Trauma Writing and Overthinking Things

Oh hell.

Here we are again.

It’s Wednesday. So that’s a thing. Middle of the week. It’s been a long one already. Got my column more or less nailed down for this week. Still not entirely sure what I’m going to do with the month going forward, but hopefully it’ll be okay. I’m heading back into humor, which isn’t quite as well-recieved, at least not as vocally, as my more serious columns are, but I’m pretty sure January delivered me next year’s Keystone and PAPME submissions, so. January columns just came in like lions and knocked me out. Easy peasy.

I love it when the writing is good and all I have to be is a conduit between story and page. It’s so easy, that form of mediumship. When the words come fast and furious and all I have to do is deliver them.

My memoir is not coming like that. Every word is like pulling teeth, and I’m still no farther ahead six or eight months after starting in earnest than I was before I started.

I was so very jacked when Dinty Moore shared this little gold nugget by Kelly Sundberg from Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog. It is so very hard to walk that line between the necessary seclusion and solitude of writing and the abject loneliness of writing through trauma. All the ususal concerns of narrative nonfiction writers are there – am I being narcisisstic? Is there any reason for anyone to want to read this story? Is my life worthy of an audience? What if I haven’t actually learned anything from this experience and I’m forced to confront that ugly truth through the double tragedy of an unfinished, garbage manuscript?

The anxiety can be crushing. Especially when you live without a community of serious narrative nonfiction writers to tap into (or to force you to come out of the cave for a bit of human interaction).

But then, on top of it, you’re dealing with the fact that talking (and writing) about trauma is, on some level, always sort of re-traumatizing. Even after you’ve healed, I think, you always have that residual phantom pain associated with it. You don’t forget what it feels like to have a hole in your heart, even if it does get filled in again, over time.

My fellow columnist and friend Debby Hornburg shared this to my timeline the other day:

“Somehow,” she wrote, in her soft, gently profound voice, “you came to mind.” She’s entirely accurate. This pony is me. All. Damn. Day.

Cute, anxiety-ridden, and kinda frustrating.

When you’ve been through many, many years of traumatic interpersonal experiences, when it’s a lifetime’s legacy of social difficulty, you wind up evaluating literally every little thing to death.

Even the tiniest little steps. Everything becomes something that could hurt, bad, and because there has been no opportunity to have seen ahead and predicted the pain in the past, eventually you learn to avoid getting hurt again at all costs. With no pattern to look for as to how to prevent it, you start to just avoid everything.

Even things there’s absolutely no rational reason to avoid.

Part of getting better, for me, is writing this collection of essays.

And my brain has become like this pony, trying to prevent me from wading back into the experience that very nearly, of all the painful experiences in my life, very nearly broke me good and proper.

It’s frustrating. One part of the mind is willing and the other part isn’t willing at all.

Ambivalence for the win.

Except not for the win.

Because it’s not going to win. I am. I’m going to write this collection if it takes me twenty years.

But hearing from others who’ve struggled and won over what I’m currently struggling with will help me get there.

That, and therapy.

And coffee.

Legal addictive stimulants for the win.

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