Unexpected Benefits of Writing about My Autoimmune Disease

Benefits of authentic writing:

Can’t hide from your truth

A great outlet, Get your emotions out

Explore details you may have missed

Seeing the sum total of your experience, good and bad, puts it into perspective

Sharing and helping others gives you purpose

Living with autoimmune disease is a full-time job; there is no part of my life that is left untouched. I’ve lived most of my life “sick,” “vulnerable,” and “physically weak.” However, I’ve refused to be defined by it. I’ve succeeded in living a beautiful, happy life by seeking valuable experiences consistent with my limitations.

Autoimmune disease hasn’t been without its drawbacks. Unable to have a career as a lawyer, after completing law school and passing the bar exam, led me to a listless, purposeless, and dark emotional place. I felt I was a failure. Not only was I not in charge when it came to my body’s ability to function properly, but I couldn’t even work in my chosen and hard-earned career.

However, I enjoyed being a mommy, fully embracing that part of my being, and could readily understand that I was making a valuable contribution to my family’s life. But the truth is, in this goal-oriented, success-driven society I felt that I had fallen short of the perfect picture of success in both my own expectations and, I feared, in the expectations others had of me.

Writing has filled my internalized need to feel that I am contributing to the world. When my mentor, Neale Donald Walsch, invited me to write my story he predicted I would find even more peace than I had before. He posited that through sharing my unique perspective on managing the emotional aspects of my disease, and helping others to return to their true selves, I would embrace a new and exciting reality: one in which my illness no longer stole my purpose, but rather had been part of my life’s purpose all along!

Writing was cathartic. I was able to examine every detail of my life with the attention of a scientist, the romanticism of a poet, the tenderness of a lover, and the elucidation of a teacher. I found, while breaking down my innermost thoughts and feelings, that I have the opportunity to turn this awful disease around and use it for the greater good!

As I became more involved in the Myositis Support and Understanding Association, Inc., first as a member of the support group and later as a board member of the fledgling organization, Neale’s prediction and my true purpose was finally realized. I have forged incredible relationships with brave men and women fighting to overcome their diseases. My experiences with them are filled with bliss and joy. I feel privileged to be part of their lives, sharing my coping strategies to help improve their lives, while learning from them how to improve mine.

As my myositis family reads my book, The Marvelous Transformation: Living Well with Autoimmune Disease, I am honored to receive heartfelt messages of appreciation. The knowledge and understanding of how my years of struggle, trial and error, failures and successes help others to pave a road to self-fulfillment, in spite of their health issues, is both humbling and vindicating. I could have chosen to wallow in self-pity that always seemed to knock at my door. I could have chosen to conserve my energy for self-actualization, self-care, or family-oriented projects. Instead, I chose to open my heart to the world and invite others to find the gifts of their diseases. In doing so, I have returned my self to myself. I have become the crusader I wanted to be, only in a different form. In shedding the role of victim and stepping into the role of helper, I have received the gifts of understanding, self-acceptance, and increased spiritual awareness. Giving to and sharing with others has not depleted me; instead, it has filled me with vitality and purpose. My success is now defined in a less typical way. I may not have stayed on my previously charted path, but in helping others—whether I help one person or a million people—my life will not have been in vain. I will have been fulfilled.

Emily Filmore is author of The Marvelous Transformation: Living Well with Autoimmune Disease (Central Recovery Press / July 2015). She visited Orlando, Florida on September 11, 2015 to speak (with Jerry Williams of MSU)  at the Myositis Association’s 2015 Annual Patient Conference on the topic of how writing can help patients cope with their disease. Emily can be found at EmilyFilmore.com. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Emily with Jerry Williams, President and Founder of Myositis Support and Understanding Association at The Myositis Association's Annual Patient Conference.