I think it's just my brain remembering all the angst I went through. Feelings that I'm sure everybody facing serious surgery goes through. The brain is a muscle so maybe it's muscle memory in extreme.
I never imaginged the way I felt leading up to the neurosurgery would imprint on me to the extent that it has--that I would feel those emotions, albeit it to a lesser degree, in subsequent years. Why is it the before and not the five months I spent recovering afterwards that I remember so acutely? I'd much rather relive the sense of accomplishment from being able to complete the simplest of everyday tasks like brushing my hair or making a cup of tea again.
But as with any anniversary, the mere remembering of it, can act like a catalyst for taking stock. For comparing life before to life after.
For me, one of the greatest changes is that I can write again. Not just that I remembered how to create stories, but that the urge, the passion--the need to write came back.
After my diagnosis I had to give up my business (it didn't seem fair to ask people to sign a contract for bespoke wedding stationery if I was going to potentially lose my sight)! That was hard, but I could be terribly practical about it.
What was harder was that the writing stopped.
Writing had always been what I did to make sense of the world. It was my panacea. It was my passion. It was what I did to keep me being me.
For it all to stop was the hardest blow. I felt it more keenly than being unwell. I felt like the one tool I could use to help myself cope, that I had always used in the past, had been taken away from me.
Because I wanted to be able to cope well with the diagnosis I pressured myself to keep writing. But the more I pressured myself to overcome the writer's block, the worse it got. To the point where my creative energy was nonexistent and all the work I had put into achieving my dream of being published felt like it had all been for nothing. I wanted the respite and escape that writing could provide and I knew that some people could and did write through difficult circumstances. I hated that I couldn't.
What I didn't realise at the time, was that all the hard work writing toward publication, had given me serious skills. Predominantly: Resilience. As I gained perspective, I came to accept that even if I could never write again, Life was for living. There were all these things I hadn't even gotten around to trying. I had to believe that after I finished grieving over the loss of writing, I would find something else just as fulfilling.
But to give myself a shot at having a better quality of life I had to face my demons and have surgery. I had to do what one of my heroines would do. I had to take a giant leap of faith off a cliff-top in the hope that someone would catch me. In the event, a whole host of people caught me, ranging from neurosurgeons and specialist nurses, to my wonderful husband, family and friends.
Five weeks after surgery I asked my husband for my laptop. I wanted to write! I fell asleep halfway through a paragraph and when I woke up and read through what I'd written it was complete gibberish (possibly the meds I was on played a part!) But the following day I tried again. More importantly, I wanted to try again. I didn't have time to pressure myself by jumping ahead, the break I got from the pain because I was concentrating, flexing my writing muscle, was enough.
Within weeks I was opening the book I had been working on when the writing stopped. I had a folder of deleted scenes from aborted attempts to keep writing and on the manuscript itself I had literally stepped away halfway through a sentence. I deleted the deleted scenes folder and picked up from the sentence I had left unfinished.
For a while every time I got scared the writing would stop again, that my imagination would falter and not restart, I had to remind myself this wasn't about any end goal--this was purely about rediscovering something joyful. Gradually I started to trust being able to write again.
I'm not going to tell you it was all plain sailing! There have been times over this past few years, where the rejections have piled up, where the writing has been tough again. But something is different. I'm different. Now I trust that the writing will never leave me permanently and I make sure to respect the gift it is.
And now--well, in a few weeks time...the book that I started writing again after surgery is going to be published!
How awesome is that!
And how lucky am I!