How to Use Writing to Find Peace Amid Pain and Heartache

David Gates


It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to face. I was twenty-three when the demons of my childhood stepped out of the shadows and my world came crashing down.

When I was a child, an adult in my life sexually abused me. It went on for a while, and then it was over. I did what any child does when they find themselves shaken with fear. I hid. I somehow pushed the memories back into the deepest corners of my mind and I acted like the monsters were from a bad bedtime story rather than my life. I never found the courage to tell anyone, so I locked away the memories and did my best to forget.

Suddenly, and without warning, I was facing those demons again. For nearly twenty years I had found ways to avoid them. I had all but forgotten what happened, but now they had reappeared from the darkness and were showing their sharp teeth.

I found myself in a tailspin, plummeting toward a deep ocean. I spent the next several months drinking in an effort to quiet the voices. It worked for awhile, but all too soon I had become dependent on alcohol. Those few months cost me nearly everything. When I finally found a way to break the surface and breathe, I had lost my job, my marriage, and my home. All of which caused me to relapse and hide in the dark for a few more months.

One day I was sitting at my computer, a couple of drinks in, trying to write. Before all of this chaos, I had written a few books. Writing was my passion, but I found myself staring at the screen, unable to form a sentence. A few more failed attempts to write and I gave that up too. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Eventually I found myself in therapy. I would sit across the room from my therapist for an hour, trying and failing to express myself, head back home, and pour a drink. I just couldn’t find the words. She wanted to help, but I wasn’t able to communicate what I was feeling.  

A few sessions later and after another hour of us staring at each other, she looked at me and said, “You’re a writer.” I looked up at her. “If you can’t seem to find the words, write me a letter this week and bring it in next session.” 

I left my therapist’s office that evening, went home, and opened my laptop and stared at the screen. I wasn’t sure what to write, so I just started typing out my feelings. As the screen began to fill up with words, my eyes became misty. For the first time in a long time, I was writing. Sure, it wasn’t what I usually wrote and I definitely wouldn’t publish it – but I was actually writing again.

I continued for over an hour, sat back in my chair, and took a deep breath. This was it. This was how I would find healing. For the first time in six months, the weight had lifted and I could breathe again. All of my emotions, my past, and my pain were sitting in front of me. I could finally begin to make sense of it all. 

You see, as writers, our best tool is our ability to write. I learned that my writing could be used for more than just telling stories. I had never viewed it this way before, but after sitting down and pouring my feelings out, I realized how much power there was in having an outlet. Sure, no one would read it but me. Sure, even if someone did read it, it wouldn’t all make sense.

I now have two programs on my desktop. The first is the one I use for writing things I hope to publish. The other is my therapy journal. Every time I have a feeling that overwhelms me or confuses me, I write it down. Over time, I find that I can make peace with each feeling and with the pain if I can go back and revisit them on my own terms. Writing them down allows me to do this.

Whatever storm you find yourself in or whatever it is that is hiding in the shadows, it’s time to face it. As a writer, that may mean grabbing a pen and notepad and writing down your thoughts. It might mean writing a letter to someone who has hurt you, even if you never send it. Whatever it is, use the gift that you’ve been given and start healing.


William KenowerComment