By Gillian Shirreffs
Writing can be a therapeutic process. In my editing and publishing project, part of my MLitt in Creative Writing, I chose to highlight the benefits of therapeutic writing alongside raising awareness of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Through social media, I put out a call for letters asking people to tell me about their experience of being diagnosed with MS. I was pleased to receive 32 letters from across the globe.
Thanks to South Lanarkshire Libraries I was then able to exhibit these letters in Hamilton Townhouse Library, giving others the chance to reflect on what people had told me. This exhibition, Step Inside MS, was launched on April 17th and is now touring other South Lanarkshire Libraries. It will also appear in the William Patrick library in Kirkintilloch.
After hearing about my project, the Neurological Alliance asked me to speak at an event for Brain Awareness Week at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Politicians and clinicians were in the audience and I spoke about my own experience of diagnosis. As a result of this, the letters will also be displayed in the parliament building for a week in November.
I have also published a small book containing twenty of the letters as part of the project, which I have gifted to the participating libraries. For help designing the front cover I turned to Facebook again and the father of one of the letter writers agreed to help out! I am also lucky to live next to someone who owns a printing company, which helped to keep costs down.
The letter writers themselves have benefitted from the project – they agree that the process of writing about their diagnosis was cathartic and they were excited to be involved.
You can read more about Step Inside MS at www.sunshinescot.com.