Last month, we invited readers to share their response to a writing prompt inspired by Kathye Fetsko Petrie’s essay, "On Depression and the Drive to Write." We invited readers to tell us how writing is a gift, a story in itself. Below is Ann Marie Garofalo’s response.
Why I Write
by Anne Marie Garofalo
Wrapped in his fleece gecko blanket, he is sleeping next to me, huddled up into himself. His curly long brown hair rumpled around his freckled face, our dachshund/terrier puppy, Scruffy, curled up in the nook of Jake’s tiny 12-year-old body. I write to remember this moment. I write because in the last six months he, his brother, and I have been to emergency rooms, therapists, a psychiatric children's lockdown unit, and an outpatient program. Writing is how I examine, question, and grow from these experiences. When connecting with other moms has become more complicated and I feel more isolated, I mine my own mind and heart for some morsels of mothering wisdom.
No one wants to read on Facebook: "It seems my eldest forgot to take his razor out of the bathroom again, so that darn Matthew found it and did some cutting," or "Oh, how clever of him. My little guy decided to use the shark tooth we bought at the museum last year." Sad emoji face.
I will save you all the trouble of looking: having two children diagnosed with anxiety and depression is not one of the chapters you will find in the how-to parent books.
Writing every day has helped me to slow down, to figure out how to let go of how I want things to go and to listen from a quieter, loving place. When I write, I dive deep and find not only compassion for my boys, but for myself as well. I slog through the guilt, blame, and what-ifs to a kinder place where I can think about what’s really important: to hold my boys hands and take even the tiniest baby steps forward.
I remember walking down the hallway of the lockdown unit, where children older and younger than Jake were playing board games, doing crafts, reading, and watching movies. Some had cuts on their arms.
I remember this young girl dressed in an oversized button-down shirt and yoga pants, with cropped dirty blonde hair, looking like any other teenager you might see except for the deep red line on her neck. I remember the fear in Jake’s eyes while he sobbed and begged me not to leave him.
Three days later, when Jake was allowed off the unit, he and I played Frisbee, catch, and raced around on the grounds. We picnicked on the lawn with goldfish and chocolate milk and he told me how one of the little girls in his unit saw her mom for the first time in seven years.
Writing helps me to remember pieces of the past that I can’t any other way. I get to go beyond what my memory lets me remember, what it deems important, to the significant pieces that pull the pain and hope puzzle together. It lets me be an explorer into my own relationships, my successes and failures, a mirror where I can clarify the reflection. Writing is how I get from the past to the future and make some sense of the journey.
Ann Marie Garofalo is a member of the GrubStreet writing community in Boston. She earned her Bachelor’s in English and Creative Writing in 2013 and has been previously published in the Penmen Review. Ann Marie lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three boys, numerous pets, and the occasional foster puppy.