I've been writing since I was a child. I have an old journal that I look at fondly that shows my thoughts and feelings from the fourth grade. It makes me happy to read those pages and see where I've come from; my writing roots. When I went to high school, I journaled more assertively in order to help myself through depressive periods in my life. Though I was in therapy, writing was the thing that helped me get through those times. I'm not saying that therapy was unhelpful, I'm indicating that writing gave me a perspective that therapy didn't. As a side note, you might consider talking therapies to help you through a tough time in your life. Seeing my feelings on paper illuminated something for me that I didn't know: what I was feeling.
Once I could see those feelings in front of me, I was able to work with them and begin to heal. There's something different about using a pen and a notebook (or journal) rather than typing at a computer. It's ironic because here I am concentrating my efforts diligently at this keyboard to type these words that you're reading. I stand by the fact that writing on paper helped me in a fundamentally different way.
I'm not the only one who feels this way. My friend Dr. Jessica Zucker, the creator of the viral hashtag #IHadAMiscarriage, told me that writing helped her cope with her loss in a way that therapy did not. Zucker has used social media as a means of connecting with other women who have been through a similar experience to hers. She has created a burgeoning community where women have the ability to heal through pictures and storytelling. When she said that writing helped her through her trauma, it resonated with me because writing has done the same for me through periods of sadness and depression.
What is it about writing that helps?
I went to a performing arts high school. I was a drama major and I remember learning the word "catharsis." This word stuck with me in a profound way. Catharsis is the process of releasing intense emotions. When I was enrolled in this high school conservatory-based program, I used the cathartic process to express the feelings that consumed me. If I didn't have this medium, I would have felt my emotions push me down into a deeper episode of depression.
Now, I feel a similar way about writing. I use words as a cathartic activity just like I used to use acting some time ago. When I write I feel free to say anything I want. I don't have to censor myself or pretend to be someone I'm not. There's no one watching over my shoulder telling me what to say. This is my voice and my space that I own. Imagine someone coming into your apartment and telling you that it's theirs now. You would look at that person and think they were out of their mind. The same goes for how I view my journal. It belongs to me and no one can take that away from me.
Write your truth
To anyone who is reading this, I encourage you to sit down right now and write exactly how you're feeling; you may be surprised at the way it gives you emotional clarity. Maybe you're going through a conflict with a loved one and you need to get that experience out. Perhaps you've endured a traumatic experience and this is the first time you're confronting it. Whatever your feelings are, they are real, they matter and your words do too.
How has writing helped you? I'm curious to know the answer.