My past trauma has been on my mind lately, and it seems I can’t stop writing about it.
While away on a trip, I rediscovered some new triggers for my sexual abuse through a text message from an old friend. I had my phone in my hand when it happened, and I was able to write as many of my feelings as I could in my notes app.
My unedited, unfiltered, tearful ramblings would have to hold me over until I could get home, sit in front of my computer, and really write.
That’s how we work as writers. We live and love and lose, and then we write. How the rest of the world heals from life, I’ll never understand.
But for us writers, writing is everything. Even writing about the painful things — especially writing about the painful things. It’s how we heal.
When we write of our trauma, we relive those dark days
Those low moments. Those feelings of vulnerability. We place ourselves, as briefly as our hearts can withstand, into our former selves so we can remember and write.
Almost as if we’re floating above, narrating our hurt, and remembering the pain, but this time, with wings to keep us safe and off the ground.
Of course, no one wants to remember the abuse they suffered under someone else’s power. No one wants to relive it. No one wants to face the criticism there is when we speak up and share our trauma.
So why come forward at all? Why rewind and go back to those dark days? Why bring up old wounds and write about our pain?
Because we are finally ready to heal.
We have lived and learned, and we want to give courage to those who have already gone through something similar and also to those who have not, and hopefully never will.
Because I’ve been writing more than usual about my trauma, I’ve been finding myself exhausted after every piece I write.
After I publish an article, I feel absolutely drained, with no desire to write articles for clients or poetry for myself.
I feel sad, even though I’m writing to heal. My eyes feel tired from the crying, and my heart feels especially heavy.
I haven’t written so many consecutive emotionally exhausting articles in a long time. It’s almost as if I forgot how grueling the process is when we heal through our writing.
Yes, it is therapy, it helps to ease the pain, and it brings me as close to closure as I can get, but writing emotional content is not easy.
I never knew I needed to heal after writing about healing, but apparently, I do.
So, I made a list of some helpful things I can do to fill my heart after writing about heavy material, and I wanted to share those here, just in case someone isn’t practicing self-care after writing about their trauma.
1. Reach out to a friend
After writing an emotionally exhausting article, reach out to a friend in the writing community who also writes to heal.
They will understand your exhaustion more than anyone else. It helps to have someone around who knows exactly what you’re feeling.
For me, it’s my Fearless She Wrote co-editors, Gillian and Maggie. I head over to our group chat, and these girls bring me back to the real world with laughter, empathy, and kindness.
2. Call someone that will make you smile
If you don’t have anyone in the writing community to reach out to (hello, I’m always here), you can phone a friend.
Call someone that will make you laugh, someone that will listen, and someone who won’t make you feel bad for feeling bad.
3. After you click publish on that heavy piece, go outside
Take the dog for a walk or go for a run. Get some Vitamin-D on that skin, and some fresh air in those lungs.
Try to leave your phone behind and take in Mama Nature. Close your eyes, meditate and breathe her in. She has amazing healing powers.
4. Avoid social media
After you publish, do your best to stay off social media.
In my experience, mindless scrolling through Twitter never gives me the emotional pick-me-up that I need after writing about my pain.
5. Don’t reread
Finally, after you publish a sensitive article, don’t sit and reread it.
Don’t refresh your stats. Take care of yourself and walk away from your words, even for a little bit.
You’ve just opened up old wounds, and the writing will help, but give it time to work its magic.
After I submitted a heavy and emotional piece to a magazine yesterday, I put on my walking shoes and took my pup Neville Longbottom for a walk.
Without a thought about any deadlines or unfinished articles, I left my phone behind and soaked in some badly needed sun. We walked a mile total, and my little old dachshund was as ready to go home as I was. I was tired, but a good kind of tired.
I felt refreshed and alive, and more importantly, I felt satisfied and happy that I had written about something so hard to write about.
There is incredible beauty in vulnerability.
Writing about your pain brings out a special part of you. It allows you to be the stronger you in the present and take care of your former self.
Writing to heal is, in a way, writing as we breathe until our breath becomes our words. It’s a beautiful process, but please don’t neglect your heart after you write about your trauma.
There are enough of us on this platform, also writing about our pain, to hold each other accountable.
After you publish, if you’re not feeling great, give yourself a moment to breathe and catch up.
The rest of the writing community will be here waiting for you when you’re ready to come back.
Jessica Mendez is a full-time writer living in Las Vegas, NV. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from NAU and her master’s degree in family and human development from ASU. In 2018, she left her career in mental health to pursue a career in writing. She is currently working on her debut novel and a collection of bilingual poetry. Follow her on Twitter and Medium to read more of her work.
Image courtesy of Vlada Karpovich.