Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Writing and Healing

I imagined two different ways of killing myself after my husband left me for a woman more than twenty years younger. I would hang myself or jump.

I had the sense to know that I needed help. All three of my children were stunned and grieving. I wanted to stay alive for them. And for my mother. Love kept me alive.

I had already written a memoir by the time my husband left me. I'd penned 85,000 words about giving my son up for adoption after a secret pregnancy--and twenty-one years later reuniting with him with the help of a clandestine adoption underground railroad. I started writing this story by accident. I had another story I was burning to tell then. A story involving teen-age girls, lies, Los Angeles gangsters, and a party gone wrong. I put pen to paper on the spur of the moment one morning after I'd pulled my min-van back into the garage--home from the morning school run. A mug of coffee and the L.A. Times were on my kitchen table, and after reading some article about teen-agers, pagers, and drugs, I grabbed one of my husband's yellow legal pads and a pen. I wrote pages and pages over the next week. Then I spotted a flyer in a local coffee house about a writing group. I folded the flyer in half and stuck it to my bulletin board. When I showed up for the first meeting, I was stunned to learn that the workshop was for writing memoir--true stories.

My story about teenagers and the lies they tell was mostly true anyway, but what came out of my pen that first Saturday morning was about my son. An essay, I thought. I had 35 pages of essays about giving up my son by the time I took my first real writing class at UCLA extension a couple of years later. The essays turned into a book. I got an agent, did a lot of revising, and I like to think  that if I hadn't been turned into a blogaholic by my divorce, I might have a book out in the world by now.

I think that memoir will be published eventually, but meanwhile I've had a lot of time to think about the stories that life delivers to us. I know about what it feels like to open a garden shed where two colorful jump ropes hang on a hook; what it feels like to run my hands over them while my eyes survey the children's climbing structure in my back yard. I know what it's like to find the view of the Mississippi River  from the window of a hotel room unbearable and the relief when a friend not only returns my phone call but shows up at the hotel.

I've altered my brain chemistry with two courses of anti-depressants since my marriage fell apart. I'm on my second therapist. I've had light therapy, dropped Bach Flower remedies onto my tongue, taken a  fine selection of herbal concoctions, and anesthetized myself with gin. I've exercised faithfully to up my endorphin production and devoured a boatload of chocolate. And I've  written so many essays about my divorce that I have another book.  

Writing heals. I'm not the only one claiming this.  Check THIS out. And THIS. Google "writing and healing." Read some more.  Then grab a pen or fire up your laptop.


Elizabeth said...

As someone who actually "knows" you beyond the blogaholic thing, I would also state that your writing heals others as well. Me, for one.

Sending love to you.

Lilith said...

There is a psychologist by the name of Jonathan Haidt who has written a very good book called The Happiness Hypothesis. I heard him on the radio one day when I was feeling depressed. He talked about a study that had been done of depressed people, comparing therapy modalities of drugs, talk therapy and writing. The people who fared best after traumatic times were those who wrote for fifteen minutes a day. So yeah, writing saved your life. Mine too:)

Dee said...

Writing does heal - I am living proof of that! I admire your courage and honesty here. Thanks for reminding me of this important fact, that writing DOES heal.

giftsofthejourney said...

I took your advice and did a bit of healing writing today and I think I do feel better. I can almost find some funny bits in a part of what I wrote today. Thanks for that. Look for some link love.