Tag: writing

Writing About a Traumatic Experience

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Writing has always been therapeutic for me. There’s no question that writing can be very helpful to your well-being, but it can be a great help specifically in processing traumatic experiences. Many times it can help you untangle very confused thoughts that are enmeshed with emotions. It can help you gain perspective. Sometimes it helps you uncover more memories that you didn’t even know you have, and somehow it’s a lot like clearing out a blockage so that you can move forward.

Based on experience, I would recommend a few things before you delve in.

Don’t force it. Sometimes you’re just not quite ready to confront your emotions yet. It’s okay. Don’t traumatize yourself in the process of understanding your trauma. Sometimes after a traumatic experience, it’s all you can do to face the challenges of living day to day. Give yourself a break if you can’t do anything beyond that yet.

Write as little as you want at first. Some people think that writing about your trauma is like opening the floodgates. Many times, you don’t end up holed up in a cabin, feverishly writing the days away. More often than not it starts out with just a few lines a day. Testing out the waters, seeing how you feel about it. This is especially true if you don’t really write too much anyway. Even if you love to write, don’t be disappointed with yourself if all you can manage to write are two sentences.

Learn to stop when you need to stop. When you become emotionally overwhelmed, stop and put down the pen. You can push past some walls today, but part of taking care of yourself is knowing that there are walls to be conquered another time.

Be honest. Don’t worry about your grammar, or your prose. Nobody’s going to edit your journal. Just be honest when you write. The first time I wrote about my trauma, the words felt strange coming out of me and onto the blank paper. But then you should be able to write candidly for yourself, right? You should be honest with yourself through your own writing. What have you got to lose, anyway?

Seek counseling. I wouldn’t recommend writing as the only therapy. It’s just something you can do to help yourself. While the benefits can be tremendous, there are simply some kinds of trauma that will necessitate you talking with a counselor.

Re-engage. Writing is a very lonely exercise. It’s just you and your thoughts. It’s good to re-engage or reconnect with people too, when you feel that it’s right to do so. Isolating yourself for too long while recovering can be harmful.

I found it strange that writing about a trauma has helped me think less about it. I find myself not repeating the memory over and over in my mind anymore. It’s like my brain stopped skipping on a broken track and was finally able to engage the memory in a more helpful, less destructive way. It’s like the end of a hostage taking drama that was only happening inside my head.

Just a quick note, though. Not everybody responds to therapeutic writing the same way. It’s not the silver bullet that will make all pain go away. For many people though, like me, it’s been tremendously helpful.

Another Day, Another Blank Page

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Keeping a journal is a simple but very meaningful daily exercise. There are a lot of studies that show the many benefits of keeping a journal, and being somebody who has kept one for as long as I can remember, I can attest to this. Keeping a journal entails a conscious effort to find a quiet mind space. You can be in a busy cafe and still be alone with your thoughts. You can be in the middle of a busy day and you pause for a while, collect your thoughts and write. It’s completely relaxing. Many of my best ideas for poems, short stories and articles just popped in my head while I was writing a journal entry about a completely different thing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo how exactly do you start keeping a journal? You just do. At the heart of it, keeping a journal is supposed to be simple and satisfying, not a burdensome chore that you force on yourself.

I can give a few tips on how keeping a journal can be more enjoyable, though. It’s a pleasure to share these with you:

Picking a Notebook
For people who love keeping journals, picking a notebook is part of a very fun ritual. My very patient husband can attest to the fact that I used to spend hours upon hours, hopping from one store to the next just trying to pick the right notebook. I open each one up, feel the paper, sniff it, check the spine…it’s so much fun. I rationalize that since the notebook will be with me for a few weeks and I’ll pour out my thoughts to it, it’s gotta be something I will enjoy carrying around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI keep several journals with me. I keep a few small ones for random thoughts and for when it’s not practical to bring a big bag that fits my big journal. The photo above is of my traveler’s notebook from a local business (Alunsina Handbound Books).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy current go-to large journal is also from a local manufacturer, Elias Notebooks, which I just recently discovered through a friend. I also have their small notebooks for other types of writing. It has saved me hours and hours of looking for the right notebook because…it is the right notebook, for me at least. I guess the bottomline is just pick a notebook that you’ll be happy to write in frequently. Don’t overcomplicate it if you don’t want to, or overcomplicate it as much as you want, as long as it makes you happy.

Privacy
When I was in college, I wrote my journals in Alibata because I didn’t want people looking in it and reading what I wrote. Now, I don’t really mind. If you’re conscious about other people finding your journal, you may want to consider replacing people’s names with letters. like “B talked to me today about…” or not writing about people too much. Remember that as much as reading your journal is a breach of your privacy, some people just don’t get it. I personally don’t write too much negative thoughts in my journal. I concentrate on edifying thoughts. I write about negative life experiences in a way that could be helpful in either understanding it or processing my thoughts about it so I can leave it behind faster.  Continue reading “Another Day, Another Blank Page”

Write Through It

I came across an article through one of the pen people at FPN-P’s Facebook group. I found it quite interesting, although most of us in the FP collecting community already know this to be true. The article: How to Deal with Anxiety, Tragedy or Heartache.

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Writing has always been very therapeutic for me, and this article gives some insight on why it could be effective for many people.

A lot of people who are going through some stressful and emotionally difficult situations may find comfort in expressing their thoughts to people who are “good listeners”, like sympathetic family, friends or practitioners like therapists and counselors. However, there are people who find talking with other people a bit difficult. People can judge you, treat you differently when they hear about your struggles. You can’t predict how they will react, and what they will say. I’m not saying that talking to people isn’t important, I believe that it is. I just think that there are times when you also need to confront your emotions by yourself, and expressive writing can help you with that.

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Expressive writing can help you slow down, untangle your convoluted thoughts and emotions, and examine them closely. It can help unburden your mind and as you exert more effort in putting your thoughts into words, your emotions become less abstract and more tangible.

When my mother died, I avoided writing. I have always kept a journal since I was a little girl, and so not being able to write is something new to me. I could not confront my emotions about my mother’s death, and I had so much difficulty talking about it with people in exactly the way I need to talk about it. I could not verbalize my anger and my grief. When I finally picked up my pen and started writing, I calmed down, I was able to process my grief, I adjusted better.

I took expressive writing to a deeper level and started writing my thoughts about my daily devotions. Not just note-taking (though I did that too), but journal entries that expounded on what I learned and how I felt about what I read. Soon I was publishing some of those thoughts on my blog when I had the time.

Writing has been so comforting for me. Sometimes, when it’s turning into one of those days and one of those days is turning into one of those weeks, I just write. Even without any idea on why I’m feeling so withdrawn and sad, writing comforts me. Often I would come to an understanding of my sadness, and I would always feel a lot lighter. A lot less burdened. Even just writing my favorite Psalms can open up my mind and my heart to better expression. What’s even more helpful is when I personalize these verses and make them my own.  Continue reading “Write Through It”