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On Monday morning at 9am I sat down to write a short story. I had set myself the challenge of writing four or five first drafts for some short story competitions I had found online. The story I wrote on Monday was about my mother’s experience with cancer.

The Cancer Council had set up an award for a story about cancer and strength; I sat down and banged out a narrative, in a fictionalised version my mother’s voice, about the start of her treatment. It didn’t take long to set down, about 45min; I read it over and it seemed ok so I sent it to my friend for her thoughts.

I didn’t preface the email with ‘this is autobiographical’ because I honestly thought it was irrelevant. Her response was that it was pretty dark and that if I wanted to win I should probably try to do something uplifting. Then I told her it was true and that was probably it’s a bit sad.

I spent all of Monday and Tuesday feeling just a bit off colour, I couldn’t put my finger on it and just put it down to a bad day. It wasn’t until my appointment with my psychologist yesterday evening that I realised just how triggering that story had been.

I’m a person who has grown up believing I need to be strong, that I am tough and that things don’t upset me. I have always thought it was true. What I’m discovering on this journey is that there are a lot of things that are small, fragile and sensitive inside me that I have crushed, brushed aside, ignored or been so loudly displaying my toughness that I haven’t heard the tiny voice calling out.

I have heard about how difficult writing can be emotionally, about how it opens up all sorts of things inside you and how cathartic and therapeutic it can be and until yesterday I didn’t get it. It’s quite scary knowing that you’re vulnerable to that sort of pain just through your art, but it’s also kind of liberating; like somehow I’m a legitimate tortured artist now.

When you try to uproot and change everything about yourself that you don’t like in one fell swoop it’s bound to be a bumpy road and in retrospect I think it’s those bumps that give colour to our lives, that give us the light and dark, the yin and yang that make both extremes mean something.

Now that I’ve found this fragile sensitive soul inside the hard exterior I have to nurture it, makes sure I listen out for it, and give myself a break when it is having a bad time and listen to what it likes and give it more of that. But even with all this stuff coming up I wouldn’t change my life for the world.