As a writer, I find being deprived of the opportunity to write akin to the drinker being without access to alcohol. No, I don’t go into delirium tremens, but I might hallucinate a bit, seeing images of characters and hearing what they might say in my mind. I sometimes experience that awful empty space in my chest, a hollow longing to be filled with words. But sometimes the stuff of life intervenes, and the computer files I love to work on are closed for the duration.
As of now, those files have been closed for almost a year.
My husband, Mel, had a stroke in January 2017. For both of us, life will never be the same. Sadly, the stroke is just the icing on the cake, following cancer in 1999 &2000, and cardiac arrest on Christmas Day 2010. It has been a long haul for both of us.
In my experience with Mel, the stroke has been the most torturous of his illnesses for me. So much of his cognitive ability is gone—temporarily, we keep hoping, but we’re also trying not to kid ourselves. As a result, I’ve had to assume all his responsibilities and care, while trying to continue my life as it was. Paperwork. Paying bills. Property management. Legal documents. Doctor appointments. Physical therapy. I’m exhausted just listing them. Juggling these myriad tasks, I had to give up something. And that something was my writing, just when I needed it most.
When I write, I can slip behind the walls of a splendid historical or contemporary home. I can get lost in the dialogue of an argument between lovers as I work on my next novel. But my last year has been spent caring for Mel’s every need, living his life with little time for attention to mine, and staying virtually as confined to our home as he is.
I searched for months to find a support group. Finally, I found a group for stroke victims and their caregivers. I went to only two meetings because I felt that by not separating the groups, we couldn’t express our respective truths. How can you say to a room half-filled with wheelchair-bound bound individuals, “I’m exhausted, and I don’t know how much more of this caregiving I can stand,”? Whispers among the other caregivers confirmed that we all needed to vent, but this wasn’t the place to do it.
Still, I did learn some crucial facts. We were told that caregivers often burn out long before their patients. The experts said that one of the best things a caregiver can do is to take care of himself or herself. And that is why I am figuratively back in the saddle and literally back at my keyboard.
A year is a long time for a writer to stay away from the craft. Contacts, resources, readers and assigning editors may have moved on. But I’ve committed to kickstart my career, save my sanity and, perhaps, my soul, and get back to writing.
I hope you’ll welcome me back.