Writing and Chronic Illness: It’s Good For You!
Do you blog? Write? Are you a poet? The Chronically Awesome Foundation has built itself upon the idea that expressing one’s self creatively will lead to you, someone who is chronically ill, feeling more Chronically Awesome. When we receive a diagnosis of a chronic illness we are immediately thrust into making a choice: will we deal with this illness via engagement or disengagement? Will we remove ourselves or will we publicly acknowledge our illness? Writing is a form of engagement. The good news is, there is no “right way” to write about your illness.
We did not come by this concept out of the clear blue sky; there is a bevvy of research that informs us that writing about your experiences with your chronic condition is not only helpful emotionally but leads to better outcomes physically. It is no wonder that a plethora of blogs exists about varying chronic conditions from depression, and anxiety, to Crohn’s, and arthritis.
When someone like you or me has a condition such as depression, or EDS, we feel isolated and helpless. Often we feel unheard or do not want to “burden” our family and friends with the symptoms of our daily lives. Or, we may want to educate others about our condition and express our feelings and concerns about life with chronic illness or working through the insurance and medical system. There are many reasons that we may decide to write creatively, to blog, to write poetry, or even to song write.
Studies indicate that this form of creativity provides benefit for the chronically ill individual. In one study:
Participants who wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings reported significant benefits in both objectively assessed and self-reported physical health 4 months later, with less frequent visits to the health centre and a trend towards fewer days out of role owing to illness.(1)
The impact of writing on our health is so powerful that one study showed an increase similar to the immune response of mono-therapy with anti-HIV drugs. (2)
Study after study indicates that writing for the chronically ill provides positive outcomes. We also gain a social component that lessens the feelings of isolation. Because blogging and storytelling have a social component, we can reach out from our homes to anywhere in the world and not only share our story but read the stories of people like us. That allows us to feel a comradery with others that we do not feel at home where our illness often disconnects us from our families. (1)
Likewise, our families often suffer from similar feelings of trauma at the time of our diagnosis. This “relational trauma” is something that our family members can write about to gain similar benefit. With the alteration of finances, time management, and family activities due to our illness there can be tension in the family. Encourage your family to journal or blog.
Now, what? The first thing to remember is not to worry about feeling like you have writers block. Just write about whatever comes to you and do not be self-critical. The easiest way to write and express your feelings is to journal. You can get a simple journal, or create a journal. Some of us have been keeping a “Good Things” journal. We write daily about one good thing that happened to us during that day. We can look back at it when we are feeling down.
If you would like to blog, set up a site for your poetry, or songs, there are many ways to create sites through services like Blogger or WordPress. If you only want to write occasionally, you can submit work to Chronically Awesome to be posted here on this website.
Remember, it cannot hurt. In fact, writing can only make you feel better. So, what are you waiting for?
If you have a story to tell simply email your blog in a text, Word, or Pages file to firstname.lastname@example.org. You do not have to be an experienced blogger or writer to share your story, we can help, just write! Your post will appear here and on ourChronically Awesome Bloggers page. You may also simply visit The Chronically Awesome Bloggers and post your link. We will share your blog (or other Chronic Illnesses related writing) to the page and our Blog Support daily twitter paper.
Your donation helps The Chronically Awesome Foundation support the needs of the chronically ill. By helping us, you help the chronically ill learn to “swap illness for awesome.” Your tax-deductible donation not only keeps the lights on, but it also allows us to start new projects to further our mission.
1 Ackerman Institute for the Family, 149 East 78th Street, New York, NY 10021, USA. Peggypenn@mindspring.com
2 Petrie, K. J., Fontanilla, I., Thomas, M. G., et al (2004) Effect of written emotional expression on immune function in patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection. A randomised trial.