It’s Saturday, that means I’m doing some social media and then headed out for a walk with my dog (who is staring at me right now, SO ready to go.) But first I wanted to share an article that I wrote for Writing And Wellness Magazine.
As an author and cancer survivor I believe writing aids us in understanding life’s challenges, and that through understanding we become better writers.
When we translate painful or confusing events from the unspoken into written language we alter our perceptions and fundamentally make the experience graspable. You can heal the body by connecting to the mind using writing as a restorative tool.
Natalie Goldberg wrote: “Write about what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”
It took three of what I call “tours in cancer-land” for me to finally “split open” and comprehend what life, at least my life, was about. It was about writing, and ultimately healing through the act of writing.
Writing Shines a Light Into the Black Abyss
The subconscious mind can be a dark source of paralyzing nightmares that latch on and don’t let go.
This stockpiled stress allows illness to infiltrate cells and psyche, keeping you in dis-ease and even making it worse.
Think of writing your truth—whether it be grief, rape, incest, bullying, or disease—as though you are shining a light into that black abyss. Once this light is shone, those nightmares tend to wither, and sooner or later their influence over you wanes.
Whenever I write about difficult topics, I visualize my cancer like a tiny black bat in a cave wincing and shrinking against the light. I love that image!
Through Writing, I Created My Own Shaman
Most writers create characters from deep in the subconscious mind, from unresolved issues or from traumatic events. And most of the time it’s unconscious until they re-read their work later and experience an epiphany about what they were really trying to write.
That’s what happened to me.
Though I have a strong belief in God, I needed more. During my decade of surgeries where my neck was cut open three different times from jugular vein to jugular vein, and my “giblets” were removed—thyroid, lymph nodes and a tumor—I intuitively created a shaman in my novel, Return To Sender.
When I was in the hospital or home unable to speak, not sure if I ever would speak again, I dreamed of a healer, felt him praying over me, meditating on my illness and telling me to not be afraid.
When I finally wrote (spoiler alert) his death, I mourned for several days—obviously (in retrospect) I was working at a deep level on my own fear of dying.
A Final Ceremony for a Character That Assisted Me on a Hard Journey
At first I was afraid I’d made a horrible mistake in writing his death. In writing his death, had I in turn written my own?
But then I realized it was time for him to go because I was strong enough to move forward.
Because I believe healthy rituals are good for the soul, I took a copy of the page where he dies to the lake, tore the paper into pieces, put the pieces on a large maple leaf, settled it on the water and lit the paper on fire.
The tiny fire that floated away from the shore was a final ceremony for a character who had assisted me on a hard, hard journey. In that ritual I asked him to take my cancer with him. If you read Return To Sender you’ll see how my transformational desire was written into his death scene.
That ceremony freed us both from our cancer bond. In saying good-bye to him I said good-bye to my paralyzing fear of cancer.
Keeping the Little Black Bat in His Cave
Of course, the fear will always be there, but it’s no longer that paralyzing fear. Why? Because as I seek to understand through writing about past traumas and stressors in my life that lead to dis-ease in a body, I am empowered.
An empowered body is enabled and thus begins a deep healing process.
“It is important to release the original trauma and see connections in order toheal from the trauma.”James W. Pennebaker, PH.D, author of Writing To Heal.
I now embrace that there is dis-ease within my body, and I work to understand it through writing, managing stress, and seeking out and engaging in alternative healing, such as acupuncture, nutrition, massage, resonance therapy, and long, long beach walks. All have been guides in my passage out of cancer-land.
I continue to thrive despite a bit of the tumor in my throat. I am closely watched by my team of doctors who constantly tell me that my attitude and approach to wellness has made me a triumphant patient.
I’m confident that I can keep that little black bat in his cave, and that I am triumphant because of the powerful tool of restorative writing.
Remember, please tweet and use the hashtag #write2heal. Thank you!