Coping Vs Healing


When I was a young girl I always assumed I’b be a writer. I had a natural ability as a pre-teen to bring all my teachers to tears with my incredibly dramatic short stories. Only when I became an adult did I finally understand looking back that more than likely, it wasn’t my Hemingway spun words that stirred such emotion in them, but the true and disturbing topics I wrote about with such ease. A cancer stricken grandmother that I miraculously cured or an impossible to please father teaching me to ride a bike. Just a few of the very grown up topics that graced the pages of my short stories at the ripe age of eleven. Releasing them into the hands of my teachers while my Cheshire Cat smile sinked into the darkness as I watched from afar, thinking “I’ve done it again”. It had become a source of pride to watch the teachers gather, tears welding in their eyes as they read my latest masterpiece. I am now, more than ever, very painfully aware that my ability to write such emotional topics without actually experiencing any kind of emotional connection, may have in fact been what moved them so heavily.

I did have a gift, but not in the way that I thought as a young girl. I had a gift to completely and wholly disassociate myself with any kind of trauma I’d experienced. I carried this gift throughout my life and even continued to write about these experiences having absolutely no emotional reaction to the yellow brick road of horrific truths I laid out in words leading directly to my past. I had been so oblivious to the gift that I carried, that when others reacted strongly to reading some of my experiences and gave me that familiar look I’d experienced so many times as a young writer, the same look you may see from a first time mother watching her toddler just barley miss the sharp edge of a table before crashing down face first onto the hardwood floor. A somewhat perplexing mixture of relief for the near miss and complete terror for the resulting fall. When that familiar look met my eyes, it really had become to have no real affect on me. I’d always assumed that I was simply unaffected due to my resilience and natural ability to cope with trauma. Until, I had decided to unearth some of my younger years writing and update the hand written scribbles to savable computer files as a sort of time capsule recording my years of progression.

I’d been keeping what I became to call “The Boy Journal”, updated sporadically from the time I was eleven until the time I was married. It was, at least I thought, a detailed account of the dating woes of a pre-teen all the way to adulthood. I figured it would be a rather entertaining read for young women and maybe even a comical opportunity to repeat those all to over used words “learn from my mistakes, I beg of you!”. I grabbed my hot cup of tea and the worn familiar pages of “The Boy Journal” to, for as odd as it may seem to others, read the pages within for the first time from start to finish. In the course of my journey of putting pen to paper to heal from the many broken hearts I’d thought I’d suffered over the years, I’d never actually read the accounts in their entirety. I would, perhaps, revisit certain chapters as a reminder that last time I thought I may actually be the first woman alive to die at the hands of a broken heart, I did in fact breath on to see another day. Beyond these brief and calculated occasions, pen to paper seemed the only true relationship necessary with “The Boy Journal”. Ironically, it had been the longest relationship I’d maintained to date.

So, when a unexpected wave of emotions hit me like a foul stench upon starting my journey by way of reading into the past, I did what any sound person would do. I got as far away from that book as humanly possible. I buried  that book in a basket, under a pile of clothes, under a table. The corner still peers out of one side showing my haste in running away, similar to how you would hide such things from your mother upon her bursting through your door and intruding into your private world of writing. The corner has taunted me for the last 10 weeks. It stares out at me as a constant reminder of the grim reality that has bubbled up inside of me. You see, “The Boy Journal” started out innocently enough, the worries of a young woman about to enter high school, the recounts of the crushes from elementary and middle school’s past. The constant reminders of mistakes made and the natural lessons as a results of the realizations of those. What I was not expecting, was the first hand unfiltered and tremendously emotional accounts of my home life. I had let my guard down in these pages in a way that made me realize I’d never intended to read these words, but merely write them and be rid of them.

The most disturbing part was reading the accounts of a child knowing what I know now as an adult. Think of it this way, think of something seemingly innocent from your past, Let’s say your friend always got free ice cream from the local ice cream truck guy, nice guy. As a child this was innocent enough, but as an adult reading “Jill said the ice cream truck drivers is so nice, he gives her free ice cream all the time! He even takes her for rides around the park and lets her sit in his lap while steering and changing the music, I wish he gave me free ice cream too…”. Tell me that half way through that sentence you didn’t cringe and think “this is not going to turn out well”. Just for the record, my cul-de-sac never had an ice cream truck driver, but you get the imagery the best in this scenario I felt. In the writing, it’s clear that situations are not what they seem through the eyes of the child, me, but seeing it now through the eye of an adult, me,  it’s one of those moments when you’re screaming at the dumb girl in the horror movie to “turn around!” and you’re looking at your date like “doesn’t she feel the presence of that guy with the huge knife towering over just behind her?”  You’re totally helpless to do anything for the girl in the movie or the child in these pages. So, the anxiety and fear builds up until you simply cover your eyes and plug your ears while the scary parts pass. So, that is what I did. I covered my eyes from the words of my childhood and I developed an inexplicable fear of writing itself.

It wasn’t until I explored the possible reasons for my newfound fear of writing with a career coach that I had the “Ah-ha” moment. The moment in which I realized that there was a difference between coping and healing. Now, to some this may seem rather elementary, but to someone who only ever knew coping, the realization was rather profound. I’d come to a point in my life when the waters were calm, there were no more dramatic surges of trama to maintain my coping habit. So, like any other junkie there were times when I naturally created dramatic situations unknowingly that would result in the need to cope for weeks at a time. Being in the constant state of coping was natural and safe. The process of healing was unknown and terrifying. When I finally stopped beating myself up over the resistance to healing, the writing came. This writing came. So, I’m thankful for this next chapter and I look forward to healing. I look forward to helping others to heal. I simply continue to look forward until I am strong enough to look back again.

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