Updated: Feb 4, 2021
There were moments when my daughter would ask me, “Mom, what was your favorite color when you were my age?” or “Mom, what did you do for your birthday when you turned six?” These questions were sometimes disorienting to me because my memory felt so hazy and littered with holes. In fact, my internal timeline didn’t seem to begin till I was in third grade. Obviously, I was alive before third grade, my recollection of those years was mostly vacant.
As my daughter continued to grow, passing through different milestones and experiences, memories began to resurface right alongside her growth. What surfaced wasn’t a clear, linear story, but vivid, often intensely emotional, fragments: the image of light under a closed door, the sound of breathing, overwhelming terror. When I put these fragments together, they told a story of complex trauma and my attempts to survive it.
Still, a bowl of fragmented memories didn’t feel like the solid narrative I was looking for, something that could hold me up, connect me to my younger self, so I decided to stitch the pieces together. I began writing my story.
Owning and crafting my story hasn’t been easy. Even though I want a personal narrative, I find myself resistant to creating it, mostly I think, because it is a painful and uncomfortable process. The pain isn’t because I’m doing it wrong, but because parts of the story are filled with pain. But I know as I wrestle with myself and the words, a transformation and healing will happen. I will write myself into existence.
Why Writing Our Stories Is Challenging
There are many reasons writing our stories is difficult:
We don’t feel like the heroes in our stories. We struggle with guilt, responsibility, and shame from our traumas.
We are afraid of what others may think about the stories we want to tell.
Writing our stories brings up pain, discomfort, grief, and other difficult emotions.
We don’t feel safe telling our stories.
Benefits of Writing Our Stories
Some of the healing benefits of writing our stories are:
Writing helps us understand ourselves more deeply, especially when we write uncensored, just for ourselves. We often speak what we are afraid to speak to others.
Writing helps us regulate and soothe our overwhelming and intense emotions. The page becomes a safe place to release our grief and pain.
Writing our stories can give us a sense of freedom. We can step out of silence and stop hiding.
If we decide to share our stories, we will see that we are not alone, and our stories uplift and inspire others.
My blog, Restoryative: Writing Myself Whole, will be a place where I share my story of complex trauma and healing, one fragmented piece at a time, until it comes together into a strong and beautiful whole.
Additional Resources on Healing Writing:
Writing and Storytelling for Healing by Diana Raab PhD - Psychology Today October 8, 2018