Monday, March 2, 2009

Does it hurt to write about recovery?

At a reading/panel discussion of After Shocks poets at the South Carolina Book Festival last Saturday that question in the headline above was posed by a 22-year-old audience member named Zack. The responses of the panelists could be summed up this way: Yes, in the short term, it does hurt, but in the long-term it helps healing, and not only for the poet, but hopefully for readers, too.

The After Shocks contributors on the panel that I moderated at the Columbia-based festival were Laurel Blossom, Clinton B. Campbell, Susan Meyers, Marjory Wentworth, and Ed Madden. In answering this perceptive question, the panelists brought up issues of buried grief or ignored addiction problems or post-traumatic stresses and disorders that when extracted by the poet's pen cause wounds to re-open, or open for the first time if they've been buried from the very beginning. And thus the act of writing--a self-examination--may cause great pain. We all seemed to agree that in the long-run, we were better off for the writing.

Recovery from a life-shattering event like the death of a beloved family member or expriences in war, from exile, acts of bigotry, illness or injury, acknowleding and dealing with addictions--recovery from these events doesn't truly end--ever. There is no closure. There is no point where you can say "I'm totally healed." These events become something that we learn to live with, like a scar, something we wear, like a medal. We are marked forever, though over time, the pain diminishes, and in the long-term, writing helps us move down that asymptotic curve.


Unknown said...

any pathway to recovery is can be poetry, writing, volunter is another tool....Vision Map Videos...i have a pre-made specifically for recovery....enjoy!!!


Anonymous said...

I applaud your creative approach to a subject that needs to be shared. Raising awareness about how people recover from traumatic experiences helps to validate the full effect it has had on our minds and bodies. Writing has allowed me to uncover the depth of a 30 year chronic pain journey that began in childhood. Personally, allowing the debris to bubble up to the surface has been a path to a more total recovery. I am sure your book will be a comfort to those who share these painful journeys back to wellness.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

I am so glad to discover your blog and your book...writing is such an important part of healing and recovery!