Melanie Spiteri has a lot of different personalities: she’s bisexual, Mohawk and suffers from chronic fibromyalgia.
Most of all, she says, she’s a writer.
“I started writing the day I learned how to write. I’ve always had an amazing imagination.”
Spiteri, 32, is finding an audience through her thought-provoking chapbook of poems entitled Girl Musings, published by Sweet Insanity Press.
“My stepmom kept some of my poems from when I was a little girl. I didn’t have the best relationship with my stepmother growing up. The poem’s about a monster coming up to my room, and I’m in bed and it’s building the suspense and at the end it’s just my stepmother. I think I wrote that when I was about seven years old. Writing has been a big coping skill for me.
“My mom’s gifted me with a lot of things; I didn’t realize until I got older how she was helping me. She gave me my first diary when I was seven years old and I wrote in that diary faithfully. I still to this day keep a diary, I don’t write everyday. But when I was going through some really hard times in my life, if I didn’t have that diary, I’d have been in trouble.”
Spiteri now has trouble of a different sort. She was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder with an unknown cause.
“The most common symptom with fibro is chronic pain,” Spiteri says. “The other two huge symptoms are depression and insomnia. Each person with FMS is a unique case. It’s hard living with it. A lot of people aren’t here today because of FMS. It’s hard, but you can cope if you just stick with a positive attitude.”
Spiteri uses her aboriginal traditions to aid her in the health struggle. Looking to the medicine wheel for guidance, Spiteri tries to balance the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
“If you figure out how to balance these things and become a balanced person, you can live with fibro,” Spiteri says. She refuses to use painkillers.
“I don’t put things in my body that I don’t want there.” She looks at the coffee she’s sipping. “Well, a bit of caffeine is alright now and then.”
Spiteri has always kept close to her aboriginal identity. And aboriginal justice issues particularly interest her; aboriginal sentencing circles were the focus of her master’s thesis.
Sentencing circles are an important part of native people’s struggle to be heard by the justice system. “It’s native people giving a voice to what they think justice is,” says Spiteri.
Her interest goes back to schoolyard bullying. “I’ve always been fat, I’m comfortable with it. I knew what it felt like to be picked on. So if I saw a kid being picked on, I was the first to jump in and defend him. And if that meant talking, I’d talk. If the kids were aggressive, I’d fight. I had to be a fighter to survive as long as I have. I don’t like injustice. All the things I really don’t like in this world all lead back to injustice.”
Her attention is now on a Yahoo group she recently launched. Brickhouse Babes is a place for plus-sized girls – size 10 and up – to congregate.
“There’s only a few of us right now. It’s about embracing your sexuality and being comfortable with who you are.”
But in all her daily activities, Spiteri puts on her game face and pushes through. Even with an illness like FMS, Spiteri strives to seize the day.
“If I could only say one thing to others suffering with fibro, it would be, ‘Live for today. If you are having a bad day, live for that day, too.'”