I tend to focus on my fiction writing when I am borderline anxious, but I was thinking of a few things this morning that might be useful for someone.
When I was a young girl I wanted two things: to write and to travel. The church and my family taught me that to follow my dreams was selfish and that, as a woman, god had made me for the purpose of serving a man, having children, and putting my needs last to prove I belonged to him. (Or else, there’s always an “or else” in these threats.)
About five or six years ago, something must have snapped in my head to remind me of my old dreams, the ones 25 years in an abusive marriage and a lifetime in the church had killed. It was an odd thing, too. I tripped over fanfiction and thought, “Oh, hey, there was this TV show I liked in the 80s. I wonder if they have fanfiction for it.”
That was it. I read the stories, then I found myself suddenly writing creatively again. I couldn’t stop writing. Everything was pouring out of me. Everything reminded me of a story. I could look at a prompt and have something written in less than an hour.
I was still married then. I had no idea what was happening to me. But getting into a writing community got me out of the Christian ghetto and, as I was warned, it brought me new ideas to consider that began to replace the old.
It would still be a few years before I got desperate enough to leave my ex. But if I hadn’t started writing, hadn’t started learning that I could, indeed, empower myself, I don’t know if I could. And if I hadn’t left, I don’t know if I’d be here today. He was pretty insistent that I kill myself.
I still write for my sanity. As I was cleaning out the papers from last term (oh, god, do I have the stack to file 😭) I came across a few things I’d written while sitting through lectures in the Math class I work in. I barely recall writing them, but I know I did it to keep sane and not just up and leave the room and never come back. It was a rough term as I recovered from my breakdown. If it weren’t for my writing, I really don’t know how I’d have made it.
Self-care is the most difficult thing for abuse victims to do. It’s hard for me to take my vitamins, exercise, dress like I give a damn about myself, sleep, eat, bathe, put on lotion when my skin is dry, use eye drops when my eyes are dry, etc, etc. Abused people don’t think they are worth the most basic kindnesses, especially performed by themselves for themselves.
But writing is something I can do that helps me. Writing helps me get everything out. I’ve noticed in my fiction writing that I deal with a lot of things I can’t in the real world. My characters might be spies or detectives (always my fave shows way back when) but the problems they are up against bear a close resemblance to a lot of mine, if not exactly, at least in the emotional reaction.
Writing was my therapy long before I was allowed to get myself into therapy. Even “real” writing, such as on this blog, is helpful. I have a slough of posts that will never see the light of day simply because half-way through, I had worked out whatever my mind needed working out and there was no reason to finish.
I’m getting better at self-care, bit by bit. I bought eye drops (because the eye doctor would not stop talking about how bad my eyes were). I often remember lotion. I moved my vitamins to my desk so I usually remember to take them at least half the time. I have a lot of work to do before I can do things for myself without the voice, that sounds a whole lot like my mother’s, telling me I’m not worth anything. But I have a feeling that if I keep writing, if I keep going the course through school despite all the obstacles, that, though it’s not perfect, it might be better.