When I gave up dope and alcohol, my immediate feeling was 'I've saved my life but there'll be a price because I'll have nothing that buzzes me any more.' But I enjoyed my kids. My wife loved me and I loved her. And eventually the writing came back and I discovered that the writing was enough. Stupid thing is that probably it always had been.
- Stephen King
Stephen King would not be the first writer to declare that writing saved him.
What's with this? Can it be true?
Yes, it absolutely is true. Writing can help us deal with health challenges, life crises, change, dope, and alcoholism, just to name a few. And there is clinical evidence to prove that writing is good for you.
A study at our very own University of Auckland (2017) found that people who wrote emotionally about past stressful events two weeks before having a biopsy had their wound heal faster than people who write about factual day to day activities. The trial authors said that the writing had greatest effect when done prior to an acute wound, so the timing of the writing was important.
As with most treatments, you can feel worse before you feel better, and that's how it can be with writing. I know in my journals, when I'm tackling something that is painful and emotional, I write it down and feel lousy for maybe a day afterwards, but then I feel so much better, a weight has been lifted, life is worth living again.
Writing can help a wound to heal, physically and emotionally.
Writing for healing is a bit more specific than daily journaling because it encourages you to tackle troubling events in your life head-on, with stark truth and honesty, letting it all hang out. Trying this technique for 3-5 days, for about 20 minutes per day, can alter the path of your journaling, especially if you're accustomed to simply writing about how you feel and what you experience on any given day, and tend to avoid those memories that are traumatic, too difficult to deal with in your writing. Let's face it, alot of us do this. I'm no exception. It was only when I started writing about my first breast cancer diagnosis that I really began to feel the benefits of 'writing to heal'.
Sometimes writing about those difficult times - perhaps painful memories from early childhood - can bring closure, reconciliation, and forgiveness for ourselves and for others. We can gain a more positive perspective, be more understanding of our 'adult mistakes', move beyond the turmoil.
So yes, writing can offer you a lifeline. It can help you heal in so many ways. Give it a go. Well known American writer Judy Blume says, 'Writing saved my life. It saved me, it gave me everything, it took away all my illnesses.'