Your Story Matters: Processing Pain and Trauma

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Through my blog, I share my story. Your story matters too. Will you allow others to listen?

When I was updating my website’s about page not long ago, I realized something which should likely have been more apparent to me than perhaps was. That is, I’ve written about some pretty heavy topics on this blog: grief, anxiety, depression, suicide, schizophrenia, among others; and, if you’re a long-time reader, it’s quite evident this blog has served, in many ways, as the place where I have come to terms with my dad’s death and waded through the subsequent emotions his departure created within me.

As an example, in my attempts to grasp life and make sense of my dad’s death, my perspective on death itself has changed greatly since his passing. My viewpoint now could more accurately be described not as “death” but as “post-life” or continuation.

WHY SHOULD YOU TELL YOUR STORY?

Telling Your Story Helps Process Pain and Difficult Emotions

Because of the heavy nature of certain subject matter, I’ve received my fair share of email from readers. That something I have written is universal enough that another person, usually a total stranger, is willing to share their own story, their own feelings and experiences of something deep and personal with me is one of the reasons I continue writing.

After I wrote “Hi, My Name is Jeff, and I Suffer from Anxiety,” a reader sent a short yet powerful email to me, which said:

Thank you for writing this. I have considered suicide so many times in my life, particularly as of late. You saved your friend’s life without knowing it and you just saved mine. You made me feel less alone, and I have decided to seek help because I don’t want to die, but I know I can’t live like this anymore. Thank you for your strength in saying what so many of us hide and don’t feel strong enough to share. I’m not sure I could ever do what you do but just writing this email to you has lifted a heavy weight from my chest and I feel like I can finally breathe again without struggle. I don’t want to live in darkness anymore.

When I received this email, it sent chills over my body. In addition to this, I’ve received countless emails from readers confiding in me their struggles with alcohol, drugs, anger, anxiety, depression, loneliness, seasonal affective disorder, etc.

I’m not a doctor, psychologist, therapist, or anything of the sort, nor do I play one on the internet.1 But what I know is this: words are powerful — whether written or verbally spoken, and reaching deep down into your being and exposing the darkness to the light begins the healing process.2

As Mark Manson writes in “How to Grow From Your Pain,” it’s not the traumatic event that makes you stronger, it’s the narrative you construct after.

Allen Ginsberg on telling your own story: "Follow your inner moonlight. Don't hide the madness."

Telling Your Story Helps You Process Traumatic Events

Deborah Serani, author of Living with Depression: Why Biology and Biography Matter along the Path to Hope and Healing, writes that trauma shatters our sense of security and flips hope and connection to others on its head, leaving us detached and in despair.3

Serani continues, pointing to humans’ basic need to understand, citing research that to begin the healing process we must tell our story: “Our personal narrative offers us a chance for not just understanding, but for reorganization [of] our sense of self. A self that was wounded, broken, frightened or lost—but can now be reclaimed.”

I know what writing has done for me mentally and emotionally. At the same time, I am a rare breed in that I enjoy writing and don’t consider it a chore. I actually schedule it on my calendar. Writing helps me make sense of the world.

Despite my affinity for writing, I am aware not everyone enjoys writing. Some actually loathe it. Others judge too harshly how they write—whether it’s “good enough” or literary—and overlook that which is important: what is actually written—the courage, the heartache, the humor. I say this: write anyway.

But still, easier said than done.

Share Your Story

So, how’s about a challenge? Schedule an uninterrupted hour this week to write your story. Answer the following three questions: (1) When has my love been the strongest, (2) When has my heart been the saddest, and (3) Who am I when the rest of the world is asleep and it’s just me and my thoughts—do the people in my life know that person?

Your story matters. Everyone’s story does. If you’d like to share your story with others anonymously on my blog, you can contact me here. I can’t promise I’ll post it to my blog, but I can promise that your identity will remain anonymous and I will never share anything without your permission.

Thanks for reading.

jeffrey-pillow-black

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash
Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Footnotes

  1. And, I’ll be the first to tell you: your mental health should be treated equally to your physical health, so I encourage anyone and everyone to find a good counselor (even if that means not finding the right one at first) and expose the darkness to the light
  2. Kearney, Richard. “Narrating Pain: The Power of Catharsis.” Paragraph, 30(1):51-66. Accessed 6 January 2018.
  3. Serani, Deborah. “Why Your Story Matters: The healing power of personal narrative.” Psychology Today. 4 January 2014.

 

8 Comments

  1. WOW how impactful your most recent blog! I am so glad your insight through your words were helpful to others in need.

  2. That email. Wow! I got chills reading it myself. I do wish I could do what you do and put it all out there. I’m in the camp that focuses more on how I put down my thoughts and my grammar and less what I actually write. I have a hard time getting it out too. Then to do it and feel like it is poorly written. I judge, judge, judge. And I just journal privately. It’s not even public.

    • Keep writing. I judge what I write too harshly as well. I have 44 drafts on my blog at this very moment, because I am too critical of myself. What’s important is the healing process of writing. I’d rather read raw, honest emotion than sterile, emotionless prose any day.

  3. If you ever wonder why you write , please know it is for a time such as this . As I have been awake all night feeling some type of way . Not sure of the words to describe it . We are from the same community so you know that when someone tragic or out of the ordinary happens it kinda feels like the earth has shifted on it’s axle . I got confirmation of something that I already knew . That my friend Emma was indeed the remains that were located in Halifax Co. at Thanksgiving . Not that it’s making this bad dream more reality but it’s causing me to remember and really think about all those years we were always together . How no one but Emma and God will ever know the real me . Maybe I should write things down .

    • I am very sorry for your loss. I hope that in time you are able to process all of the good memories from your friendship with Emma. I do think journaling/writing helps. Even a few words heal.

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