The Catharsis of Writing

The Catharsis of Writing

Beneath the bluest of skies, clouds can gather. This week my clouds collided in a cacophony of noise. Many of us with mental health issues are lured by the seductive whisper of maladaptive coping mechanisms, and traversing darkness can blind the strongest of us to any light ahead. To stay safe and whole I need a way to store emotional pain. It’s taken decades, but I finally have a healthy place to steady me when my soul succumbs to chaos.

I write.

I use words to weave a cloak of self-care. I let the stream of consciousness burn through my fingers. I blog. I share with trusted friends. Write journals. Make notes on my phone. I write anywhere I can. And when I’m done writing, my spirit is a little softer and my heart a little calmer.

Almost half the population of Australia will have a mental health issue (depression, anxiety, substance abuse – to name a few) at some point in their lives. Fifty per cent of us. If you know another human, then statistically speaking, one of you is it. Inner mental turmoil can turn molehills into mountains, and when that happens our emotions and fear can overwhelm while destructive behaviours waltz in to calm the mental disquiet.

But writing out chaos gives it a name – acknowledges the pain. Writing needs no rules, no judgment, no audience. It matters not if you’re a “good” writer. Regurgitating words is an outlet for the whirlpool of noise and once out, there is a lessening of burden. A burden shared is indeed a burden halved.

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About Simone

Crazy hair, solitude seeker, at peace in the natural world, Simone Yemm dedicated over three decades as a professional flautist and teacher. In 2008 she completed a Master’s in Journalism, specialising in editing, and continues to hone her skills as a writer. After a series of crises led to an emotional breakdown, Simone developed a passionate interest in mental health and shares her story to educate and support the wider community. With 25 years of marriage under her belt, she successfully raised three and a half young men and a chocolate-brown Burmese cat. A mean feat never to be underestimated.

www.simonelisa.com

We live in a world where connection to meaningful relationships and pastimes can be superficial. Social media and online activities bring communities and individuals together in the most wonderful of ways, yet we still need connection in the “real” world. We need someone to hear our personal story in all its uncensored glory. Without real connections it’s easy to isolate, and isolation is rarely helpful for mental health issues.

Fortunately, there is a plethora of tools to support us, and we can all find different ways to work through distress. Writing is free, needs few resources, no training, and is available anywhere, anytime. Writing clutches your worst fears – all the problems that haven’t even happened – and puts them down in black and white. Or any colour you choose. It can offer perspective and validation. It gives words to unexplained feelings, unexpressed pain and paralysing fear. Writing clears a little space for the voice of reason to step in and whisper in your ear.

I started writing in a journal as part of my professional support therapies. Some days were so dark I couldn’t form full sentences – I just seeped the anguish through my fingers and let it rest. I read it back later and felt compassion for the girl silently screaming in my mind. That was three years ago. Since then I have written prodigiously. When full sentences can be found, I put my inclination to perfectionism to work, cleaning up text to publish in my blog. Sharing my story sheds the shame. It allows me to tell my deepest, darkest secrets and fears to professional and personal supports without speaking out loud. When my voice has no words, I give it one through writing. Publicly sharing my story brings me a stronger sense of connection to communities of people who understand when I’m suffering. They’ve been there, done that, felt it. They hear my words and feel them too.

I recently experienced a rapid spiral into depression and forgot to write. Chaos swirled. At 3am one morning, I wrote a thousand words of turmoil in a message to a trusted friend. She checked on me, kept me safe, and since then I’ve resumed my writing and the turmoil is settling. Rational thoughts are returning and perspective is coming back. My early morning stream of consciousness was a catharsis of emotional pain. My physical world remains cloudy, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually, I am clearer. I see hope and light.  And I owe that to writing.

 

*If you are experiencing mental health issues and need assistance or someone to talk to, please seek support services in your area. You are not alone and there is help available.*

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Where Is My Writing Voice?

Where Is My Writing Voice?

When I heard the question, “How do I find my writing voice?” I had this vision of searching my house. Looking behind the cushions on the couch, checking amongst the debris long forgotten in the back of my wardrobe, maybe even turning out the rubbish bin in my desperation. My plaintive cries of, “Voice, where are you?” getting louder and more anguished as my feverish, fruitless search intensified.

I imagined my writing voice as this mystical, elusive, willful creature that I somehow needed to persuade to come and work for me. I believed once I had secured its services all my troubles would be over, writing would become effortless, miracles would rain from the heavens, doors would open and I’d be showered with success. Yet my quest for the writer’s “Holy Grail,” my very own writer’s voice, felt hopeless. I wondered where to turn next. Perhaps I could try someone else’s on for size: “Writing Voice Wanted. Please Apply Within.”

It was in those simple words I’d finally unearthed my answer: apply within. I wasn’t going to find it racing around, asking others for help. It wasn’t lurking out there somewhere, hoping to be noticed. It was inside me waiting to be rediscovered.

It wasn’t even lost – it had just been hiding. Hiding behind all those old fears and doubts that I’d been carrying around. It had disappeared behind that rock I’d stuck in my own way that said, “I have nothing to say that anyone would want to hear.” It shrank to a whisper each time I’d thought, “They know more than I do,” “they are more interesting than I am,” “more qualified,” perhaps even “more important.”

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About Fiona

Fiona MacKay is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer who enjoys sharing her passions for creativity, travel, environmental issues, holistic lifestyles, complementary therapies and wildlife photography through the written word. She is a propagator of trees, flowers, thoughts and ideas and is currently writing her first book – a guide to the palliative care of animals under the guidance of Joanne Fedler.

www.FionaMacKayPhotography.com

Finding your writing voice does require a quest. Not the comical searching down the back of the couch kind, but rather one of quiet internal reflection. Armed with the courage to be vulnerable and the confidence to value yourself and your life, you need to look lovingly and with self-compassion in the mirror. Not giving just a quick glance, but a long hard look.

Your voice is waiting amongst the scars of the life you’ve led. It resonates with all the memories you’ve created, the places you’ve seen, the things and people you’ve loved, and lost, all the pain you’ve survived, every time you’ve laughed or cried and every ounce of wisdom you have accumulated. It vibrates to the unique tone, pitch and harmony of every thought, emotion, memory and experience you’ve ever had.

It is simply you on the page. Not trying to be anyone else. Not trying to impress anybody. Just you, unfettered, unadulterated, free and true.

You need to give yourself permission to use it. Not the voice that whispers what you think people want to hear. The voice that rises from your heart imbued with the passionate imprint of your life, carrying the echo of all your pain and all your love.

It’s time for you to own your life and your very own beautiful, powerful voice.

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Are You Sharing or Over-Sharing?

Are You Sharing or Over-Sharing?

I am by nature a sharer, and am delighted, for example, when people help themselves to food on my plate. As far as I’m concerned, few things are more enjoyable alone than in a group.

I am happy to be shared with too. Tell me your secrets, your deepest desires and longings, your worst regrets, your unscriptable shames and I will not flinch. I have also learned not to judge – though it’s taken twenty years of deep personal and spiritual work to get here. I have also made a career out of sharing – my mistakes, my personal failures, the errors of my heart – in writing, with tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people.

But then along came Facebook. And a whole new era of sharing has begun:

‘If you don’t copy and share this on your wall, it means you don’t care about me…’

‘I’ve just received the worst news but I can’t tell talk about it now…’

‘Tell me how we met otherwise you’re not a real friend…’

‘I just ate breakfast. Look, eggs benedict.’

 

The 7 Day Writing Challenge

WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit

 

What used to be a form of intimacy, a method of drawing people in and connecting, has become a form of exhibitionism and attention-seeking, over things that – let’s be real – don’t warrant our attention, or not the kind of attention someone scrolling through their Facebook feed is able to give. This kind of over-sharing does the opposite of what real sharing does – it pushes people away, when actually, what the sharer probably needs is a hug in flesh-‘n-blood arms.

When we ‘put ourselves out there’ – whether on social media or in our writing, we need to assess what we want to share, and more importantly, what is necessary to share. Necessary to what? To the story. To the purpose of our communication.

Sharing ought not to burden our reader. It should never make us more vulnerable than we can cope with (social media invites unsolicited and often uncaring feedback). It should always be in service to something larger than our own loneliness, sorrow or grief. It should be invitation to engage. It should offer our reader a bridge into his or her own experience.

When we share, we open our hearts. Self-indulgent misery is best kept private (on the pages in which we bare our soul). But as soon as we go public, we need to ensure it’s not an open invitation to every troll with nothing better to do than judge, condemn or feel sorry for us.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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How the Scariest Moment of My Life Reminded Me I Am Safe

How the Scariest Moment of My Life Reminded Me I Am Safe

It was 2am on the second night of my recent visit to South Africa and I was wide awake with jetlag. I trundled down the stairs of my parents’ home, made myself a cup of coffee, called my husband in Australia, checked my emails and called my friend Katrina to discuss logistics for our upcoming writing retreat in Fiji.

I was lying on the couch in the living room, chatting to her, when I thought I heard noises outside. I casually went to the window to look outside, when a black gloved hand emerged from outside and moved the curtains aside.

The thunder of adrenalin. Deafening terror. Falling over a footstool. Racing upstairs, yelling, ‘Someone’s trying to get into the house!’

I ran to the room where my daughter was sleeping and barricaded my body against the door. My mother raised the alarm. The security company arrived. The intruder had fled.

Then, the aftermath. My parents upgraded their security. Now, the drama. The body memory. The tortuous loop of ‘what if’s?’
What if I hadn’t been there to alert my parents?
What if I hadn’t been awake with jetlag?
What if I hadn’t been downstairs talking to Katrina?

 

The 7 Day Writing Challenge

WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit

 

And now, the retelling.

It’s hard to escape that this is a story about The Scariest Moment of My Life. The cold horror of that black-gloved hand has still not left me.

But each time I tell the story, I realise I have a choice.

I can make this a story about the crime in South Africa. Or the need for better vigilance and security. Or luck (how fortunate it was that I was awake). Or coincidence (my parents have never before had an intruder try to break in and I visit once a year). Or how our fear (mine of violence) forces us to face it head-on.

Facts themselves have no inherent meaning. We make whatever meaning we want out of the stories of our lives. In that way, our consciousness determines our experience, not the other way around. As my friend Sherill says, ‘The pain is in the frame.’ Or to draw from the beautiful E.E. Cummings poem, we can insist our narratives belong in places of love and worlds of yes.

So I choose to frame this as a story about being in the right place at the right time. It’s not about being haunted and hunted, but about grace and guidance. That hand which emerged from the darkness has oddly bestowed on me the deep peace that comes with the knowledge that absolutely nothing in this life is random. It’s a blessed reminder that when I’m awake in my life, I am safe.

I hope you’re inspired to loop your dark moments into arrows of light, and to recall that love is a place from which you are never banished.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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The Art of Shutting Up and Keeping Secrets

The Art of Shutting Up and Keeping Secrets

When we start writing, we get excited and want to share our happy news like a newly pregnant mother-to-be. We want to blab to everyone, ‘Hey, I’m writing a book.’ It’s hard to keep a secret as big and beautiful as this.

But we must. If we care about what we’re doing, we have to learn to shut up and keep secrets.

A writer I mentor sent me a tearful email because her husband (her number 1 fan and supporter with whom she was sharing all her writing) had innocently asked her, ‘So how exactly is this thing going to become a book?’

And just like that, the beautiful clean kitchen of her self esteem where she was cooking up her story, got trashed.

Even our biggest fans do not understand never to ask how, but when?
When is your book coming out? Not how?

There’s a great book by Peter Block called, The Answer to How is Yes.

‘How?’ is not a creative question and certainly not an empowering one. It is fear based. And as writers-in-the-making, we do not dabble with that devil.

We should not share our writing with the world while our writing is still a little book-foetus inside us.

If we’ve ever been pregnant, and seen our little pea with its beating heart on the ultrasound, we don’t ask, ‘How am I going to turn this blob into a baby?’ No, we just know that something is growing and by some magical alchemy of us, and God, and DNA, and folate, and bit of luck, that a baby will arrive. When it’s ready. We’re part of the process, but there are other forces at work too.

It’s like that with our writing. For a while, it’s a little book-blob. It doesn’t know yet how it’s going to grow its heart and toes and eyelashes. But it will. If we shut up, and let it get on with it. Mysteries don’t like to be interrogated.

Learning to shut up and keep secrets are inherent to the art of gestation. We don’t celebrate conception publicly. We wait for birth.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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