Thursday, August 24, 2006

TO WRITE: When you were diagnosed
Twenty-one years ago I was diagnosed with clinical depression. While my memories of many things have evaporated since then, that moment remains quite clear. I felt a tornado of thoughts and emotions and questions sweeping around me. I was stunned -- how could this happen to me? And I was afraid that this meant I was now on a slippery slope to crazy, whatever that is. I -- the biologist, remember -- was dumbfounded about how these pills I'd been given could actually change my moods and thoughts. But finally, I felt some relief. Maybe all my disturbing symptoms, both physical and mental, were treatable; maybe I'd get well now.

To try to get my mind around this new diagnosis, I stopped a little way from the doctor's office and sat before a big sculpture with a fountain, where I wrote a letter to an old friend who lived 2,000 miles away. I told her about what had happened and explained how I felt. It was the best thing I could have done. It helped me straighten out my thoughts and express my grief on paper -- I wasn't ready to talk about it with anyone yet.

Play with this...
How did you feel when you were first diagnosed with your illness? I've known people to describe shock, anger, sadness, fear, confusion and relief, among other things. Write continuously for 15 minutes, telling the story of how you were diagnosed and what you felt and thought then.


Carolyn Foster said...

I'm writing in appreciation of Beth's courage and clarity over the years I've known her in my writing workshops and now through this new venue. What a valuable service you're providing with your thoughtful exercises and scientific and psychological expertise. I hope you reach ever-wider audiences with this blog. I particularly appreciated your touching in to your own day of diagnosis in this post; getting back to the specific vivid details of a turning-point moment always opens the way to healing. By writing about your own, you put me in touch with mine. Thanks!
Carolyn Foster, coach and writing teacher,

Anonymous said...

Just to second these comments: I was referred to Beth's blog by another member of her writing group. I find it to be refreshingly authentic and open about issues that are surrounded by stigma and misunderstanding. It is also unique in providing a specific way (in addition to whatever therapies an individual is pursuing) to cope with depression,i.e., by writing about it. I can attest to the power of this practice and hope those not previously drawn to writing as a form of expression, art, or therapy, will consider it as a result of this blog.

Zoe Carter said...

I love the clear, dispassionate approach you take to such a huge, frightening issue and admire so much how you've turned an incredibly difficult personal situation into an opportunity to help others -- and yourself -- be creative. Keep blogging!