Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Therapy on my own: Writing

The first act of writing – outside of writing exercises- was two letters. I wrote them to my son and my husband. In case something happened to me I wanted them to know what I felt for them.
Now what I want to do is to write the aphasia experience.
Why do I want that? It is a morbid subject. I don’t want to muse on it. The chances are the moment I start writing about it I am going to think about it. That will bring feelings of anxiety, I don’t want to do it. Yet I have to do it.
After the stroke, after the initial shock of the stroke, our family had no idea what we would be facing in the future, no idea of how much I would recover. At the hospital I remember the speech therapist preparing us maybe for a life without any speech at all. Then I remember my friend Zeyno, doing oodles of research on the net, discovering a person, who lived through aphasia, found his voice again and told the story about it.
I remember how impressed we all upon listening to a University of Michigan testimonial on the web about a woman recover her speech completely after her stroke.
So as much as don’t want to think about my stroke, I must speak up to tell people what they may be facing. That there is hope, it is not the end of the world.
So, I decide to write an essay to Newsweek magazine. I have been a Newsweek fan for quite a long time: I like Anna Quindlen, their arts section; I even developed a certain taste for George Will’s column, though I disagree with every word he says… I especially enjoy their “My Turn” section, where ordinary people write essays about extraordinary, or even seemingly very mundane topics with a very interesting twist.(*: This was before Newsweek completely changed its design and its content). I read this essay in every Newsweek . So I start writing.
Writing about my experience, I find, is neither a catharsis nor a happy experience. It is almost a job to be done. In about a month I have the essay down on paper. Then I ask for my husband’s feedback. Incorporating the feedback I go to a friend of mine, and for her neutral opinion. With her as my sounding board I write and re-write the essay several times. Once I feel ready, I submit the essay to the Newsweek, “My Turn” website. Then forget about it.
Exactly three months later, I get an e-mail back:
“Dear Banu,
Thank you for your submission. We would like to consider it for publication for Health Triumphs, our health-related, web-only My Turn. Please let me know if you are still interested.”
Yes, I’m interested. I’m interested to get the story out to the masses, not only to stroke patients, but to everyone, who is a potential patient.
We go back and forth, clarifying a few things and editing a few things… Finally on Wed, 4/11/08, the essay is published in Newsweek’s web edition.
I am glad. Not only have I done a nice thing for the family of stroke patients, it is a nice stroke on my ego too.

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