Katherine Kwong

On a Tuesday morning, when I was eleven years old, I stood at the top of the stairs in my home and cried. I cried because my entire body hurt. After a doctor’s visit full of beeps, cold stickers, whispers and worried looks, the truth: I had Lupus. For a normally energetic child, this might have been a death knell.

Instead my family kindly, lovingly ushered me into ‘the new normal.’ Because of this cocoon of support, I thought I had Lupus all figured out. But, that was before I took a class on memoir writing my sophomore year of college.

I write to better befriend myself. When I look at my body, my Lupus, as a friend: I am better able to extend grace to myself.

Every memory or experience I had with Lupus flooded straight into my fingers. Begging to be given life through my laptop keyboard. It was a rootless moment at first: realizing I had never paid attention to this part of myself.

And of course, I could have talked this over with a therapist, drowned it in self-medication or simply ignored the voice that wanted to befriend me. But, writing is a unique medium in the sense that it allows us a space to experience ourselves in our own time. Writing lingers on a page. It doesn’t speak until it is read. It is both private and public. It doesn’t have to be scheduled or bought because words are free.

Writing to befriend myself allowed me to understand how words and writing are not just tools with which to academically critique or narratively enchant. They are another means to know ourselves like humor, love, sex, betrayal, friendship and sorrow. Writing brings us closer a more generous space of acceptance within ourselves.

After that first memoir essay, I kept writing about my experience with Lupus. I grappled on blog posts about feeling in between able-bodied privilege and chronically diseased. Personally, I gained more confidence in my physical self; vowing to never be afraid of what my body could or couldn’t do. Some of this was verbal narrative and sometimes it was paragraphs whispered to myself in my notebook or published occasionally online. But, the real glorious thing about writing is that it can be embodied. My senior year of college, I brought my friend Lupus to life in a one act, fifteen minute play for my college’s theater festival. I even played myself. Such, freedom and introspection did I gain in the two shows we did!

It was a deeply personal thing to write, yet it felt so right. The fact that writing has the ability to benefit both writer and audience and perhaps help make friends of both is a marvelous magic. Each time I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard; I am learning myself as I would a friend. I am still friends with my eleven year-old self. For without writing, I don’t know how we would have kept in touch.