How to Stay Connected While Writing Your Trauma

in #writing3 years ago

If you enjoy understatements, here's one: healing after trauma is hard work. I often find my lips have glued themselves shut when my therapist zeros in on the traumas most alive in me. I'd be terrible at poker.

But here's the thing--I'm great at putting my head down and getting through. I am strong in multiple ways. When it comes to healing, I don't give myself a break. We found the tip of the iceberg? Great. Let's haul that whole sucker out of the water and chip it into slush in the next 45 minutes. Go! It's a game of catch and release for me with transformation in-between. But sometimes, even with my therapist grounding me, I get lost in the process.

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An aspect of trauma is it can make reality slippery. I have post-traumatic stress disorder from violence in my early years. It comes with periodic flashbacks and anxiety attacks. Both experiences are expressions of a disconnection from reality. While a flashback will end itself, an anxiety attack won't.

Consider this: if you've ever panicked you know that you get lost in a possible outcome, however likely or unlikely that outcome is. Maybe you're standing on a bridge on a windy day and you start to think the wind will blow you over the edge. Maybe you are lying in bed at night and you are suddenly afraid there is a monster under the bed even though you checked before you got in and you know, rationally, that nothing is there. It doesn't matter. You still have to work to calm yourself down.

In my trauma writing classes and as a writing coach, I invite participants to access their trauma and transform it on the page. The first step is saying, "Yes. This happened to me." Even though people come to me with that as their goal, it is fucking terrifying.

It's easy to get lost during step one, so I have a whole toolbox full of tools designed for the trauma writer. It includes relief projects and objects, writing prompts geared toward grounding, reminders that writers are safe where they are right now, breath work and the mantra for every trauma session I teach:

image from pixabay and edited with Canva

I repeat it at intervals. I keep it written on a notecard and prop it up during classes. I send it in emails. I shout it at myself when I am alone with my computer and I find myself in tears and shaking, my body numb and cold and my seat seemingly disappeared out from under me. Panic is not a joke. Fear is not a joke. But neither of them define or own me. I own them. I am not my work.

I am not the words I write.

I am not the experiences I've had.

I am not even the body that was hurt.

I am not what I was told I would be. I am a success.

I am more than what I was said I could be. I am more than my anatomy. I am a friend, lover, mother, mentor, writer, teacher and WHO I CHOOSE TO BE.

Trauma is my work, but* I am not my work*.

If you find yourself panicking, no matter your situation, remember that the disconnection does not define you. You are not this moment. WE are not this moment. We are more complicated, more capable, more beautiful than any aspect of ourselves being expressed in this moment and any we may choose to put on the page. We are not our work.

Do you have a mantra? I would love to know yours.

Don't forget, best comment on this account or @nat5an each week gets 5SBD reward.

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Traumatic experiences are the hardest to heal, as the brain decides to replay them whenever he wants. We are taught to avoid triggers but that helps only to a certain extent.

Anxiety, hmm, he is an old friend,
we know each other for so long
once got friendly over a bong.
Whenever he pops by,
I turn all grey and shy
I run and grab my quill,
to put down on paper
every thought
every squeal
every single
f****** shake!
Spillink ink
is my

Yesssss. This is the stuff release is made of. I'm glad you write. Love this piece too. <3

I get many valuable lessons from your story to be able to overcome the trauma in yourself, thank you for sharing your story, i like it @shawnamawna

Thank you and you're welcome. I'm glad I can be of support.

This is huge. I have too much familiarity with anxiety and panic attacks, as well as getting wrapped up in my writing. In fact, the last time I had a major anxiety attack (an all-nighter of distress) was just after I published my novel, WILD HORSE HEART.

The way I talked myself down was exactly what you said here: I am not my work. It's just a story. No matter what has happened to me, no matter what might happen in the future, I am worthy and wonderful exactly as I am. Sometimes I don't believe that 100%, but I'm working on it. ;)

Fabulous post. Great reminder! Thank you.

I am really happy that you knew to separate yourself from your story. It can feel like our art is part of our body, and when the art comes from our bodily experiences, the letting go can become even trickier. Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

That is a very good mantra to have. I have recently started writing about trauma I experienced 20 years ago and which I had only told 1 person about. It does really help me process it and give it a place, but I do have to be careful that I don't get stuck on it. Telling myself that I am not defined by what happened to me will help with that, so thank you.

@isabellelauren, I'm grateful you shared this. No matter how far back the trauma existed, it can still feel alive to us. Not getting stuck is an ongoing battle. I hope this does help you, and I hope you check back here because I will be posting on other trauma writing tricks of the trade. I genuinely believe everyone should have access to this practice. It's wonderful to hear you are healing by taking control of your own narrative.

Great post, we are whatever we want to be, and everything that was done to us in the past is in the past, and those past experiences are lessons so that in the future the same thing doesn't happen again. I had bad past experiences, there is no way that i'm letting those experiences repeat again in the future, and i will walk over anyone that tries to the same things to me.

I love that you recognize negative patterns and are choosing to create boundaries to prevent their repetition. This is hard work. I wish you the best in your continued self-protection through awareness.

Trauma is my work, but I am not my work

This is such a powerful stament.

In my experience, I have discovered that when I'm happy, I rarely feel like I want to sit down and create something. I feel like somehow, my strongest emotions are those related to my traumas and my joyful moments pale in comparation. So I don't know how to portrait them in my art.

Maybe I just use my writing as a catharsis. To bleed my wounds into the paper so they can stop staining my life. So sometimes is very difficult to separate myself from my pieces. Seeing posts like yours, make me realize that it is possible.

I find your words very moving and I'll definitely try to adopt them into my life. Thank you.

Bleeding into the page is a great technique for self-care. If you work best when you engage hard topics, a worthy challenge is reframing those negative topics so they have positive endings. Another lesson I teach is we get to choose how our stories end. In doing so, we get to practice repatterning our thinking so we don't have to sit in negativity to reach positivity. In other words, we don't have to bleed to heal.

Wow. This was a powerful piece. My mantra is "I can withstand the storm, because I am the storm. "

Oooh. I love that. Over the weekend I felt pain and I embraced it abd told my body is was positive transformation. I like the re-routing of expectation in being the storm.

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