I frequently joke that working in social services gives me book material as a writer. But, it is actually quite serious. A serious comment. A serious business. My clients actually inspire me everyday. What they have had to overcome in their lifetimes, and on a daily basis, would make most people just roll over and quit. But they keep on trying, and better than just surviving, they keep on excelling.
A couple years ago I had a particularly difficult client - on a particularly difficult day - say something that hit me a bit hard. You develop a thick skin in this business, but I admit I'm still a sensitive soul, some days more than others. On this day he was really struggling and he lashed out at me, "It must be nice to not have anything wrong with you." As nicely as I could say without lashing back I said, "I suppose it would be, but I wouldn't know. I have plenty of things wrong with me. Remember, not everything is visible." I let it go at that, and changed the subject. Because, frankly, when you are working with someone who is having a hard time, you put the focus back where it belongs and off of you.
I've thought of that a few times since that time. Some of my clients are just elderly and frail, some are younger with physical problems, some have had traumatic brain injuries, and some are very mentally ill. I sincerely like all of my clients. I learn from them as much as I can teach them. I help them, and often times they unknowingly help me. I have numerous quotes for future books, many funny lines, and some characters that are so rich I couldn't make them up even if I tried.
But, one of the things I say all the time is that "we all have something wrong with us." We are all human. So, for my client that said it must be nice to not have anything wrong with you, at the time I actually felt fortunate that my issues were hidden. That I've had asthma since I was a kid, and until better medications came out a few years ago, I would frequently be in the emergency room getting adrenaline because I couldn't breathe. Or that I lost the ability to ever have a child like a normal woman a few years back. Those two things I've become open about. But, one I have always been quite silent about.
I wondered a few years ago if I would ever realize my dream of being a recognized writer. Now, about a dozen or so articles later, that has become a realization. But, this week, I finally got into my first book. An anthology. And this time the thing I've always been silent about has made it so I just can't be silent anymore.
Because, if you can help someone, you should. And if it is a story that reaches out to others, it should. And even if it is invisible, maybe there is someone else feeling the same way and it is time to use your voice to tell people that "Hey, I live with this. Everyday. But, I'm living pretty darn good. And I'm positive and happy. And I struggle like everyone else - no matter what their particular struggle is."
So, I'm honored to be in my first book ever. And I was thrilled when it was sitting on my doorstep two nights ago, wrapped in a cardboard box. An advanced copy of: "Voices of Multiple Sclerosis." The subtitle is the "The Healing Companion: Stories of Courage, Comfort, and Strength." And I'm honored to be a part of this book and as scary as it is to tell a then-awful story of the discovery of the disease, during a then-awful year, things are different now. I have trouble with my eyes sometimes, I'm a big unbalanced, I have some pain in my legs, and I have a hard time with fatigue and heat. But, like my clients, I too am not just a survivor. I am also excelling - and learning - everyday.
My friends remember all the horrible things I went through during that time and the MS diagnosis was just the tip of the iceberg. My little story near the back of the book called "Tough Year" sums it up pretty well. But I lived through it, and now it is just another example of how good always comes out of bad. My first anthology, my first book, my first real voice on the matter. And for that I am thankful, and blessed. And, most importantly, no longer silent.