I found a sleepless night afforded me some time to reflect over the whirlwind of the past year. Releasing Untangled, emerging from the shadows of silence, a year of blogging, speaking to groups and now preparing to collaborate on an exciting project has me asking myself, Why do I write?
When I speak to groups and open it up for questions, I’m almost always asked, what made you write a book, or have you always been a writer? The answer to both is, “no!” I never wrote anything beyond copy for ads or random newsletter articles for my jobs before 2011. I didn’t keep a journal, never was a huge letter writer, I really never gave writing a thought.
When I began therapy my therapist suggested that I journal. Most of us have been told by our therapist’s to journal our thoughts and feelings. I despised journaling. I would become so emotional because often, the pages looked like one big opus for wanting to end my life. I would literally tear up the pages after I wrote them, despondent because I couldn’t separate my feelings from what I wanted to write about. It was all emotion and no substance, no thoughts, no depth and it felt destructive. So I refused to continue to journal.
But, I found myself writing emails to my therapist and we would talk about them at our next session. It was becoming evident that I was looking for a way to write down my thoughts. My therapist went to a conference on PTSD. At the conference, he learned that when clients journaled on a keyboard, (not pen and paper) that it was easier for them to keep journaling. The act of using a keyboard was incorporating bilateral stimulation which helped put some distance between the terrible trauma and intense feelings and they were able to keep writing longer. That made perfect sense to me, so I began to use writing as a healing tool.
Writing gave me the courage I needed to address the pain I was feeling. I would write even when I thought I had nothing to write about. At first, I strictly used it for bilateral stimulation. I would write and send what I wrote off to my therapist. I started to find that I was able to write down what I couldn’t say aloud. At first, I think it provided distance from having to use my voice, but then I found it actually gave me a voice. When I still couldn’t speak a truth, I found if I read it out loud to my therapist, that I was speaking the truth.
The courage to share my writing with others happened because a friend wanted to understand what was happening to me. She knew I had just been diagnosed with PTSD and wanted to know what it felt like, so she could understand and be supportive. I had always been the master of wearing many masks, and deflecting any conversation away from me, all with a supportive smile for everyone else. But when I couldn’t hide my illness any longer my friends reached out. They wanted to be there, but I couldn’t verbalize it. I was confused, ashamed, scared and thought everyone who loved me would run away if they knew the real me. Since I couldn’t really explain it, I wrote a poem (My PTSD) and began sharing it with people who asked what it felt like to have PTSD.
Seven years after that first assignment to journal on a keyboard, I have written four books, had a number of published articles and just celebrated a year on my wonderful blog. I reflect on writing from a different perspective. Now, I write because I love to share what I’m thinking, feeling or musing over. I write because I’ve had feedback from others, to help give them a voice, to put feelings into words that they may be unable to describe. Writing is a way to be seen and heard, especially by a group who suffers from mental illness and are often marginalized.
I write because I will no longer be shamed into silence. But, I also control the volume of my voice. I want to be effective in destigmatizing mental illness, invisible illness, for me, PTSD. I know that I’m a quiet word of mouth writer. It fits my personality. I love the writers who are more vocal and speak with confidence and often, they know the volume of their voice and can reach a much wider audience.
I write because it fills my cup, it satisfies my creativity and it keeps me connected to the world. I care deeply about what I write and share, hoping that the connection between us continues to grow. Sometimes that starts with a simple written word.
Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph