Most every book tells a story, and every book has a story of why it was written. My debut memoir, it Doesn’t Define Me, is no exception to that rule.
The 2 reasons I wrote my memoir
The first time I thought about writing the book I was sitting in the recliner in our living room. A few months earlier I had decided to close my eBay business of nearly ten years. I started searching for what to do next in my life, but I wound up searching for something more.
I was searching for answers
Since my surgery and about the same time I began my fight to get my life back, I had been wrestling with questions like “Why did this happen to me?”, “Was there someone to blame?” and my biggest question “could I have prevented my complication if I had made different choices?”
I was searching for evidence that I was still recovering and making progress.
When I first thought about writing my memoir, more than 8 years had passed since I underwent an ascending to descending aortic bypass and surviving an ischemic stroke to my spinal cord that had robbed me of my ability to run, walk, or even stand.
As I explained in my book, in the early days I could measure my progress daily. Each evening, first in my hospital bed, then in my bed at the rehabilitation hospital, my then fiancé Kimberly and I would list what I was able to do that day that I was unable to do the day before.
Since nearly 8 and a half years had passed when I began planning to write my book, measuring my progress could no longer be done by comparing the differences in my skills and abilities over a 24-hour period. In fact, I was unable to see any noticeable improvement, week to week, month to month or even from one year to another.
Feeling a bit discouraged that maybe I had stopped recovering I needed to prove to myself that if I had stopped recovering, I had accomplished so much since the first time I fell in the CVICU after my surgery.
What I learned from writing my memoir
While doing research for my book, I discovered that 42.4% of all vascular surgeries result in a complication and 21.1% of all vascular surgeries result in a major complication. (according to the U.S. National Library of medicine and National Institute of Health’s website https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11982478)
Complications are a risk of surgery and occur more frequently than probably any of us would like to think about. While some complications are caused by human error or accident, others are just a risk of the surgery.
When I completed writing my book, I decided to look at my complication as both an unforeseen and unavoidable side effect of my surgery and a gift from God – as He spared me from a much worse faith.
I discovered that in the final analysis, it really does not matter what caused my complication. I also discovered that trying to find someone to blame for the complication would never change what happened to me (besides, I have not a shred of evidence that says anyone did anything wrong). Most importantly I learned that blaming myself for what I perceive as possible missed opportunities to have prevented what happened to me is merely a self-destructive acidity that will not change the outcome but could lead to a lifetime of depression.
As I wrote the book I was very impressed to reflect upon and appreciate how far I had come from the nights I laid awake alone in the rehab hospital, fearing that I may never be able to return to my home. My writing also helped me see that I am still making progress. Granted, nearly sixteen years after my stroke it is slower, but I am still making progress and I know I will not stop recovering until I am six feet under.