While walking rapidly down the hall of the new hospital, in the new city, new state…new everything, three days after the move I had never planned to make, I was delighted to see the face of a good friend from Houston, never questioning why this physician would be in Massachusetts on a Monday morning in November. Doubling my speed to catch up with him, his name Steve! was about to burst out of my mouth when the stranger turned to look quizzically at me and extended his hand to say, “Hi, aren’t you the new Hospital Director? Welcome, my name is…” I knew then that my level of stress was off the charts, certainly greater than I had ever experienced.
Embarrassed, hoping desperately that I could hide the crushing disappointment, I smiled and shook his hand realizing that my ‘hallucination’ was a symptom and that I needed to do something to mitigate the profound stressful effects of so many losses over so very short a period of time.
Although you may have never experienced what I’ve just described above, I’ll wager that the scene I just described evoked a memory or three. I recall worried friends in Houston telling me that I would have to find a way to deal with the chaos of my life and my terse and sarcastic replies of ‘I’ll be sure and add that to my list!’
My friends were right, of course, but there are times, when in the midst of a life in chaos, as mine was at that time, that all we can do is put one foot in front of the other, knowing that there is no one to whom we can look for help; that the overwhelming and impossible list of tasks must be done, that there is only one person to do them and it is you. We look back and wonder at ourselves; wonder that we managed it all, alone. But there is always a cost; often physiologic as well as psychological, at some point or another, the physiologic and psychological signs announce themselves in ways that are increasingly difficult to overlook.
My visual ‘hallucination’ that day signaled me that I needed to do something and quickly to deal with the emotions that I had successfully boxed up during the summer my life blew up. Already, I was working out like a maniac, starting my long days with a minimum of an hour work out and grabbing several mile runs on the weekends with the young Doberman puppy who was saving my life. Although I had learned meditation during the few years I had flirted with Buddhism, I simply could not do it; the mind chatter was loud and unceasing.
So I began to write differently from any writing I had ever done before; shocking myself, I began to write poetry. As an undergrad English major, poets like EE Cummings, TS Eliot, Auden, Rilke were opaque to me; I never understood the allegories, my mind far too literal and concrete.
A friend from Houston had given me a book I treasure to this day, Writing Down The Bones along with a beautiful leather bound journal as a going away gift. Once I picked up a pen and turned off the editor in my head, to my surprise, poems began to appear. Over time, there were enough to put together in a book which I self-published several years ago.
Someone once called poetry the language of the heart. It is a good a definition as I have ever found. I have written my entire life but always my writing was of the medical technical fields of my professional life, comfortably intellectual. Poetry evokes another language: one that springs from somewhere else; in tapping into that place, and in taking the risk to write and then publish what appeared there, I found healing and peace.
Author Bio: Lin Wilder, DrPH is a former Hospital Director now full time writer. If you liked this article, Lin suggests her new novel, A Fragrance Shed By A Violet  now available at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/The-Fragrance-Shed-Violet-Wilder/dp/1630632619 Her website is: http://www.linwilder.com/