Hearing Myself

Why do I write?

Well, usually I’d say that I write because I have no other choice, because it flows out me like breathing, or because it is part of my day-to-day function. It is so easy to say that I write because my every thought is in prose. If I were to say that right now, I wouldn’t be lying. It would be the truth, but not quite all of it. I write because of those things, but even more than that, I write because it sooths the pain. Writing is, in a sense, counseling, and I am both the therapist and the patient.

I started writing, really writing, when I was eleven years old and both my mother and the aunt, who helped raise me, were diagnosed with cancer. It was almost impossible to know how to process the pain I was feeling, the confusion that I couldn’t escape. I could not process how a good God or a just world could allow this to happen. Then, one day, I picked up a pen and a sheet of paper and just started writing. That year I went into my fifth grade English class and handed my teacher a poem, the refrain of which said, “Life is a blur, it spins and it whirrs, and I never know what will happen next.

She read it, looked at my young, sad, and rounded face, and did not know what to say to someone that was so young and in so much pain. What she did not know was that, underneath what even she saw, I was being abused by a babysitter, showing early signs of chronic pain, and was about to enter the hardest time in my life. I was right in saying that “I never know what will happen next” because no one could have predicted the hell I would go through over the next few years.

My aunt Nancy, at that point, had served as a second mom, as mine worked out of state for two to three weeks out of every month. After being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, Nancy passed away less than two years later. My mother had to quit traveling, as she was diagnosed with breast cancer within months of my aunt’s brain surgery. That year was spent in hospitals watching the women I loved and respected wither away from chemotherapy and radiation. Mom won her battle, but unfortunately, Nancy did not. This time in my life tore me to pieces.

Nothing can quite compare to the loss of someone you love and respect so deeply.

In that moment, I thought I was at the lowest point I could reach, and it was then that I turned to writing poetry. It was there, in the depths of my sadness, I found that pouring myself into ink, letting myself bleed over pages was a kind of emotional release that nothing else in the world can provide.

Through writing, I was able to realize what I thought and then I was able to either accept or change my ideas based on what I read. Flannery O’Connor put it perfectly, “I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.

In writing, I can process my emotions, unwind my tangled thoughts, and shine light on the darkest parts of my soul. So, when a physically abusive babysitter, a verbally abusive boyfriend, two surgeries, and a wheelchair came both in and out of my life, it was always my writing that felt the brunt of my pain. It was writing that took the beatings I wanted to give others or even myself. It was writing that took the whole world off of my shoulders.

So when the waters run high, when the pain is unbearable, when no one can hear me, I write poetry, and I hear myself.

Catherine Twomey is a young writer, entrenched in the world of spoken word poetry and public speaking. She began speaking as a young teen, using it as a way to process through her late-onset disability. Yet, she has come to love sharing her story and encouraging students and adults all over the country. Catherine is a pre-medical student enrolled at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. She is incredibly passionate about medicine, disability, communications, writing, and the way that all of those things intersect. She hopes to pursue a career in which her words, medical skills, and experiences can change the lives of those that are facing the same battles that she is.