July 21, 2017

why do you write?

I write because I have trouble communicating my feelings out loud.

I am an only child. Growing up, I always only had one best friend at a time and a few closer friends that I always managed to keep at arms length. Close enough to know what's going on in my life and make me feel like I have a sense of community around me, but far enough away that they never know what's really going on in my head. 

When I was twelve, my friend Shannon bought me a blue journal with a puppy on the front. I named the journal Jordan, after Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life, and wrote down my days and my feelings to the tune of "Dear Jordan," every night before bed. Tucked in safe under my covers, with a stash of brightly colored gel pens always within arms reach, I freed the depression monster that was weighing heavily on my heart. I learned how to release my feelings through metaphors and similes, writing flowy words to capture the struggle going on within my mind. 

I write to say the big, scary things out loud. 

I went to writing camp the summer that I was seventeen. For two solid weeks, we wrote for six hours every day. In the halls of Lake Forest College, I learned what it means to be disciplined. My first celebratory reading piece needed to be performed with an accompanying male voice to convey what was going on in my head while I was writing. My voice vs. my abuser's, really a metaphor for all of my anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms that were screaming at me at the tops of their lungs. From that piece, I learned the importance of collaboration. I learned the importance of turning to a friend and saying, "Hey, will you help me with this?"

My second celebratory reading piece confirmed everything I had been working toward for the last seven months prior. For the first time, I said out loud, "I am a survivor of sexual abuse." I did not die. I did not get booed off the podium. I did not get called a liar or a slut like I had feared I might. Instead, I was met with warmth. Hugs from people that two weeks earlier were nothing but complete strangers to me. My group leader came up to me after and said, "Anna, you are one of the bravest people I know. That took courage. That took guts. Well done."

Writing things down makes them real. In all of the hard situations in my life, I have turned to writing for comfort, to ground myself when everything else is spun up in the tornado that took Dorothy away from Kansas and into the Wonderful Land of Oz. Battling the warzone of PTSD, I picked up a three-subject purple notebook from Walmart and wrote down my story start to finish. From the night of September 3, 2006 through the last days of my junior year of high school. I carted the notebook everywhere with me. Every class, every workshop, every shift at Adrian's, every play practice... every spare moment I got, I put my head down to write. I was inspired in the very best way because I was simply telling my version of what happened. I had no idea that purple notebook would inspire me to share my story later on in a very real way.

Two years later, I found myself pacing back and forth in my high school guidance counselor's office just like I did when I was fifteen and waiting to report the whole damn thing. I had an idea. A presentation of sorts. I wanted to make a speech. I wanted to tell my story. After a meeting with the principal, I was granted the opportunity to give a speech to a group of girls that were involved in the same ~traumatic experience coping group~ that I was in my junior year of high school. Writing those things down helped me to maybe help someone else going through something similar to what I experienced. That courage is why I continue to write.

I write to show my loved ones how much I care about them.

In high school, my best friend and I had a red notebook that we would pass in between us at sleepovers. It traveled from my purse to hers in one swift exchange, a silent promise that no one but us was to read what was written within those pages. They were our unsent letters. The pages of that notebook were well loved. Folded and bent from being transferred so many times. Tear stained from our precious teenaged heartbreak. We were trying to release our pain before it could eat us alive. It brought us closer than we ever could have imagined.

Justin and I have quite the history of writing love letters to each other. Not by snail mail per se, but my old email address has every single message Justin ever sent to me. There were times when we lived in our old apartment when I would wake up in the morning to a love letter bomb all over the previously blank walls. We used to write each other love letters in an actual notebook off and on, until we got mad at each other and the notebook got destroyed. Love letters to Justin have always helped to tether me back to shore when I am drifting. They remind me of how strong our love for one another is, and how much we can endure if only we remember that we need to stick together.

Ultimately, I think I write because the fear of forgetting is greater than the compulsion to do nothing.

No comments:

Post a Comment