I have always wanted someone to guest post for Living the Dream but was very hesitant about how that would affect the message. Well, the Universe connected me to an extraordinary writer at the right time. Recently writing about my own battles with depression I feel like it was only fitting that this post be published now.
Please welcome Shawna Ayoub Ainslie to LTD. She is a writing coach in Bloomington, IN. You can find her at her online home, The Honeyed Quill, editing its sister site, On the Verge Magazine, or coordinating the Four Paws for Noah writing competitions. Her writing has recently appeared in The Archipelago, [wherever], RoleReboot, The Manifest-Station and Art Saves Lives International. Shawna offers resources for beginning your own practice of writing for self-care here. Please read her post below.
Healing Ourselves on the Page
by Shawna Ayoub Ainslie
I teach expressive writing for traumatic release and recovery. The individuals that come to my classes and retreats or work with me one-on-one are a fascinating mix of old, young, parents, students, teachers, and retirees. Some show up because they need to let go of addictions or persistent fears. Many show up simply because they want to write, or just because my class fit into their schedules and they wanted something to do, not because they consider themselves wounded in any way. But the truth is we are all wounded. This means we are all capable of healing if we do the work.
A lot of what I teach is acceptance. I was abused as a child. I never forgot, but I did move on. The birth of my first child jerked me roughly back into the mindset of a victim. I lost myself for a time. My present became the wait for the next flashback, a monitoring of now for then. I was unable to move out of that cycle because I refused (actively) to accept the extent to which my childhood trauma still hurt me. More specifically, I was afraid of accepting my past because I knew it would make me angry like my abusers.
Eventually, I connected with a therapist who took note that I am a writer. She aimed me toward my anger and put a pen in my hand. “Write it all,” she told me. “Every terrible bit.”
I did. I wrote until my hand cramped and the page tore and my shirt was wet with tears. I wrote until my throat was raw from screaming because sometimes my voice on the page wasn’t enough. I kept writing until I looked up and found myself at a fork in the road. One path led toward a light. The other remained in darkness. I had written my way to acceptance in the process of release.
I turned toward the light and took the first steps toward recovery. For a ways, my anger came with me, carrying me when I wearied. It is still with me so many miles later, a support that perpetuates my transition from wounded to healing. From victim to survivor.
We are all wounded, but we have not all chosen to heal and survive. Some of us are still walking in the dark. Teaching expressive writing is my way of offering a hand to those I see lost in their shadows. It is also a tool to steady those who come to the page with no expectation except to write, but find themselves leaning precariously over a yawning gulf when a memory unexpectedly dragged them to that cliff. I remind them, “You are in charge of your story. You can always write your way home.”
Which is exactly what I do for myself. I write my heart free of restraint. I write myself whole. It is not always beautiful or sensible or even true, but it is work I can do to heal myself. It is work you can do as well.