You have a particular interest in non-fiction, including reading medical writing. What is it about these that interests you? Do you utilise the knowledge you gain in your own writing?
Oh, you know, when you find something you’re good at, you often tend to embrace it. I lost my amazing ability to multitask in a stressful environment that earned me my income, so nowadays, I have a near perfect memory for dates, doctors, diagnoses, and just about anything medical– once I’ve learned it, I rarely forget it. In fact, if I were well today, I would likely be a Pharmacologist. It’s a weird thing to admit, but we all have our talents! I do of course take many medicines but I can tell you what each one looks like, what writing it has on it, if any, and their color and purpose.
When I was a young child, I read every single ingredient from every single shampoo bottle, food product, anything with writing in the house– I devoured the written word. I repeatedly read the same products and words over, and over, until at last I could at least recognize their phonetic breakdown, spell them, YES even if I didn’t know what they meant. Certainly I was teased and called ‘wordy’, which is a nice compliment now. Ha!
I remember going to the public libraries and researching my kidney symptoms when I was only 14-16 years old. My mother and I spent many weekend days there, because the doctors didn’t believe my pain was serious, and because I kept insisting something was seriously wrong. I was six when it began, and seventeen when the kidney and gland were removed. It was in these old physician’s only medical texts that I first learned some medical jargon, and gained a rudimentary understanding of the urological system. It saved my life, just not my kidney nor my adrenal gland.
Once high school was over, I had no need for medical knowledge, and I tossed it all away. However, in just a few short years at the age of twenty-two or so, I got hit with the adrenal crapola from hell! Then, I was too sick to really go to the libraries, and the internet wasn’t even around for anything other than gaming. We’re talking 1993 here. I was working 80-90 hour weeks and had no time for research. Seriously.
Once I was back in the ‘system’ (the medical system) in my home state of S.California, it was a matter of picking up the lingo and information as I went along. I had so many tests, not just the normal x-rays, blood tests, but also MRI’s, IVPs, just nuclear medicine tests at the cost of thousands of dollars. Once I learned this adrenal failure happened because of corticosteroids I was given to help me breathe, I became nearly obsessed with not allowing my ignorance to ‘bite’ me in the ass again. Had I of known, been told, read the package leaflet… maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t have become so ill. So, essentially, I either understand everything they are DOING to MY BODY, and I make intelligent suggestions along the way thus becoming an active participant in my OWN healthcare, or— I die. It became as simple as that. I was close, there were mistakes in medication, diagnoses, and malpractice and an amazing amount of pure negligence along the road these past twenty-five years. There’s friends who have died. People younger than my nearly 47 years. BUT, it IS a choice: you either buck up and do THEIR job WITH them or FOR them, or you could easily die. And not peacefully usually!
By the way… I have no issues with dying really, but I’ll be damned if it’s going to be from neglecting myself. I do the best I can to be a compliant patient, but I am nobody’s fool. Now. So why DO I really write about it? Because I feel very alone in it. Nobody has all the circumstances and quirks and diagnoses that I do, I mean, my body’s its own Whata Wreck. But. . . surely there are others that can benefit from my experiences? There is no one protocol for much of this adrenal / endocrine system failure. And I am NOT afraid to give some pretty strong advice. Ha! But really, I write about it also because the physical act of typing it all out makes it clearer in my mind what needs to be done. I always have to have a plan or three, and I must constantly evaluate those to weave in the variables of my illness… nothing stays the same for too long. Writing usually makes me feel like I am SPEAKING to someone, for once. That illusive someone who may read my hypotheses for recovery, or may at least agree with me on how little value life can be. I need no sugar coating– I like my reality with a double shot of ‘just the facts, ma’am’. I can come to my own ‘hopeful’ or ‘bleak’ conclusions. I did not put myself back together with glue and tears and medications just to be taken apart by their lies and indifference again. No sirree.
Tell me about a piece of writing that stayed with you or was particularly memorable.
Oh, I’d have to say Mannequined allowed me to express a feeling of why I used to consider myself to be stupid, in an interesting way. I stayed pretty quiet in my relationships because I had no basis for anything resembling normal. I hadn’t had time to develop yet; like a Polaroid photograph that is still developing, but I was so impatient with myself. I figured it out though. Eventually.
My inner child was just too
indelibly written within.
A life spent in survival mode
was still just… too raw.
My spine was too weak,
my tongue too flayed…
to speak my truth, then.
So I mannequined instead with other men.
Gave away my bits, one page at a time.
Such self destructive behavior.
– Mannequined by Adrienne Lilley
But really i hate carnations because my dad was a hard person to get to know really deeply, kinda like myself. He just showed the shallow stuff, mostly, and waited for a person to be interested in more before revealing anything vulnerable about himself. And because I feel him closer to me when I read the poem about the day of his farcical funeral. Rather a comedy of errors and incidents that weren’t too funny, but then my dad and I shared our weird sense of humor, so….
Some of your writing is very personal. How important is it that you share your own story, or is sharing your work merely a byproduct of your need to write your experiences for yourself?
I figured out a while ago that if I don’t post my more intimate poetry for public consumption, then I just won’t write it. Then it all gets stuffed inside, and people are not supposed to be olives, right? We aren’t cannon that will one day just implode! Well, we aren’t supposed to be, I’m sure. I just kind of start to lose it if I cannot express a time in my life that was painful. Writing about it sucks—it hurts. There’s such indecision, and second-guessing going on. But once it’s completed, there’s a sense of satisfaction at having turned something ugly into. . . I dunno, perhaps something another person can relate to. Maybe there’s truly a few people who read it and feel better just knowing they aren’t alone in their experiences and / or feelings. I think cancer finds its way in when we refuse or cannot release these negative, pent-up emotions. I mean, I’m going out a different way, not cancer. A great example of how personal is too personal would be: Transient Murderer. There are not many who could share something like that, and I envy them because they likely don’t NEED to share it– but I really did. What I am NOT doing is airing my dirty laundry in some half-cocked contest of who’s had it worse. Everyone has their shit in life– I’m saying, this is mine.
How has writing changed your life?
Tres bien, ah de trop Madame! So, so very much. Before I found Writing.com, it was just me and my illness. I had within one month been put on permanent disability from the job of my dreams; I’d had to give up my swanky little apartment and move back in with my mother; I had to quit college– my life just was put on hold. About a year later, my mother got a home computer and I began to research my ‘Cushing’s Syndrome’ and umm etc. I’ll spare you ha ha! But finding WdC was fun. I was WhataWriter and it was a total joke! Whata did I ever write? Some, not much.
I can’t really socialize with my illness—it stresses me out too much. I’m the worst kind of friend, unreliable due to something that really wasn’t ever my fault. I know that now, but I still must be vigilant. And the older I get the worse it all gets so hey, lots of material to write about eh! So separating my medical ‘crapola’ as I refer to it and my writing endeavors is pretty difficult—which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who knows. But writing helps me cope.
Do you listen to music when you’re writing? Do you have a favourite ‘soundtrack’ for writing?
Oh aye, of course, I simply must! Anything will do, but it goes with the theme of my writing. If it’s sad, then sad songs; if it’s angry or fun it could be heavy metal to Imagine Dragons to Scorps to… I do so love music. In fact, a phrase in a song might playback all manner of memories; it is often the beginning of some dark poem. If I’m really into something deep, something as yet intangible (or even a punctuation or structural nightmare) I’ll switch to instrumental only music. I love the ‘Lost Christmas Eve’ album from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And Archangel, a newer one. I like Andrea Bocelli. My friend Bobby is always great for some music referrals if needed! This poem was like that, and I’m still contemplating a few edits on it: Archivist of. . .. I wrote it to mimic four movements, but the subject is how to fill the hours. My favorite movie as well, ‘The Hours’.
Do you have a favourite author?
Definitely. I hearken back to my first favorite author, because it’s kinda like a first love, even though I’ve quite a few more favorites since: Diana Gabaldon. She writes the voluminous ‘Outlander’ series which I think there’s nearly twenty of them now? Not slight, modest books are these—they’re like 800-1000 pages. Hardback. Anyways, I used to work (for years) in bookstores. I found ‘Outlander’ before it was an international bestseller. Yeah, I like to say I made her rich ha ha ha. But it’s just that great a series. The TV Show has been amazingly true to the books as well. She made me want to BE a writer. I just haven’t found the time away from my emotions to get serious about writing fiction! But I want to. I have a little something-something in the works….
Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
My favorite fantasy series are on Amazon by Robert Anton. It’s an enchanting world, wonderfully written. Amazing talent. But he is also my favorite non-fiction author on Writing.com, I can get so engrossed in his philosophical and scientific articles! Yeah, I just love to learn new things… ancient civilizations are kewl too. Yup, Bobby is a huge inspiration– and one of my biggest fans. Not to mention my editor when he isn’t TOO busy and I have tough enough skin to take it. He’s a rare, excellent quality gem.
What’s your favourite piece of your own writing?
Well, it’s actually my epic 4600 or so word biography, Just Another Walk in the Rain. I began writing it when I first joined Writing.com, waaay back in 2002. When I came back as simply ‘whata’ two years ago, I thought what absolute shite! I had to rewrite it. It took months. It was most difficult because the medical events were mostly so long ago, I couldn’t get the timeline cohesive enough. I do so loathe structural issues. So when it was completed, I really did feel such a sense of accomplishment. It isn’t the easiest material to write about. However, in reading it over once again this morning, I vow to make a part II. What more could I possibly add? I was more optimistic when I rewrote it just two years ago; I’d like to infuse some of my dark charm into it. Because I’m neither happy-go-lucky-Whata, nor down-in-the-dumps-Adrie. I’m kinda stuck right now, somewhere in between. I mean, I am, after all, a realist. I used to be such a dreamer….
We are all born into this world as innocents, right? To me, life is not so easily defined. After years of obsessive research, I’ve concluded that we are sent to this earth as a lesson. This lesson teaches us to be kind, to persevere, to help our fellow man, to love and be loved in return. Most of all, life is a lesson to never, ever, give up. We must keep fighting, not merely to survive, but in order for us to thrive. I surmise these are the lessons we are meant to learn before our corporeal selves die, and we are released into the spirit world.
No, I am not a Shaman, nor am I a wiseass: I speak in earnest. I am a person who has seriously visited a kind of hell, one on this earth, and have learned many lessons from my unhappiness. Now, at the age of forty-four, I am quite set on my path of righteousness. Not that everyone will, or should, follow my path, as it is for me. I have earned it, you could say. However, I do stumble, but I’ll continue to drag myself up, dust my bum off, and try in earnest to learn from my life’s lessons. It is this knowledge, and my secret hope that propels me to seek a more fulfilling life.
– Just Another Walk in the Rain by Adrienne Lilley
Yes, this is me. Longwinded. Irreverent. But hopefully always as truthful as I can be (according to how much denial I’m in at the time, of course).
You can read more of Adrienne’s work at her Writing.com portfolio.