Therapeutic Writing

I know I'm at my best when I am writing on the regular. As is fairly evident in the gap between this post and the last time I wrote, I haven't been doing much writing-based processing as of late, for several reasons: First of all, it takes courage to write my thoughts down for others to read. As such, this is an act of vulnerability, putting myself, my words, and my experiences in front of a public eye. Because of the public nature of keeping a blog, my self-doubting thoughts become my closest companions, staring me down at the turn of every sentence and subjecting my work to harsh judgment. Do I really want to disclose this? What if this is totally irrelevant? 

Second, and I know this is no excuse, life has been nothing short of busy since I returned from Chicago in June (okay, what, that was five months ago), and when I manage to fit some down time into my long days, let's be honest, I'm watching Netflx in the comfort of my bed. Or taking a bath. Or cooking. AKA I'm turning my brain off and taking advantage of turning my phone off if even for a brief, twenty minute New Girl episode.

Third, because of keeping my brainpower in high demand with the wheres and whens of life, I simply have not invested in the mental exercises of delving into the meaning and components of living vitally.

In short, I have been mentally exhausted and filled with self-doubt.

And then, two weeks ago, I sat down to do a bible study, got totally inspired by the question of "What is your secret strength?", pulled out my computer, and started typing with fervor what I discovered to be - three hours later - the tale of one of the most debilitating periods of my life. These were the words I had kept stuffed in my head and heart over the course of the past four years and hadn't let myself explore until this point. I'd initially thought of writing this memoir three years ago, but was too stuck in the thick of the accompanying shame and pain and confusion to be able to take an objective point of view to analyze where life had taken a turn southbound.

Out of nowhere, it all came to me: all the tears and fears, the mistakes and victories, the heartaches and joys, and I was able to see, in a new light, the larger narrative of two imperfect intertwining lives. I stopped seeing myself as a victim and acknowledged all the shitty stuff I had done (and had allowed), because I had handled pretty much nothing perfectly. And even though so many different, difficult emotions resurfaced over the course of these three hours (how a person can go from laughing with fondness to wanting to cry all her tears out within a five minute span is beyond me), this was one of the first times I had allowed myself to acknowledge and experience them without judgment or shame. The past was simply the past.

As much as I wished I could change what had happened, my processing session showed me three things: 1. that I would not be where I am today without the plethora of lessons I had gone through, 2. that I would be ill-equipped for the future without acknowledging where I went wrong, and 3. that writing works wonders as a therapeutic tool.

I cannot stress enough the importance of writing as therapy. While, yeah, it sounds pretty cheesy and cliché, writing has the power to relieve us of our unspoken struggles and process without judgment. Free writing (or what I like to call word vomiting) cuts out all the self-restricting processes inherent in an editing approach, and allows us to explore deeper issues without the worry of whether the words splattered on the page make sense or flow cohesively. More than anything, writing gets the words out there in the open, where they can no longer control our minds with fear. When we allow our minds to venture into those initially scary areas and work through the deeper issues, we can learn so much, and eventually set those emotions and experiences free.

At the end of a long night of writing, I was overcome with an overwhelming sense of peace and freedom I had never experienced in respect to my collegiate life. It had been a long time coming, but facing the emotions was completely worth it. My experience revealed the necessity of writing not only to keep myself sane, but also to bring closure to the experiences locked in my memory of the past. Though my fingers were slightly cramped from writing a million words a minute (why couldn't I write my academic papers with such fervor?) and my eyes were glued halfway shut from teary-eyed exhaustion, the release of emotion brought me a relief I had never achieved in any counseling or venting session with my best friend. I'd found my new medium, and I'm sticking to it.

So, dear reader, I do apologize for the aberration from my blogging practice, and for any continued slackening in my writing consistency as I begin to explore an exciting personal writing project in the months to come. In the meantime, I encourage you to give therapeutic writing a shot for yourself and see just how much freedom you can achieve through the free flow of words onto the page (or screen).

Leigh Baldwin1 Comment