On getting my words back and asking for help

Too many words. That is how I feel these days. It isn’t a bad feeling to have because I can remember a time when the words left me.

When I got pregnant with Oonagh I had no words. I couldn’t blog anymore. I couldn’t read my books – I think that was one of the scariest things and something that should have clued me into something being really wrong. I knew I wasn’t well but when you are feeling crazy you don’t always have the words for that. I would take books out of the library and they would gather dust (and fines). Books I knew I would like, books that would challenge me. My blogs sat stagnant with the last posted date gathering dust.

Books = comfort. Writing = comfort. That was mostly taken from me.

One place I could find comfort was through reading Fan Fiction which was a really odd place for me to turn (and one I cringe to admitting). And no, I won’t tell you what type, but it wasn’t Harry Potter because everything about Harry Potter is great just the way it is. (As an aside: did you know there is a whole world of Hermione/Snape shippers out there? Snape lives and he and Hermione get thrown together for some ridiculous reason and eventually they fall in love. Usually there are babies involved because in Fan Fiction there are almost always babies involved. So bizarre. This is why I think I should start writing CanLit Fan Fiction because the smut potential is astronomical.)

So I could read that on my phone and hide away in my brain for a while waiting for the happy ending and ignoring the giant elephant in the room which was Postpartum Depression. Everything was locked in tight. All my words and my ability to read anything that did have a formulaic happy ending.

If I had asked for help it would have read something like this: I’m sitting in my living room while the children are playing. On the outside I look very calm but inside I have smashed every fucking thing in this house to pieces. There is nothing left that hasn’t been smashed, torn or destroyed except for these children. Someone please let me out and clean up this place before I burn it to the ground. (The children were never really the problem if that makes any sense. I love them so much the intensity scares me at times.)

Because that is what it felt like – like being locked in a rage cage in ones own head but knowing that feeling could never come out. As long as I kept reading to my children and cooking I would be okay. Picture books and cooking and getting them to school. That was all I could do most days. Well-written snarky captions on Instagram felt like a victory.

Slowly the hold on me loosened. Things got better and the words and ideas started coming back. I kept writing outlines of stories I wanted to write. I’ve written three picture books that I need to complete and get out from under my ass. I found someone who was willing to pay me to write about food and family (dream job). According to Goodreads I’ve read 100 books this year (this tally does not include picture books). I’ve written a very mediocre short story as a writing assignment for myself.

I sat down and seriously started outlining and researching a novel but first I actually had to decide which one I wanted to write.

I never thought I would be a fiction writer. All past attempts had told me it wasn’t going to work – that I should stick to blogging, reviews and more interview-based news-like endeavours. And I was okay with that. I’m usually just happy to be writing.

But now I’ve been hit with another big word: Cancer.

We can’t pinpoint the exact moment I got sick. Was it in the summer when my back went out? When another rib felt broken? Did the rib break from coughing again? Because there were times when it felt like the ribs were snapping on their own. One time I was walking my youngest daughter home from the school drop off and I felt something snap and was in pain for two weeks. It’s a short walk. I can see the school from my house. I can see the school from my bed if I’m sitting up. I spend a lot of time sitting in my bed these days looking at the school yard or reading. It’s so hard to pin down because I haven’t been well since I got pregnant with Oonagh but at some point things started to get better and now they are getting worse.

So I was getting sick and sicker and finally went to the doctor. Finally asked the doctor for help. Finally asked my mom for help (she flew out the next day). I put a note up on Facebook telling people that I’m sick and we are trying to figure it out and maybe my family could use a little help. The ladies in the neighbourhood are gathering en masse to help out my family. People are rallying, the war cry has been answered. It is really remarkable and overwhelming. I’ve never been one to ask for help and am unsure how to respond. The need to write thank you cards is almost paralyzing.

But really, why didn’t I ask for help before? What prevents us as women – who are so willing to help each other – from asking for help for ourselves? Because really, those two years where I was trying to keep my shit together were awful. As sick as I am right now. As terrified as I am of this cancer and the potential it has to take me away from my family and all that that implies – I feel more hope right now than I did during those two years.

All because I have help. I was able to ask for help.

All because I have my words back.

(I have more words. I don’t even feel like talking about cancer right now because I know that will come. We don’t even know the exact diagnosis yet. Mostly I just want to talk about books and writing and take pictures and be happy and love my family – but I guess we deal with the words we are given.)

(Also I appreciate, beyond words, all the help we are receiving, but there are still others who need help too. Keep a close eye on your new mom friends, that’s all I’m asking.)

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