Yeah, I’ll admit it. When I first started writing this blog a little over a year ago, I was a mess. I was so stuck in my trauma I couldn’t move forward. I had big dreams, but I felt like I was constantly trying to pull myself out of quicksand.
Cut to a year later, and I’m livin’ the life. My new business is doing great, my health is better than it’s been in years, and we’re living in a beautiful new home. Oh, and my family and friends are the best — top-notch, I’d say. Better than anyone else’s. Don’t fight me on this ’cause you’ll lose.
Well, okay, so what created such a dramatic shift in a year’s time? And through a pandemic, no less? I mean, I’ve been out of Scientology for 13 years, right? I was “doing the work” all that time, wasn’t I?
I mean, I spent 12 of those years watching and reading about others’ experiences. Talking to ex-Scientology friends. Getting involved in the anti-Scientology websites and social media pages.
But I was still having the nightmares. I was still filled with so much anxiety that I had to be medicated. That’s no diss to meds, by the way — they saved me when I needed saving. Now, I’m cool without them. But if I need them again, I’ll be the first one to ask for them.
So… what changed? Did I get therapy? Nope. I’m still gun-shy about all that, based on my 20 years of sitting in front of another person and telling them my life story and expecting to be helped — sucker! Again, no diss on therapy. I’ve seen it help so many people.
OK, so without therapy, did I just all of a sudden wake up one day and things were better? Again, nope. All I did differently was to write about it — a LOT. And THAT was the secret for me.
Writing = pain? Maybe, but not forever.
Remember this scene in the movie “Something’s Gotta Give?” Erica (Diane Keaton) just broke up with Harry (Jack Nicholson) and can’t stop the waterworks as she’s writing a play about it. Boy, can I relate — not to the breaking-up-with-a-boyfriend part, but a breakup just the same.
The whole reason I started writing this blog was that I couldn’t keep the pain bottled up anymore. Once I got past the fear and began writing, it was like I’d taken my finger out of a hole in the Hoover Dam: It just came exploding out of me. After a few months of this, I moved from the blog to writing a book — sorry about that, by the way. I know you’ve been waiting for the next installment.
I’ve been writing my book for the better part of this pandemic-filled year. It pulls no punches on my experiences before, during, and after Scientology. It was also the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write — and I used to write up to 18 hours a day about the glories of Scientology when I was in the Sea Org, so that’s saying something!
There were some chapters that were so tough, I could only write a few sentences before having to get up and walk away. Those were the ones that took the most time. But they were also the ones I really needed to write for my mental health.
Now, I’m on the third draft of the book — editing is basically rewriting, you know — and I’ve noticed something interesting: I’ll go back through a super tough chapter and start editing it, and realize that I feel just fine as I’m reading through what I wrote. Understand, these were chapters where I would get physically ill while writing them. Now, I was just looking at them and reworking them with a detached viewpoint. No pain, no grief, no nothing.
What the hell? Where did all that trauma go? Apparently, trauma lessens if you write about it. It did for me, anyway. So of course, I had to research this because… well, I’m a writer…
Writing to heal — who knew? Ummm… everyone.
My research didn’t take very long. When I typed in “Writing to Heal” I got 134 million Google results. So yeah, it’s a thing. The basic concept is this: By writing about traumatic experiences, in a free-form, pen-to-paper, journaly way, you can:
- organize your thoughts around the experience and give meaning to it;
- understand your emotions and be able to regulate them better;
- break free of the endless mental recycling of the event (brood much? I did);
- reduce stress and strengthen your immune system.
There’s probably more, but that was what I found after a quick search. I have to say, journaling wasn’t a new concept to me. I’m just not a journaler. I’ve never kept a diary for more than a few days, even as an angsty teenager. I don’t keep a daily journal now.
I can’t say I haven’t tried, because I most certainly have. I always wanted to be one of those “longhand” writers. But it just never seems to come out fast enough for me.
Good thing I have a trusty laptop, right? I can pound away on the keyboard, and get all those thoughts out as fast as I have them. But hey, that’s me.
Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be able to write longhand for more than a brief stint. But if I can’t, does it really matter? Does it make me less of a writer? Less of a deep thinker? Nah.
What I can say for sure is that writing about my trauma has healed me in a way that no amount of talking about it could have. It’s helped me to make sense of it all, to see the benefits from my experiences, and to move on.
Now, nothing can hold me back. There’s no more “can’t do it”, “not good enough”, “don’t deserve it” left. I’m pursuing my dreams with enthusiasm and gratitude.
As Irene Cara said, “What a feeling.”