by Patty Hite
Writing was easy for me. My mother encouraged me to write. When I was a young child, I remember shopping with her, looking for perfect pieces of stationary. Money was tight so I cherished each piece. I cut up used birthday and holiday cards to make my own books to write in. Most of what I wrote were questions about life and the whys and why nots of everyday living. I wrote a whole book on why a chair was called a chair and another one on why my brothers did stupid things.
As an older child my writing took on more of my ponderings about life and why I was so sad. I remember sitting under a tree far from everyone else, crying and writing down my thoughts. I didn’t know why I was so sad until many years later when the flashbacks of my childhood started to erupt and shatter my world. Before I knew it was a good thing to write about my abuse, I was already doing it. I never included names and or details. It was for my eyes only and I was afraid that if someone else read them, I would hurt those I loved. So even in my writing, I kept the secrets of my abuse.
When I started reading books about sexual abuse, they recommended writing about the abuse in detail and to write to my abusers. I didn’t have to send the letters, but it was a way of expressing how much they hurt me and how their actions reflected on my life. I wrote with so much anger and rage that my pen ripped the paper. I have written several letters to them at different times throughout my healing. I don’t tear the paper any more, but as each thing is revealed to me, I inform them of each one.
Most of my life was spent in a dissociated state, so I don’t remember things leading up to my abuse or immediately following my abuse. I do remember the acts of abuse. I used to spend time trying to remember the before and after and the why and why not of my abuse. So instead of pondering about those times, I started to freewrite about it. Freewriting is putting pen to paper and cutting loose. There is no worry about spelling or formats, dotting your “I’s” or crossing your “T’s.” When I did this, life changed for me because everything poured out. It was like the gates opened and the dam broke. Every thought and every emotion came forth because there was freedom from penmanship and corrections. I wrote until I couldn’t write anymore and my brain was done and my hand was cramped. I put it away for about a week because I was afraid to read it. These sheets of paper held every part of me, every thought and every emotion. It was the doorway to the why and whatnot I was searching for my whole life.
As I continued healing from my abuse, I also used lists as a way to compare different areas in my life. When I was working on my self-esteem, I made a list of my bad qualities verses my good qualities. When I started doing this, the list for my good qualities was pretty small, but as I progressed and created new lists, I was able to compare them to my first ones and see my growth. I also made lists of my coping mechanisms versus what I could do to replace them and also lists of my false beliefs versus my new beliefs. Lists, lists, lists.
I think it is so important, especially while healing, to carry paper and pen. Most of my triggers happened outside of the home. After a while we become desensitized in our homes; we make it comfortable by eliminating those things that are uncomfortable to us. Being out in public all our senses awaken to everything. Smell, touch, sound, rain, snow, and the time of day all play major parts in our abuse and trigger emotional reactions. It was these things that I wrote down as a reminder to deal with them at a later time. Anytime my emotions reacted, good or bad, I wanted to make note of it so I could re-evaluate if they reacted in order or out of order. There were many times I wanted to strangle a cashier or run someone over with my cart. These were the reactions I wanted to make note of.
Writing has been such a major part of my healing and I recommend it to every survivor. I didn’t have therapy or support groups when I started my healing, but I had a friend in writing. There are no limits to expressing my secrets, my fears, anger at my abusers or a heartfelt letter to myself. My lists helped me “see” what was real and what was false and keeping track of my emotions out in public helped me to wrangle them in. Writing is truly my friend.
As a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Patty Hite has been tenaciously pursuing her healing for over thirty years. She’s a passionate advocate for all survivors and dedicates her life to inspiring emotional wholeness in others. As a former victim of spousal abuse, she’s delighted to find true love with her husband of five years. She’s blessed with four children and six grandchildren.
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