How Writing Heals Me, Again And Again

writing heals

When I was a little girl I kept a journal. You know, the velvet-skinned kind with the miniature lock and key that Mum could have probably picked with her fingernail.

It held my secrets, like which boy I had my eye on that week. At the time I thought it held my heart. It didn’t. In fact, it was more of a general account of my day-to-day activities rather than a revelation of anything deeply personal.

Consequently my love affair with my journal didn’t last too long. My life wasn’t interesting enough to record all the details.

Yet now as an adult I truly believe in the healing power of journaling.

When I talk about journaling people begin to fidget and avoid eye contact. Like me, they may have kept a journal as a child, but it’s not something they have carried into adulthood.

But when I talk about soul writing—the practice of writing our personal stories on paper—I have their attention. Uncomfortable attention, but they’re listening nonetheless.

The journal is a great tool for soul writing because it keeps the stirrings of your heart contained in one place. But I always say as long as you get it down, it can be on the back of a napkin if that works for you.

My own journey with soul writing took me quite by surprise. A few years ago I came alongside a friend who had launched an online magazine. She asked me to help with some editing and if I would like to start writing a monthly post. I was honoured to help.

I had no idea how life changing it would be for me.

The magazine is a global community of women who love. We share our stories from a pretty vulnerable place, something I wasn’t too comfortable with at first, despite having been a writer all my life.

Why do we do this? Put ourselves out there and reveal our hearts?

Because stories connect us. We believe in a global community of women who share their stories as a way to relate to and empower one another. I see it happening on a daily basis.

Since I have been sharing my story on She Loves Magazine I have discovered how writing can heal. And I have had to trust in the process along the way, to believe that writing the story I have always been ashamed of would help me to see it from a different perspective, to find the good parts that have shaped who I am.

My story began long ago but I didn’t start writing about it in the way I needed to until the beginning of this year.

When the New Year hit I experienced the kind of depression I’ve never felt before. It’s something I’ve grappled with for years but never have I walked through a period quite so dark.

And each time I came to write my monthly article for the magazine, I resolved to be upbeat, the overcomer, the one who was doing just fine. In reality, I believed no one would want to read about how I couldn’t pull myself out of bed in the mornings or how tainted my world really looked.

I wanted to hide behind a façade. But I couldn’t. I had to tell the truth—I simply couldn’t ignore how I was feeling.

So I began to write about the depression, biting nails and hitting the delete button along the way, trying to censor not only what I wrote, but also who I was.

I was ashamed of my illness.

I thought I had managed to find the balance between telling people what I was going through and not revealing too much of myself. Until I sent a draft to my friend and editor. She told me to go deeper, said she wanted to hear more of my heart and understand why I felt the way I did.

I went to my office, head hanging low, wondering how on earth I could write from a deeper place without breaking my heart and perhaps the hearts of those who loved me.

I put on the music I often listened to as a teenager by composer Ennio Morricone. It took me back to that young and vulnerable place. And I wrote from there. From the heart of the wounded sixteen year-old instead of the 36 year-old looking back.

I could barely see my computer screen for all the tears that fell. But once I was in, there was no coming out until that part of me said what she wanted to say.

I had never written like that before. Not in twenty years of writing on a regular basis.

I came out of that experience feeling like a huge weight had been removed from my shoulders.

But I was scared. Scared of publically sharing my story.

It was published a week later. I remember the morning well: making my pot of earl grey tea; switching on my computer, hands clenched tightly around my mug.  Opening up the article and facing the fact that right then anyone in the world could be reading those words that left me vulnerable and exposed.

Already there were several comments. Not the judgmental ones I feared, or the ones that would tell me to lighten up or get over it. No. Every single response was one of love, support and encouragement. I felt held. I felt like my story mattered.

That story was the first of many and each and every one of them has carried me through an ongoing healing process. It has also given me a strong vision of how writing and sharing our stories heals us.

Because writing our story is the first step towards facing those parts of ourselves we’d rather leave buried. And sharing our story is the next step because it connects us—it reminds us we aren’t alone. In revealing our own truth, we give others the courage to reveal theirs.

Photo by martinak15

23 thoughts on “How Writing Heals Me, Again And Again”

  1. I understand completely of the fears of sharing things with others. I’ve buried my pains and experiences deep within before as well. Its a wonderful thing to be able to share what seems to rule over your life. I’m mostly hesitant with sharing who I really am when writing on posts and such cause of the very fear of being judged. I shared my life’s experiences of pain with one person before and she broke my heart really so it’s been a bit difficult to expose myself to anyone with those deep feelings due to the fact that possibly she rejected who I was even though she is my wife. I’ve been separated for a year and a half now cause I’m not really a believer of divorce cause of my christian beliefs. I’m not so sure how someone can be so brave as to expose who they are to the entire world when most of the time I tend to stray from the line of attention from anyone really. I do find it to be commendable, though. You are stronger and I have been for 27 years of living. Maybe, I will try to confide in the healing of a journal as well. I am certainly in a position where I’m really determined to change and learn to let go of the past.

    1. Vernon – I’m so sorry that your challenges with your wife have made you afraid to open up again. I wholeheartedly agree with Claire’s experience of sharing what was in her heart – because it provided her with immeasurable healing – but I think there is also a flip side to allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. In one sense, we have to be prepared to take a risk and expose ourselves for the chance to heal. But on the other hand people sometimes have to earn the right to hear our stories. I think you have to listen to your heart to know when it’s time to share and what/how much you will share. But just expressing yourself in a way that feels safe (writing in a notebook that no one else will read for the time being) is a really great way to start!

    2. Hi Vernon,
      I understand completely – sharing your story can be a very scary thing, especially if it’s online. Perhaps for you sharing your story in the pages of your journal would be a good way to go, or with a journal writing group, or even in a memoir writing class. All of these would be great outlets to help you let go of the past. I hope you find healing – thanks for sharing.

    3. Claire,
      Your blog has caught my eye, as I too love to write a lot about myself, my experiences, knowledge I acquired, and so on. In fact, it’s not that I love to write – I can’t simply stop myself from writing, as my desire to share with the world is unstoppable.

      Writing does help emotionally, and I feel I have grown emotionally since I started writing my blog. I exposed what I have gone through in my life, in hopes that someone else would find it useful.

      And I see how the number of followers grows, and more and more people read my blog and web site.

      Thank you for sharing your story!

  2. Claire – I relate to your story so much! Even though I’ve written extensively for various jobs throughout my career, keeping a journal and/or writing/sharing anything remotely personal was something I avoided. In past years when I would write something that made me feel exposed, I would delete it or hide it and avoid writing more. Over the couple of years, I’ve taken risks with guest blogging and posting to my own site. I’ve also made it a habit to carry an old fashioned notebook and commit to regularly writing about my feelings and emotional challenges. Like Vernon mentions, it’s pretty scary, but I strongly feel that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is one of the bravest things we can do.

    1. So good, Stephanie. I hope that embarking on that journey of writing down your thoughts and feelings has helped you move forward in your life. You are very brave to do so. Thanks for reading and commenting :-)

  3. Thanks for sharing this today! I’m preparing to write some soul deep posts in the next few weeks – my depression, my struggle to become pregnant and my son’s battle with leukemia battle (he won!). I have been wondering how deeply I should share and I feel better after reading this.

    I’ve struggled with depression so many times since I was a teenager. After finding out I was allergic to wheat, I thought that was the only reason but apparently not after just going thru a bout last year. {sigh} Glad you found the support you needed and the peace of writing it out.

    1. Hi Sherri – wow, you’ve been through a lot. I hope that these new posts you write help to bring healing and create a shift in perspective. I think that the need to write things out never goes away – we may write a batch of posts about one thing and then need to write another batch a few weeks/months later. It’s that continual process that becomes a resting place. i hope your posts help you to grow and heal :-)

    2. Hi Sean – I think it’s okay to destroy what we write because the catharsis is in the process – kind of like the unsent letters idea. Good for you for going deeper with your story – it’s definitely an act of courage, but very worthwhile I believe :-)

  4. I can’t fight back my tears as I write this. Am currently going through depression and for the first time in life, I was recently hit by anxiety attack. Someone just broke my heart after being open and vulnerable to him, he rejected me badly which left me wondering if there are any good men left out there. Am a believer but recently I have found myself stuck in those dark places which scares me. Thanks for sharing, am a journal keeper and as you said, it helps me feel better when I write my true feelings. My writting pad servers like an active listening ear- she is my trusted confidant.

    1. Hi Mary – I’m so sorry to hear you are going through depression. It’s a scary place to be. Keep sharing your heart in your journal and believing in yourself. I pray that this experience won’t stop you from trusting and believing in the goodness of so many men out there.

  5. I have worked through some of my worst fears and depression by writing down what I was feeling. I would usually end up shredding what I wrote when I was done because I was so afraid someone would read it and judge me. I guess even worse than that someone would know me.

    I have so much respect for your courage to go “deeper” as you put it. We tend to think the worst of what people will say when in reality they tend to be more compassionate than imagined.

    keep it up!

  6. I truly love reading your blog. I too have realized the healing power of soul writing, it has helped me through several of the darker moments in my life. If anything, my words on (virtual) paper have become the outlet for many emotions that course through me. Please continue writing, and if you don’t mind, I would like to link your blog to mine.

    1. Hi wifeinthecity (have to call you that since I don’t know your name!) – thanks so much for your kind words. Words on virtual paper are all great too – that’s where it happened for me. Looking forward to connecting with you more and sure you can link to my blog :-)

  7. A part of me has been wanting to stretch myself in my blogging and other writing, hard to ignore this feeling now after reading your inspiring post. Thank you for sharing, Claire.

  8. Claire, I can’t possibly explain how beautifully your article is written. Reading it truly touches one’s heart and soul. Thank you for being you and the generosity and openness to share your story with the rest of the world. To my opinion, this is exactly what this world needs.
    Just imagine it as a place where everyone could express themselves fully and completely, without any fear of being hurt, judged or else. And you are making this difference :)

  9. This was a beautiful piece, Claire. It’s interesting…for years I’ve written to myself along a very defined path…both morning and evening; and I’ve blogged and written books on various topics. It was helpful because many times I’ve gone off on tangents where my emotions led. More than once I’ve turned into a puddle of mud while writing…but came out stronger and clearer on the other side.

    Roundabout way of saying, if you’re not sure what to journal about, it’s perfectly OK to start with something routine, like what you intend to accomplish. Enough writing, with a little bit of bravery and play…and your truth will come out. :)

    1. I completely agree, Larry. I think that expressive writing is critical to any other writing projects we may embark on – novel, memoir, blog etc, and that it does take a little bravery along the way. It sounds like journaling has been a huge part of your process and an extremely useful tool for you. Thanks for your kind words and for reading :-)

  10. I also like to write down what is troubling me, or what I’m enthusiastic about. I write about these feelings on my blog and express them in my music. Stories really do connect us. There is nobody who’s not in complete self-denial who cannot relate to your words one way or another.

    Also, people prefer to read a real story, than a fantasy reality which makes them feel bad about themselves. Putting up a facade is not only leaving you stuck with your feelings, but it also doesn’t liberate your audience.

    Would you feel empowered to hear a success story of a person that could’ve been you, or a piece that seems to come from another world? Exposing yourself is liberating, because it puts the ego in the background and our sense of belonging on the main stage.

    Along the way you get everything returned and more than what you could’ve wished for.

  11. So well said! I love this: “Exposing yourself is liberating, because it puts the ego in the background and our sense of belonging on the main stage.” Exactly – writing helps us get out of the way of ourselves. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and commenting :-)

  12. Hi, I hopped over to your site via Facebook. Not an item I normally read, but I really enjoy your ideas nonetheless. A big heads up for composing some thing worthy of reading through!

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