Therapeutic writing

This blog post is a response to an article in the November 14, 2012 Chicago Tribune, entitled “Writing helps some escape from shadows.”

Last week, there was an article in the Chicago Tribune about “therapeutic writing,” and the opening sentence spoke to me: “Putting experiences in writing can be a powerful therapeutic tool, no matter how horrific or mundane they are.”  Indeed, I have been writing daily on my experiences, whether they be horrific to me, mundane, or exciting.  I don’t consider it to be therapeutic most of  the time, although there can be times where it is, at least in a stress-relief way.

They write this article about people who write as a way to recover from mental illness, whether essays, poems, or stories.   This is very similar to my use of my journal for everyday events, and on the exceedingly rare occasion of a bad day, I can take it out in my journal instead of the people around me.  I seem to know if it was a very good or very bad day based on how many ALL CAPS or large multi-line texts that I use.

In the article, the people who wrote suffered from depression or emotional traumas at some point in life.  Though Asperger syndrome is different from these, at the same time, there are those times when I tend to withdraw into my own world.  This is not nearly as frequent as it used to be during my developmental childhood, but I feel that my journal can be my “retreat world” for those cases that I am in distress.  Of course, I could also talk with others about it.

Writing down thoughts and actions can be a boon for both the person with the mental irregularity as well as any members of that person’s support team.  Somehow, I feel that if a person writes down their thoughts, actions, etc. on paper, or makes it into an art project, it may make it easier to share.  (Granted, it may also be less snoop-proof, but it can at least provide evidence).

However, sometimes these written thoughts can produce extra burden.  Kelly Greenwood, one of the people mentioned in the article, recently had 42 journals filled with poems, thoughts, and depression, and set them all on fire.  This is an interesting take on it.  For some people, the memories are always there, even if there’s no physical record of it.  I plan to keep my journals as long as I can in paper form, and I also continue to do the process of transcribing them in electronic form.

Does therapeutic writing happen from an early age?  Sheri Hillson seems to think so.  The story of a time when she was home sick in kindergarten and wrote a story was given in this article.  When I was younger, I didn’t do much writing outside of class, but I was certainly influenced by what I did in class.  After all, my first “voluntary” journaling that I can remember came in eighth grade on the cruise, after I had done a “journal” assignment in my social studies class about the Oregon Trail, as if I were one of the settlers.  And then my daily journaling began with English 150H in my freshman year at UNL.

Even though I have not shared some of my darker writings (since my darkest days might be some of the lightest days of people with more severe irregularities), it may be something that I can do.  The group GRASP is an Asperger syndrome support group that I learnt about at the Disability Pride Parade this summer (on עשרים ואחת ביולי, no less!), although I have not attended any of their functions.  Knowing of their existence, however, is a wonderful thing to keep in mind.

My favorite line from the Silent Voices given in this article is as follows (credit to Hilson): “[Writing] is a skill many of us have / But many of us haven’t discovered.” I can agree with this entirely.  Despite being a mathematician/scientist by trade, writing is one of my favorite leisure activities.  Hence why I write a blog and keep a daily journal!  In fact, maybe that is another component of my Asperger syndrome: having an obsession (almost) with writing and chronicling.

I encourage everyone to consider doing more writing about their everyday life.  You might be able to integrate your thoughts and solve some of your problems!  I feel that seeing your thoughts in writing may un-muddle them as compared to floating around in your head.

Oh, and one more thing.  Today is Thanksgiving, and I feel that in addition to airing your gratitudes aloud, try airing some of them on paper.  You may have different and exciting results!

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