It’s your friendly neighbourhood SpAN Editor here. I thought for the start of 2019, it would be great to highlight how our contributors (and other awesome humans) are using their spoons!
For our first Spoonie Spotlight, we’re featuring the incomparable Jamieson Wolf, author of over 60 works. While we could talk all day about his fiction, especially the Lemonade series, today we’re focusing on his upcoming memoir: Little Yellow Magnet.
This responses to the following questions have been minimally copyedited, to preserve the integrity of the live text-chat interview.
Jamieson, can you tell us why you decided to write a memoir?
Well, it was a long time coming…
In 2013, I woke and it was as if I was in a different body. Nothing worked the way it should. I had dizziness, vertigo, and I couldn’t walk.
I was later diagnosed with relapse and remitting multiple sclerosis.
I had to learn how to do everything all over again. Ultimately, I suppose the point behind the memoir is to help others on their journey as they navigate their MS or other issue.
You explore some really serious themes in the book as well, like partner abuse. Why did you feel it was important to document that as part of your journey?
Originally, I had intended to write what I called “my little book of positivity.” Anyone who knows me knows that I sparkle and am always thinking on the positive side. However, I soon realized that if I took out all the negative things that happened to me, it was doing my journey a disservice.
So, I decided to write about everything, including the abuse I received.
It was so powerfully honest, too. (Yes, I’ve read Little Yellow Magnet, folks!) I’d like to go back to your discovery that something was up in 2013. Many of us disabled people have to go on repeated visits or see different doctors until we are listened to. Was that particularly challenging for you?
It was challenging for me, to say the least. I have a twin brother who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis years before I was. My mother told me to see my doctor. I finally went to him when I started having trouble talking and random falls at any given moment. I was used to dealing with issues, what with having spastic cerebral palsy, but I knew that there was something wrong.
My doctor told me that I didn’t have MS. That all of it was in my head. For the speech, he recommended elocution lessons. For the rest of it, he suggested I get psychological help.
When I was unable to speak at all, communicating in hand signals, and had lost the ability to type, my mother demanded that I go to the hospital. I was lucky to have a neurologist on staff.
He recognized the symptoms for MS and sent me for testing.
It really gives me the angries that so many of us have to go through multiple visits to get any hope of testing. Another thing that struck me about your memoir: I was rather shocked by how much ableism you faced in a “friendly town,” whether at work or in the dating scene. Did it surprise you at the time?
Not really…I think at the time, I was just in shock about everything and carried that with me. I didn’t think very much of people at that time, or myself. So, the fact that I experienced ableism didn’t surprise me. It saddened me and left me without hope for the most part.
Looking back, or even to the present, what are some of the things people say to you about your chronic conditions that make your skin crawl?
That I don’t look like I have MS. The usual reaction I get when I tell people about my cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis: Oh, poor you! The notion that I can’t do anything or that I should be on disability.
How people assume that since I’m on medication, I’m cured. sigh
OH GOD, YOGA! Yes, yoga was suggested by almost every doctor I saw! I have balance issues and vertigo. I went to one yoga class and injured myself. Still have the scar and have never been back!
Ugh. Sometimes I want to put yoga in the blender. There was so much going on in your life at the time. What were some of the things that kept you motivated to face each day despite the external pressures?
I think, looking back, that even with how dark my life had become, I wanted to live. I wanted to find a way to move around the new terrain my body had become. I had to learn to do everything all over again: walking, speaking, showering. It got to the point that even simple chores like taking out the garbage or changing the cat litter were causes for celebration.
Eventually, I learned to feel grateful for every second, minute, hour and day. For they are all gifts. Took me a while to get there, though.
I love how you mentioned simple chores being a cause for celebration. That is such a Spoonie reality and I think many of us cheer along with you! Turning to relationships, I know you are a prolific author and one of your genres is Romance. Are you a romantic? Was pursuing a relationship while managing CP and MS important to you? If yes, why?
I’m a romantic at heart. I love nothing better than a good romance novel or romantic comedy. I think that love has the power to heal and that love is magic.
Pursuing a relationship with CP and MS was important to me, mostly because it showed me that I had to love myself first. If I was going to love someone else, I had to love me first.
That’s so important to recognize!
I think so. It took me a while to get there, like all the important lessons that we have to learn. Until I learned to love myself, I kept attracting the same kind of men, ones that needed me to please them, not the other way around.
Self-value is such a challenge for many of us.
It’s still a challenge, but a worthy one. 🙂
Indeed! Okay, we’re coming into the home stretch (BUT NOT A YOGA STRETCH)! You touched on this before, but can you state what you hope readers get out of Little Yellow Magnet?
My hope is that it helps someone. There are a lot of people out there, trying to find their way through their own dark forest. Whether it be any of the themes I touched on in Little Yellow Magnet (disease, disability, depression, abuse), if it helps one person navigate their own terrain, then I’ve done my job.
Ultimately, I hope that people finish the book feeling hopeful and that they look around their own world and realize what a gift they have.
That’s wonderful! Are you willing to give us the spoiler of why the book is called Little Yellow Magnet? Or should we read the book to find out?
Hmmm, I might keep that for the book! 😛
Fair enough! Thank you so much, Jamieson! You’re always a delight. Could you let us know what the planned release date is for Little Yellow Magnet and where we’d be able to buy it?
They can buy it off my website for sure, and it will be available at all online retailers.
And the planned release date is March 21, 2019! (Editor’s note: This is the new release date.)
Please do consider picking up your copy of Little Yellow Magnet when it’s published next month. We’ll post updates about the release date on our Twitter and Facebook accounts. It’s a gripping read that’s so real. I highly recommend it!
Jamieson Wolf is an award-winning, number one bestselling author of over sixty books and writer of Two Steps at a Time, a blog about having multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. He is an accomplished artist who works in mixed media, charcoal, pastels, and oil paints. He is also something of an amateur photographer, a poet, a perfume designer, and a graphic designer.
Jamieson currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario with his husband Michael and his cat Tula, who is fearless. You can read more about Jamieson on his website or his blog, and can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.