Healing through writing

Make up a story... For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.
— Toni Morrison

About 20 years ago, I sat down to write a poem for any Honor’s English class and can almost still feel my eyes rolling back into my head at the assignment because I really felt there was no purpose for me to sit wasting time writing a poem about a personal a experience.

For one, at the time I was a major Math geek; proud of myself for knowing how to do my work in two steps instead of seven and always so excited for Fridays when we got to do Math races (where other than a kid named Phillip who kept me on my toes and ruin a few of my weekends by beating me, I’d usually win.) 

I could see a point to Math. I was good at it. I felt like I understood it’s use in the real world unlike some of my friends who fit the “when will I ever use this?” club and I really thought I would be doing math problems into my 80s daily. Daily y’all! Haha. 

Note: I can barely help the kids with common core now so needless to say I’ve been cured of that math obsession.

But back to this poem. Ugh. 

Honestly, I just sat there staring at the wall. Kind of annoyed at the teacher of “stories” and “words” and “grammar” for even giving me such a stupid topic.

Personal story. Why would anyone even care? Life was not that interesting (but lord have I been taught that the universe has a funny sense of humor sense). 

See I wasn’t big on sharing feelings. Yep you read it right. And none of my friends now or anyone who’s ever read a Facebook post of mine will ever believe that sentence and if you’ve ever met me you likely don’t either but writing literally changed who I became. 

This slightly annoying, yet (I’m told) still sometimes loveable tell-my-life-story-in-an-hour type girl. 

Sitting in our little two bedroom trailer; four other siblings wandering around; mom doing dishes and my dad likely watching some 80s action movie... it took me hours to get more than two sentences down on paper. The pain was more than something I was willing to face and for once in my life I felt myself being pulled to talking about my life in a way I never had.

But when I finally did let go, I didn’t write a poem about my favorite vacation or a dog I had since I was born. 

I didn’t write about my favorite show or my best friends birthday party. 

I wrote a poem about having broken legs at the age of two. 

Oh don’t worry, I did not grow out of this dark sharing phase... ever. And so we are here. 

I wrote this poem about my memories of the night my legs were broken and the strange way my brain translated the pain. 

I wrote of ghosts and weird images I saw (obviously now I realize I was in shock but at two, you just see things and it becomes reality). 

I wrote of my memories of that time. Being in a body cast; my dad carrying me to a McDonald’s birthday party using a trash bag because I was so heavy with half body of cast attached.

As I wrote, I was sure I wasn't fulfilling the requirements of the assignment but I noticed a shift in myself; in my body and my spirit. 

I felt lighter. The feelings and emotions I experienced while writing in the midst of the chaos of a house full of kids and dinner and conversations was quite calming. 

I realized I did not have to share this with my family; that I could write whatever I wanted to on that paper and it could be only for me. Anything I remembered or was feeling could literally be released through the rapid and unruly handwriting left behind on a page... or several pages.

And so my journey to healing through writing began. 

I turned in my assignment and it had in fact, met all of the requirements (I made it less scary after a few edits) and I was able to read it in front of the class. I noticed after sharing such a strange (for my age group) experience, I garnered more attention for my peers and more courage to share my stories. 

And so my journey to connecting with others began. 

Over the next two decades I have written for therapy what feels like a million times.

Whether it be journals during some of the most confusing and darkest times of my life or writing for magazines and blogs to help someone else along in theirs. 

Now sharing does not feel like a stupid assignment, it feels more and more like a calling; a duty of sorts...to myself and others. 

It’s allowed me to release some of my greatest pain and to document some of my most wonderful moments. 

It’s blessed me with meeting some of my closest friends and lead to the opening of doors I never knew existed.

Writing to heal is more of an expression to me now, it’s essential. It’s life saving and it’s important. 

Sometimes I heal by getting my own dark thoughts out on paper and sometimes I heal by reading the words of others who’ve come before me.

But I truly believe that writing is one of the most purest forms of healing. 

As a part of the homework I use with coaching clients, I require most of them to write their story first before any other work.

And I’ve been amazed at the calls or emails I get when people realize writing and telling their story is powerful and life changing. 

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing a series on healing through writing. What I’ve learned through the process of doing it for my illness, my sanity and for my children’s sake through documentation. 

But I will leave you with this hope:

That you take the time to sit, even if it takes hours, and write your story. Just write. 

Make up a story. Tell your own. Make up part of your own story. And get it down. 

Take the time to read your words, look at the parts you love and the parts you scratched out. And ask yourself what it all means. 

And then let it go.

The writing process can be growing through what you go through. 

And sometimes going through it just means grabbing a pen and scribbling out all the mess; good or bad. 

There is a moment when writing allows broken to become beautiful; when the pain becomes a sentence on a paper and not a dark spot on your heart. 

Those moments are the ones I live for. 

So go... live... and then tell that story. 

An older you can’t wait to read all about it.