Every so often, someone asks me about my first novel. I give my standard reply (which is usually too long and confusing, but which they politely listen to). Then I get one of two responses: 1) a blank stare while they’re obviously thinking why did she write THAT?, or 2) a blank stare and the outright question, “Why did you write that?”
I usually hem and haw (blank stares tend to reduce me to hem-and-hawing) and say something vague about being bipolar, blah blah blah.
But the truth is that when I was pregnant, I was afraid. I lay awake at night, dreaming up the worst case scenarios for what might happen after I gave birth. What if I developed postpartum depression? What if I developed postpartum psychosis? What if I tried to hurt myself or the baby or both of us? My fears were grounded in the reality that being bipolar and pregnant is not a pretty combination, and other women have experienced all three of the things I feared the most.
Finally, I decided to do something constructive with my fears: I created a character, mercilessly dumped all my insomniac nightmares upon this poor helpless creation of mine, and wrote her story. A novel was born. And in the writing of it, I was reminded of the truth that, even in the darkest of times, there is hope.
When we face our fears and pains, we find a rich source of inspiration—not just in writing but in living.
Recently, I met a lady named Heather Von St. James. When her daughter was three months old, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It’s almost always deadly.
Talk about fear: facing almost certain death is never easy. It’s definitely not easy when you have a husband and a new baby whom you love dearly. What do you do?
Talk about courage: Heather grabbed onto hope with both hands and hung on. Hope became calling out to God for help. Help took the form of a major surgery, one that took her left lung and gave her back her life. Life became living one day at a time, living fully and facing her fears and inspiring others to do the same.
It’s now been seven years, and Heather is cancer-free. She’s created a holiday called Lungleavin’ Day on the February 2nd anniversary of her surgery. It’s a day that she and others set aside to face their fears. They write down their fears on plates: all the things, big and small, that hamper them from truly living. Then they throw the plates (and symbolically, all those fears!) into a bonfire.
It’s a celebration, but it’s also about raising awareness of this horrible cancer. Heather has taken her fear, her pain, and used it to help and encourage others.
Read more about Lungleavin’ Day on Heather’s blog:
Her joy and enthusiasm for life is contagious and hope-filled and inspirational; I walked away encouraged, and I’m sure you will, too.