…being lost

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3.

It’s early afternoon and you ask yourself, why do you feel compelled to write about this? Why would anyone want to read about the negative forcefields of your body? You walk along the river, sit in a cafe and reread Hilary Mantel’s memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, and there you find a chiming struggle.

Mantel endured years of undiagnosed physical and psychological symptoms. Migraines, backache, nausea, exhaustion, vomiting, internal pain, bleeding, depression. She was dismissed by doctors as ‘neurotic, hypochondriacal and a bloody nuisance’ and told not to write (women and their flights of fancy – willfully fueling their neuroses). She ignored this particular prescription. But she took the chemical kind, some of which gave her disturbing symptoms of psychosis. She continued to endure, until finally she diagnosed herself with endometriosis, a nasty and destructive disease that is ‘hard to diagnose, for a doctor who doesn’t listen and doesn’t look’.

Her internal organs have been hijacked, growing endometrial cells which belong in the womb. Each month, when her womb shed its lining and bled these cells out, the other organs did the same, each month creating new layers of scar tissue that pressed on nerves, knitting organs together, pulling them out of shape. A disfigured interior. She was operated on, her womb removed. She was prescribed more drugs, which made her body balloon, her face moon-like, her hair falling out.

And throughout it all she continued to write.

She writes ‘to take charge of the story’.

She writes ‘to locate myself, if not within a body, then in the narrow space between one letter and the next, between the lines where the ghosts of meaning are.’

She writes that she has been ‘mauled by medical procedures’, her body and mind exhausted so that ‘each morning it is necessary to write myself into being’.

You walk home along the river and the resonance of her words spiral you down into a dark slump of recognition.

You cannot locate yourself.
You cannot locate yourself.
You cannot locate yourself.

But.

The following day you write.

You know you are not your physical pain. You are not a collection of symptoms.

You are not your anxiety, that space in your mind that desperately reaches out but finds nothing there.

You are not your life problems, the small ones, the intractable ones, those you think you’ve overcome but suspect you have not.

So, if you are not within these things, where are you?

Keep writing, you tell yourself.

Write, and you may find the ghosts of meaning.

Write, write, write and perhaps you can write yourself into being.


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