|(Photo credit: Hayley Bouchard)|
Maybe you can relate, if you’ve reached a standstill in your writing or have set your memoirs aside . . . and left them there.
Today I’m here to tell you a bit of my story and to help you learn how to deal with any pain you may be experiencing.
The reason I’m having such a hard time is not due to a lack of planning, but to the unexpected emotional turbulence that comes with writing about painful experiences.
You see, I was raped when I was a virgin. I was fourteen, then. It devastated me, and my life took off in a different direction. I ended up quitting high school four times. I also had a baby when I was a teenager, and became a single mom. My son is now 23; I’m 42.
Although I graduated from university and became a high school Math and English teacher, I partook in several other activities that were detrimental to my emotional health. I became a prostitute after being promiscuous for years. I did drugs, gambled, stole, and tried killing myself. Yes, I was a mess.
I’ve been physically and mentally abused, and have abused myself.
In short, I’ve been through hell.
Judge me if you will; I don’t care. But know this: I am not a bad person.
In fact, I have many wonderful qualities and am highly skilled.
I’ve also had several health issues and was in an accident that nearly cost me my right leg.
Last year, I nearly died when my appendix burst. This event served as the wake-up call I needed, and the ensuing events have changed my life in a positive, dramatic way.
I re-connected with my son. Without going into too much detail here, I’ll simply invite you to read How Re-Uniting With My Son Impacted My Life. It’s quite the story!
When I started my memoirs, I was hyped up and had lofty goals. My original plan was to write a bit each day. This plan didn’t work for me and so I revised it, deciding to write each week. Then that plan didn’t work, either, because when I started writing, I wrote about the negative stuff that’s happened to me and didn’t balance it with the positive.
I ended up re-living certain things in my mind and bringing my past baggage to the surface; baggage I thought I had already dealt with. As it turns out, closure is a myth. For me, anyway.
I also tried writing when I was inspired to do so. This worked well for a while but then I stopped getting inspired. It became easier to write about other things, or not write at all. Writing blog posts became my priority because they were less painful to handle. Coping was not an issue when I wrote about non-personal things. But I stopped reaching my readers – they wanted to hear my true stories!
My blog theme emerged: True Tales Tuesdays and Featured Fridays. On Tuesdays, I satisfy my loyal readers (who I now consider my friends!) and on Fridays, I satisfy myself, other writers and authors, and hundreds of other people with my various topics including guest posts, author interviews, book giveaways, social media articles, and blogging tips. My blog has become more popular as a result. But it is still very little. I actually like the intimacy it offers; it is now my safe haven.
In October, I told myself I would work more diligently toward my writing goals in November, and I did – to a point. But then I ended up accepting a blogging award in which I outed my rapist. This was the hardest thing I have had to write – ever. I had previously touched upon this topic when I wrote my blog post about Writing Is Therapeutic and Helped Me Cope With Being Raped but I was not prepared for the tumultuous uproar of panic, hatred and confusion I experienced when I found out my rapist was online. (Side note – I have only owned a laptop since January of this year.)
Since I, like many bloggers, schedule my posts, I had a couple of weeks to wait until it was published before I finally felt emotionally better. The support that I received from my regular group of readers was amazing and helped me in more ways than I ever thought possible.
I was not judged; I was loved. I was not hated; I was congratulated. I was not ridiculed or belittled; I was made to feel ten feet tall.
You may think me brave for speaking out so bluntly. Yes, I was scared. I was terrified, in fact. Actually, I still am, sometimes. But what I have learned is this: I have to follow my heart. If it feels right, I do it. So should you. Write it, whatever it is that you’re holding back. Shout it from the rooftops. Make your voice heard. You won’t regret it, even if is painful and makes you cry.
Trust me; I know. I’ve been there.
I’m still there, but now I have a plan in place that will help me achieve my goals.
No one said writing was easy. Writing painful memoirs is even tougher, which brings me to the tips I have for you, for when you are struggling.
HOW TO COPE WITH YOUR UNEXPECTED EMOTIONS
Get a support system in place. Find people you can talk to, who will support and encourage you.
Cry. Cry. Then cry some more. It’s good for the soul.
Allow yourself some self-pity. You’ve been through a lot. Don’t expect to be “over it” immediately. Accept that your past is a part of who you are. Don’t fight it; embrace it.
Recognize that only you can tell your story from your point of view. No one else can. No one else has had your unique experience. No one else is YOU. You have a lot to offer even though you may not realize it.
Love and nurture your inner child. He/she dwells within all of us and if he/she didn’t get what he/she needed as a child/teen/young adult, then give it to him/her NOW. Let your past self connect with your present self.
Don’t isolate yourself. If you live alone, go out for a walk. Go to the mall. Take yourself out for dinner. Take in a movie. Go be around people, even if you prefer being alone.
Get out of the house and socialize. Phone a friend. Go for coffee. For crying out loud, do something!
Identify your emotional triggers. Write down your feelings on a piece of paper and why you think you are experiencing them.
Journal. Yes, this is more writing, but it will help you down the road. You’ll be able to look at things from a different perspective days, weeks, months and even years later. Journal-keeping is often therapeutic.
Take a day or two off. Allow yourself some space to heal. Healing takes time. You may never heal completely, and your scars will always be with you, but you can stop the bleeding.
Commiserate with me. I don’t judge and I’m always happy to meet new people, share experiences, and make new friends.
Above all else, don’t stop writing. You’ll hate yourself for it, if that’s one of your goals. For an extra boost, read Why You Should Take a Chance on Your Memoir Project and Don’t Avoid Painful Writing! If you are simply having trouble sticking to your writing goals, you may find this article helpful: Overcome Writing Failure With a Personalized Writing Plan. Did anything in this post make you have an “aha” moment? What tips make the most sense to you? Do you have tips you’d like to add? I’m anxious to hear your thoughts in the comment section, and I promise I will reply to every one…so please don’t be shy…please say “hi” to me and share your thoughts!
About the author:
Lorraine Reguly is writer, teacher, editor, poet and blogger who loves connecting with others as much as she loves writing. Join her each week on her blog, Lorraine Reguly's Life, for her True Tales Tuesdays and Featured Fridays posts.