Writing Saved Me

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Writing during retirementI feel very lucky. That wasn’t always the case. Stricken with Lyme Disease after moving to Ojai, California in 1997, my life went from a very busy job as a Nurse Practitioner in the second busiest emergency room in Los Angeles county to virtually bedridden. Initially, I found the tick bite and had prophylactic treatment with antibiotics but six months later learned that the treatment was a failure. Taking daily calcium with the antibiotics prevented absorption of the medication needed to combat any bacteria spread from the tick. When I awoke one morning with my left knee swollen four times its original size, and was unable to weight bear, I knew something was terribly wrong. I had all but forgotten about the earlier tick bite and treatment until I saw the orthopedic surgeon. One look at my red, swollen, left knee and he said that because it was an atypical presentation, he wanted to order blood work, which included Lyme Disease titers. I was given anti-inflammatory medication and sent home on crutches.

Four days later, I received a phone call. “Don’t panic,” said the ortho doc.

Don’t panic! That pressed my panic button and as the alarm was sounding, his voice echoed over the phone telling me that the blood work was positive for Lyme Disease. How could that be? I had been treated. That’s when his investigative skills honed in on what I ingested while taking the antibiotics.

“Calcium probably prevented the doxycycline from getting into your blood stream,” he said.

Oh great! Now what? Now what was another prescription and gentle words that there was nothing else he could do. Go home and rest. Well, once home, there was not much resting as the pain in my leg refused to respond to medications and my nervous system was assaulted. Meningitis reared its ugly head. Then cardiovascular complications and irregular heart rhythms, not to mention the worsening fatigue. Following suit was depression. Fearing caregiver burn out to my darling husband, I took to reading everything I could get my hands on to help myself. That’s when I fell in love with reading books.

It was reading that sparked something else in me that probably saved my life: writing. It didn’t matter what I wrote, just write. I sat down in the chair before my computer and poured my heart out. And my gut. I vented. Complained. Wrote to God. Complained some more. Words formed into meaning. Meaning took on paragraphs that made sense. My body felt a little less tired. My head cleared of a few cobwebs, the depression lifted.

It didn’t matter what I wrote. Just the fact of sitting before a blank screen and typing words, sentences, paragraphs, helped me to feel better overall. It didn’t have to make sense. Not yet. Not until I wanted to share my insides with my husband. I knew support groups worked to help people feel better but I was way too ill to venture out to one and so I sought it where I could, at home. The confused look on my hubby’s face told me what I was writing was clear to me, not to him. That motivated me to read about writing. And when I was feeling better it motivated me to take a writing class.

In a wonderful writing class with the very talented Deb Norton in Ojai, I learned how to move paragraphs together into a story-line. What fascinated me was when I stopped trying, out came the ease and flow of words that told things. Things about plans, outings, life events, all consisting of a beginning, middle, and end. Things I had discussed, before becoming ill, with a friend. The constructs of a story is inherent in all of us, I just had to get out of the way and let the story reveal itself without trying too hard to make it lyrical, poetic, flowery, etc.

I worked hard doing exercises in that class, reading my writing out loud to the group, risking, and one day during one of the exercises Deb had us do, an entire story idea came to me. It was a photo of two women in dark long dresses, circa late 1800s. Who they were, why they were together, what geographical and historical events impacted their lives came to me. They were just ideas but they made sense. I liked them. I wrote about them.

I haven’t stopped writing since. That was a long time ago. I am now 95% healthy. Every once in a while, when it gets real cold or I get overly stressed I feel what I call “my Lyme symptoms” but that’s now the rare day. Most days are good. Productive. The best part, I am no longer depressed. I attribute my good fortune to reading and writing. As simple as that sounds, it’s true.

Along with my regained health, I do volunteer work. I work alongside my husband to help rescue dogs from kill shelters. I also work as a volunteer mediator in the Ventura County Courthouse. And I do pro-bono work helping women with cancer. With all the time that has passed, I am left with one main thought. I can sum it up in one word. Gratitude. I am grateful that I made it through. Not all will be so lucky and there was a long time, a lot of years, when I didn’t feel so lucky but what I learned during those times was that no matter what I thought was going to happen, my thoughts didn’t always guide me accurately. What I am living now is not what I imagined when I had my darkest days. There is that light, however dim, that awaits us all. For some it may be the end of the line. For others a new beginning. In not knowing what tomorrow will bring, I rest comfortably.

In this new year, 2020, I hope that each person reading this embraces that light available to all of us. May this indeed be a Happy New Year.

25 Comments

  1. Great article. Inspiring.

  2. I’m thrilled to be featured at your great site. Thank you so much. Paulette

  3. Dear Paulette – thank you for sharing your experiences with Lynn Disease.
    Your journey has not been for the faint of heart. Your courage, determination, insight is a profound testament to overcoming complex, difficult and arduous circumstances. I especially appreciated your final words which reminded me that while we seek certainty, our best lives are lived within ambiguity. “What I am living now is not what I imagined when I had my darkest days. There is that light, however dim, that awaits us all. For some it may be the end of the line. For others a new beginning. In not knowing what tomorrow will bring, I rest comfortably.”
    This article was deeply meaningful to me.
    Rebecca

    • Paulette Mahurin

      January 8, 2020 at 9:28 pm

      Thank you so much, Rebecca. I’m very happy that that you found my journey meaningful. That means a lot to me. Paulette

  4. Writing has always saved me, as long as I can remember. My spine went when I was just 13 years old and had spinal surgery when I was 19. Many months later, I was final done recuperating and then another two years later my son was big enough for daycare and I went to work as a writer and editor for Doubleday. I have not been able to move well since I was a young teenager, but you don’t need to run around to write and aren’t we glad! Then there were five more major surgeries over a 12-year period, but as soon as I was recovered enough to sit up, I started to write again. And take pictures. These are the two creative areas that enabled me to keep working (I was a working writer most of my adult life) and keep sane. My spine has deteriorated significantly during the last five years. I’m 73 and what was uncomfortable is now very painful, but I’m still able to walk from place to place, albeit slowly. Both cancers got repaired and my heart — with new valves, a bypass and pacemaker — works almost like a REAL heart. And still, I write. I really don’t know what I’d do if i couldn’t writer. Maybe read?

    • Paulette Mahurin

      January 8, 2020 at 9:32 pm

      Thank you so much for this very thoughtful response Marilyn. I’m so sorry that you’ve gone through so much in your life, a lot of pain and suffering. But I am also relieved and grateful we share in common the benediction of writing and how healing and helpful it can be. I wish you well and hope 2020 brings you much joy behind the keyboard. Paulette

  5. Sorry to hear about what brought you to writing, but I’m glad you ended up there. You’re stories are all so heartfelt. I love reading each one.

  6. I really enjoyed reading about your story Paulette. I knew you’d had Lyme disease, and that you were ill for a long time, but this piece really clarified it for me. It feels as if the whole experience was a burning up/a cleansing so something new could emerge. I’m so in awe of your courage and fortitude. And your writing! It was the gift you needed to bring to the world, and to all those dogs!
    Wishing you too a wonderful and happy New Year. May it bring you many blessings.

    • Paulette Mahurin

      January 8, 2020 at 9:35 pm

      Thank you so much, Alison. I have also loved and reading about your adventures. In fact, it was you who introduced me to this site with your wonderful article on traveling. I admire all you’ve gone through and shared. Truly inspirational. I’m always delighted to connect with you in this wonderful cyberspace community of ours. Paulette

  7. I can relate to ‘writing saved me’ on many levels. Writing was what I did as soon as I could hold a pencil/crayon/pen. I have never let go of that utensil. I respect your journey and your lessons learned (and shared). Thank you, and may your year be the best so far.

    • Paulette Mahurin

      January 8, 2020 at 9:37 pm

      Thank you so much, Colleen, and what a delight to see you here. I have followed and admired your blog, your words, and your amazingly talented artwork for years. You are a major force of inspiration in my life and have lifted me up, made me smile, and made me think all to my betterment. Paulette

  8. What an incredible story! My heart just kept getting bigger and bigger with joy as I followed your journey. You deserve the accolades you receive for your amazing work. Keep smiling and thanks for reminding me to be grateful.

  9. I’m glad that you found an outlet to cope while ill, and that you have regained your health.
    I too, find writing to be therapeutic, I suffer from PTSD but this hobby has been a blessing. I wish you all the best in 2020!

    • Thank you so much, Mark. I’m also glad to learn that writing has been helpful to you. PTSD can be just as debilitating as what I went through. I did some clinical rotations at a VA facility and worked with a good number of vets suffering from it. I wish you well.

  10. Very inspiring article for me and my Granny, dear Paulette. Writing brings you to your soul and you’re the one who has proven that💗You are a great inspiration for all of us. Extra double Pawkisses for all the good that you are doing🐾😽💞

  11. Fantastic article of inspiration Paulette. You are truly a warrior woman for all you endured and what you give back. Stay blessed! <3

  12. Paulette:

    Enjoyed your post very much. Several surgeries in the year 2004 left me somewhat depressed and writing also became my “go to thing” that got me over the hump so to speak and I have been writing to this day. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi and thank you Irwin.

      I’m truly happy to hear that writing helped you. I find it rather miraculous how I can one minute feel depressed and then my fingers his the keypad and my mood lifts. Whether it’s from being productive, expressing myself, or who knows what doesn’t matter to me. I’ve long given up on trying to psychoanalyze myself. Now, it’s simpler and more expedient to just let my fingers do the talking and sooner or later it all changes.

      Thank you again,
      Paulette

  13. I have followed your blog for awhile now but didn’t know your story. Thank you for sharing it here. I’m glad you overcame the disease and I love that reading and writing saved you! I lost my husband 9 months ago and reading and writing are saving me as well.

    • Paulette Mahurin

      March 4, 2020 at 9:08 pm

      Oh Wanda, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. I’m deeply moved you shared that here. And I’m happy that writing is helping you as well. I’ve also been following your blog site now for many years and am grateful for the connection. I hope the rest of the year is a good one for you. Sending you a very special cyber hug. Paulette

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