Lynette Chiu | Writer + Strategist

Writing From the Body's Point of View

A core component of the course Illness and Disability Narratives is to examine a personal experience with illness or the experience of someone we know. We repeatedly explored that experience by writing weekly vignettes from different vantage points, often based on themes in the assigned reading. When we read Jean-Dominique Bauby’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a memoir of a man unable to move anything but his eyes, we were prompted to write from the point of view of the body. 

The body is in a dark room with goop in its hair. Electrodes populate the scalp. The brain registers the attractiveness of the technician who applied them. For a 12-year-old dragged out of bed for an EEG, it’s cruelly amusing to encounter a cute boy in such a disoriented state.  

The verdict is in; the brain’s hemispheres are too talkative, jabbering away like gossiping schoolgirls, and occasionally setting off grand mal seizures in the body. The violent shakes are always nocturnal, and not very frequent, but they need to be addressed, and they may never go away.

The body plods through seventh and eight grade, an insidious gloom sticking to it. The brain has lots of crushes but the body has no takers, and struggles to swallow the tiny pink anti-convulsant pills every morning. Some days, the diagnosis feels like evidence of the world being stacked against the brain. Maybe this is depressive thinking, or maybe it’s adolescent thinking.

The seizures go away but the dark room doesn’t. Through high school, through college, through everything after, the gloom follows and mutates, until the brain cannot imagine itself without it. Sometimes the melancholy feels poetic, and the brain doesn’t want to part with it. 

Years later, the body’s mother will contend that it was the Tegretol prescribed for the epilepsy that suppressed mood and resulted in the depression that set in and never left. The brain entertains this hypothesis, but cannot advance it. Family history is a factor, and so is puberty and the travails of junior high. The brain concedes that it will never have an answer, but appreciates the option to place blame outside the self.