Writing as therapy

I have been through some very tough times in my life.

I’m not going to bore you with the details here. Most people experience times when the whole world seems to come crashing down around them. Some people seem to get more than their fair share of knocks, yet they survive. They get on with life. Some even have the courage to use the calamity to motivate them to make life even better. I salute them.

One constant I have discovered is that writing can assist the person going through tough times, whether that be an illness, bereavement, lost of employment or abuse of some form. Mind you, I didn’t discover this for myself. A few moments ago I did a Google search which turned up over four million references under the search term “writing as therapy.”

What are some ways that writing can bring an easing of the pain, the hurts, the disappointments and the frustrations of life?

Journalling

Keeping a journal or diary of your feelings and what you are experiencing is an excellent way of helping you through the dark times. I had a prolonged period of clinical depression a few years ago. Although it was a struggle to record my feelings and the events of that time, I believe it was a significant part of my healing process. The strength of a journal is that it is private; no-one else need read what you have written – unless you choose to show them. A journal can also be very useful years later when reflecting on your experiences; you can see how far you’ve come and the progress you’ve made.

Poetry

Distilling your thoughts and feelings into a few succinct words is an excellent way of crystallizing those feelings. It is a very powerful and compelling method of dealing with hurts and other emotions. Don’t get too hung up about making it all rhyme – unless that really turns you on; just let it all come out in the words.

Articles

Magazines editors are often keen to receive articles detailing your experiences in coping with illness. Do your research and find out more about your condition and incorporate this into your article. A word of warning however: do your homework and find a magazine suitable for you article, not just any publication. For example, do not submit an article on coping with the loss of a baby to a magazine that deals only with treating diabetes – unless you can make a very strong connection between the two.

Letters

Letter writing is almost a lost art these days, but my guess is that most people still get a thrill out of receiving a letter from a friend or relative. It would be great to see the art of letter writing enjoy a renaissance. Highly doubtful in our new world of hurry, emails, instant messaging and people who are time poor. Despite this, you can buck the trend and write a letter to a trusted friend or relative detailing what you are going through. I did this a few years ago and it was very useful. My brother could not give me any suggestions which would help, but just the act of sharing my concerns and deepest feelings with him was part of the healing process.

Lists

Get two pieces of paper and make two lists. On the first list, write down all the things you hate about your life, all the bad things that have happened, all the frustrations in your life, all the disappointments and what getting you down. On the second piece of paper, list all the good things that have happened to you, all the positive things about your life, all of your achievements and the people you love and those who love you.

Now burn or shred the first list, but keep rereading and adding to the second list. It’s a bit like the suggestion in that old hymn we used to sing in church, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one.”

Send cards

No matter what your condition, I can guarantee you there is often someone you know who is worse off. Well, maybe not. Whatever your situation, you will undoubtedly know someone who is struggling or ill just like you. Maybe not the same condition but that doesn’t matter. Get – or better yet – make some “Get well” cards. Write a longish note of encouragement inside the card. Don’t just put “Thinking of you. Get better soon.” That just makes me want to… no I won’t go on. Add a little gift if you know what the person will appreciate.

Song writing

This is not something I have ever done, despite loving music. I do not have the skills necessary to write a song, but I did once write the words of a song that has been published. If you are musical, or someone close to you can help you, writing a cheerful, uplifting song may be just the therapy you need. It’s worth considering.

Good health – and

Good writing.

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