There’s a stone in my head. A problem unsolved. A tangled knot I can’t think clearly. Words unspoken, no-one is listening. Thoughts diverted into my body, a stoop in my shoulder, tightness in my hips. My body has absorbed stories, buried them deep down in the flesh. My body tells each and every one of my silences.
I am dancing, and moving, twisting like a contortionist. There are a million different positions to twist the body into. A million tiny corners in which the words are hiding, cling onto blood and bone and flesh, wishing to hide until death.
If silence is death then words are life. I will shake the words out of my body and write them on this page. And that will be the end of the stone in my head.
For a long time in my mid twenties I lived as if there was a stone in my head, something I was trying to say but could not express in words, something that got in the way of living. My head was getting crowded, and I was suffering from insomnia. As I tried to write this stone, I discovered a book called ‘Why do People get ill?’ written by psychoanalysts Darian Leader and David Corfield. The book explores the idea that there is always a psychological factor that contributes to illness, and that we cannot fully understand what makes us ill unless we take it into account.
The book changed the way I saw illnesses I’d had while at university, a backache, that made exam study difficult, and chronic fatigue syndrome that caused me to repeat my second year. I began to see these illnesses as the manifestation of something I couldn’t express in words.
Becoming well again, meant learning how to articulate myself better, and to write about everything that had happened to me. Nothing was taboo. I tried to ignore the voice that told me not to write about certain subjects, (I would worry about whether I’d publish it later). It took years to write until I felt happy again. There had been a lot of silence in my life, and it took a long time to unravel my feelings, to soften anger and numbness into sadness, and understand what I had been through. It was a difficult journey and there were many tears, but I have left my sadness behind on the pages of my notebook. Now my thoughts are much clearer, I no longer live with a stone in my head.
Writing Exercise : ‘Things I have been Silent about’
I love the title of Azar Nafisi’s book, about growing up in Iran, and her family’s secrets, set against the backdrop of the country’s revolution.
For this writing exercise simply write the words ‘Things I have been silent about’ and write whatever comes to mind. Try not to ‘choose’ writing topics or censor yourself. As writing teacher Natalie Goldberg says, ‘if something feels scary dive right into it!’