Hello, fellow classmates ~~
!! WARNING !! This blog post covers very touchy subjects.
So, please read with caution and an open mindset. Thank you
If You’re Struggling to Write, Lead With Voice
I’m going to start with this quote to explain why my blog post this week will not be as intellectually hearty and full of philosophical questions (I might take this statement back depending if I get into the groove of writing for this blog post): “I got an in-depth opportunity to explore voice when the volume and speed of mine began to slow down about a decade ago, staggering under the weight of fatigue and chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis” (Huber, 2022). The exact situation is happening to me. I have seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, and I can attest to the severe chronic pain and fatigue. Some days, the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are so loud that simply lifting my head off my pillow is like driving a car with a broken gas pedal. Last year I was in rehab, and then continued to push myself through any mental and physical symptoms of fatigue, ultimately ending up in the ER twice for several, day-long panic attacks. I am first-handedly feeling the wrath of my actions of last year. The volume and speed of my life right now is extremely slow; possibly even steers itself into reverse here and there, or whenever I encounter a slight scare. Imagine being stuck hearing the voices of panic-like thinking for over a week ~ TORTURE AT ITS FINEST ~.
Anyway, I often think back to the voices that led me to become hospitalized. Those voices often told me that I must keep going. To stop is a symptom of weakness. To rest is procrastination. To sleep in late is a symptom of laziness. Now that I’m on the coming down stage of the bell curve of a week-long panic attack, I understand that my notions of working, and relaxing come from my mother’s strict Sicilian upbringing that has leaked its way into my subconscious. Other lived experiences (like my learning disability) contribute as well, but I am not here to unpack my trauma, even though I’d love to (lol). I am here to discuss a writing phenomenon that popped up in my head while reading this week’s selections: Mental illness and Voice.
I have always struggled with the realization that I’m fully medicated now and might be for the rest of my life. Who am I without medication? Is this the real me? Is the ‘real me’ broken and in need of fixing? For years, I grappled with the question, who am I off my medications Vs. on my medications? While trying to dissect that internal question, I also tried to locate my ‘authentic’ voice somewhere in between the mix. The amount of shame after discovering that the anxiety-driven voice that result in lash-outs and crying fits are essentially part of my voice just like the very voice you hear in class or feel within my blog writing is indescribable. Without the anxiety-fatigue-depressive voices, would my resilience be the same? Would my drive to emotionally assist young kids in figuring out how their breath connects to their mind, body, and soul still stand? Would I be as emotionally sensitive to, and intellectually aware of myself and others around me?
Even when getting into the details of Sylvia Plath’s poem, a poet who evidently suffered from a mental illness (in my opinion), the concept of multiple voices, essentially there, to help define one authentic voice, came up in discussion. For instance, Huber even admits, “This comes up a lot: the idea of “voice” made of “voices” (Huber, 2022). This is a very meta-confusing concept that involves deep introspection and a good level of self-awareness. However, to have multiple voices is a war of the mind. And this phenomena in terms of writing should be discussed with sensitivity toward those who have lost the battle within and against their minds without fully understanding the ‘why’ – a sad reality I have seen all too much of. So, I think my mental illness(es) – PMDD, OCD, dyslexia (controversial as an illness but to me, any disability can make you physically and mentally ill), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and depression – are a separate wild, frantic, irritable, dull yet boisterous voice of itself that assists and navigates around the many other unidentified voices within my head.
Below are Reactions to Random Quotes:
“Even the voice of this piece—the Voice that Loves Voice, I suppose—is one among several essaying voices. It has more of my speech in it, and gestures, and specifically the direct way I talk in the classroom, using shorter words and phrases and more images and some terrible mixed metaphors and similes” (Huber, 2020). THIS. THIS right here. A random stranger of an author just summed up the voice I use to teach (academics and yoga), the voice I use in the classroom as a learner, and the voice I – (I try my best to) use when talking with random strangers. The voice that loves voices – holy cow, I love it. This is the exact voice a perfectionist uses to mask the vulnerability around confrontation; therefore, we offer unlimited grace, kindness, empathy, and complete openness to whomever encounters our path, especially in a work or academic setting.
“In letting myself loose a bit, in looking for the weird voices in my own life and head and letting them out, I found new ways to say things and new perspectives on my life” (Huber, 2020). This is the exact reason to why I want to get into writing stand-up comedy. I have no idea how I will go about this but all I do know is that I have an ability to turn my animated self into a funny scene or demonstration. I would like to attend more comedy shows, and perhaps research any nearby writing workshop classes or local open mic sessions to get a feel for that ~ lifestyle ~. Dark humor – I’m talking an enormous amount of mass packed tightly into a tiny volume – type of dark. Dark humor is how I navigate life and living, and without it, I truly don’t know. I feel that dark humor has helped me cope with my anger and sadness in such a way that I can turn around and laugh about a situation rather than intellectualize the hell out of it.
I’ve been told I’m funny, and no, not just from my mom and closest friends (lol). Interestingly, my most recent uber driver and the latest Chinese delivery lady had both thanked me for making them laugh during their jobs. Apparently, I have a voice people often want to listen too, or at least are curious about, and I’m not sure if it’s the way I come off or speak openly about random topics that are on my mind. In rehab, three different co-patients had told me, in their own ways of course, that I have a powerful voice that moved them in session. Or that they specifically felt the pull and tug of their emotions whenever I speak up in group. I will never forget the one elder woman, who patted my back on her way out of group, and whisper-talked in my ear: “Your supposed to teach, darling; you have a special way of making people truly listen.” I still think about that complement and channel that energy when faced with anxiety-driven self-doubt or a severe case of writers block.
Sometimes, I think my deeply, weird voice cares too much about making others smile, and not so much myself. Hence why this quote made me pause with deep curiosity, “The Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin described “intonation” as “the point where language intersects with life” and Huber continues to explain that her ‘teaching’ voice often uses intonation or inflectional tones to physically connect with people, making her feel more confident and powerful. However, the arthritis-driven voice was used to “counteract [her] tendency to hide, [her] own desire to be agreeable or not offend, naming Pain Woman as a separate voice seemed to give [her] permission to channel something outside of [her] public mask” (Huber, 2020). I think mindfully noticing the different perceptions and perspectives of the world you narrate within your head, and slowly beginning to befriend and name them, rather than shame and judge them, may be the start to an answer to my many unsolved problems. Hey – Huber said it herself, “She pushes me to say what I think, to listen to the bold voice inside me, and then to follow that voice, to let it grow, to see it and understand it, and to feed it, knowing I can always switch to another one” (Huber, 2020). So, I say we start trying this voice naming thing ~~
Expressive Writing, Emotional Upheavals, and Health
“What is it about a trauma that influences health?” (Pennebaker and Chung, 2). Let me tell you: EVERYTHING ABOUT TRAUMA INFLUENCES HEALTH. However, the only beautiful thing about trauma is that it is universal; everyone comes with their own package deal of family and personal trauma. It is trauma and suffering that connects human beings because without it, there would be no such thing as sympathy or empathy. And could you imagine living in a world absent of sympathy and empathy? I fear it’d be like living the Purge but just 24/7, everyday chaos.
There is certainly a scale to trauma being that some people have it worse than others; for instance, “the more extreme the trauma and the longer time over which it lasts are predictors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) incidence” (Pennebaker and Chung, 2). However, it is important to not diminish your own trauma in the light of others because no other human being has lived your life with your exact biological genetic factors. The way in which we respond to the many triggers within our life are uniquely determined by our upbringing, support system, genetics, and our ability to love and empathize throughout the hardships.
Sometimes, we don’t have control over the way in which we react or respond because of a mood disorder, PTSD, or unresolved trauma that floats to the surface at the worst, unexpected times. Have you ever heard about those horrific postwar psychological stories among Vietnam veterans? It could be a loud, rumbling thunder that jerks the vet’s unconscious body awake in a state of fright to discover he’s hovering over his wife’s sleeping body, gripping her neck until her face turns purple. Suddenly, BOOM, his traumatized unconscious mind wakes up his conscious mind before it’s too late, and now he’s ashamed of what he’s capable of doing without any sort of control. That is what a physical response to trauma may look like for some veterans.
For those who were neglected, abused, or abandoned in childhood may have a total opposite reaction to bodily fright. Those with anxiety may throw up or pick at their skin because “the unexpected events are generally associated with cognitive disruption including rumination and attempts to understand what happened and why” (Pennebaker and Chung, 2). Sitting in anxious thoughts leads to terrible physical symptoms. Those with depression sleep the day away to avoid the traumatic spiral of negative thoughts that become overwhelmingly unbearable. Those who have faced years of discrimination, or a degree of hate crimes may shy away in public or trust those who only look like themself, which you can’t blame them for selective choosing. Trauma is certainly shameful; hence why many refuse or claim to see no reason for therapy. I don’t where I’m trying to take this rant-of-a-blogpost, but I suppose to claim we all have a degree of unhealed trauma hovering over our shoulders, which is a weird, disturbing yet calming truth to digest.
Oh, and I take my opening statement back because I happened to write way more than I expected ~~ LOL
Francesca Di Fabio