancer has felt like something that has shaped and defined me, writing is an opportunity for me to decide how to define myself, and to figure myself out. On top of all that, writing, and especially writing about this subject, has provided me with an online community of like-minded people to engage with, who have had similar experiences. I use my blog and my Twitter account as my platform – I can write as an advocate if I want to, or I can simply get it all out and perhaps reach someone who understands or who is looking for empathy themselves. Writing helps me to discover more about myself and other people – whether I’m venting on my blog or constructing something a little more thought-out and eloquent. Writing about my experiences and my mental health is essential for my mental health.
Sam Rose is a poet, writer, editor and colon cancer survivor. She lives in England with her
partner and in her spare time she enjoys listening to music and learning Swedish. You can find her on
Twitter @writersamr, and at her website http://www.writersam.co.uk.