Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Writing Feelings Away

May I tell you something about myself?

I once read that the impulse to write comes from an inability to cope with the world in some way.  It is the result of a personal malfunction.  This is certainly a less flattering take than calling it a coping mechanism.  When you call it a coping mechanism, it sounds more like writing is a personal tool that we use to deal with an imperfect world or life situation.  In reality, the two ways of describing it aren't so different.  Either way, you as a person find yourself unable to deal with something in life, and you are free to cast the blame where you may.

When something really bad happens, I don't feel like I can cope with it.  Some things just seem too big for me to handle.  Once I acknowledge that this terrible thing has indeed occurred, that makes it real, and I'm not ready for it to be real.

This was the case when my mom died last May.  The circumstances were chaotic to begin with.  My son Lyle was born only six days before that.  Not only did I have the normal hormone issues and sleep deprivation that comes from having a newborn, his birth was also a bit rough.  Since he had the cord wrapped around his neck, the doctors had to get him out quickly.  He had to spend a few hours in the NICU, though he ended up being fine.  The rapid delivery also took it out of me, and I ended up losing a lot of blood post delivery.  My hemoglobin dropped by about 25%.  I felt lightheaded and weak.

Six days later when my mom passed, I was still anemic.  I felt the effects of everything piling up on me at once. All I could do to get through it was focus on taking care of my kids.  I poured all of my energy into that for the following weeks, because I didn't have it in me to do much else.  People kept remarking about how well I was dealing with the situation.  I wish that were true.

I just wasn't dealing with it at all.

I couldn't face my feelings, because I felt like my life would fall apart if I did.  I had people telling me I had to stay strong for my kids.  Of course I already knew that, but it felt like I didn't have permission to be a human being.  And once the feelings started to catch up with me weeks later, it felt like there was a black hole opening up inside me.  It made it so much harder to move through the world.

When someone dies, we're sad they're gone.  We also have regrets.  Things we wish we'd said, things we wish we didn't say.  Those regrets pile on to make things even worse.  I felt all of these things, though I refused to acknowledge it.

Writing about my feelings directly didn't feel like a viable option at the time either.  It felt too real that way.  So I wrote them into the lives of my characters.  I put them in painful situations, and I let my poisonous feelings flow into them through my keystrokes.

It was cathartic.  Of course, my writing has been somewhat dark as of late.  But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't always a little on the dark side.


  1. However we tend to cope is not a bad thing, what is bad is when we don't cope at all and let it eat away at our insides. Sounds like a rough time for sure. :(

  2. I can't imagine going through all of that at once! I don't think writers ONLY use writing as a coping mechanism, but sometimes it helps.

  3. Maybe we all write for different reasons. I don't think I feel compelled to tell stories because I'm dysfunctional, though I am. I just like to formulate stories and worlds for my characters to live in.

    But, I believe everyone writes for different reasons and the one you propose probably rings true for a lot of people. Writing out your anguish through your characters is probably very cathartic for you, and you need that after what you've been through.

    I wish you happiness, however you can find it!

  4. I was able to relate really well to what you are saying here. I started my blog when things in my marriage started falling apart. I found it was a safe way to vent about what was happening to me. I created an anonymous support team that helped me through a very difficult time. Writing down my feelings was great, but having them validated by my readers was even better.

  5. I understand. Okay, I don't exactly, fully understand because I've never gone through the pain of losing a parent. I suppose the closest thing I've gone through was when my Dad walked out. I got pregnant only a few months later, when I was still coping with a very highly depressed mother and a broken family. While the upcoming baby was absolutely exciting, I also felt like I couldn't focus on the pain I was feeling, for fear it would hurt my baby. Also, my former boss didn't like the idea of me showing any emotion at work, and I was there almost all the time, so I really didn't have a good chance to work through any of those feelings. To this day, I still don't show what I'm going through since Shane's heard too much as it is (despite the fact that he's always telling me he's willing to listen, you know how it is when they are the only one you've told everything over and over again) and I'm so busy focusing on my daughter, I have little time to think about myself. I'm hoping to find the time to get back into my art again, since that was always my mechanism. However, finding the time is a bit of an issue. Perhaps someday.