When Writing Does NOT Make You Feel Better – firstname.lastname@example.org (Sharon Lippincott)
Write about a painful memory for twenty minutes a day for three days, and your stress levels will go down, your health will improve, and you’ll live happily ever after!
Myth or magic? Well, okay, the living happily ever after part is definitely myth, but the rest? Today, for me, it all feels like a myth. But how can it be? I’ve been a True Believer and a perpetrator of this advice for years. If you look at the menu bar below my header, you’ll see a link to an archived blog titled Writing for the Health of It. Hundreds studies have been done around the world validating successful outcomes for even short bouts of expressive writing. That is NOT a myth!
However, I just ran into a personal brick wall. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent at least twenty hours fine-tuning and polishing a story about how a nurse practitioner in a local hospital blew off my reports of pain and gave me a meaningless, fluff diagnosis. Had he asked even two probing questions instead of jumping to conclusions, surely he would have caught my predictable, textbook case of pericarditis hours after pacemaker surgery.
While I cannot prove anything beyond the words he wrote in the record I accessed through my online portal, I am 100% certain that if I’d known what I actually had, I would have avoided landing back in the hospital four months later with what became life-threatening complications. I might have had recurrences, but they could have been simply handled without more than $300,000 in medical costs and two months of non-productive time.
My anger knew no bounds when I finally felt well enough to start digging around in my records to make sense of it all and found his words there in black and white. I have filed a formal complaint that’s now under review by The Compliance Process Committee. It’s too late to change my outcome, but I hope to avoid future mishaps like mine for others.
I had also hoped to find personal peace and resolution through writing. That has not happened.
I am angrier today than I was before I
began writing. So what do we do when writing apparently fails to help?
I have a hunch that I expected too much too soon. The writing to heal research is full of admonitions about not writing too soon. We do need to let things mellow. I thought I’d done that, but now I see otherwise. My fingers began to fly the minute I read that report! I still want revenge! And that is never a good place to write from, at least for the public.
Also, my anger was amplified last week when, three days after my discovery, my husband had a completely different life-threatening experience in the same hospital. And my daughter is facing brain surgery three weeks from today (in a different hospital, than heavens!). I keep missing my supportive writing groups too.
Yes, my score on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is currently near the top. It’s too soon for me to be writing polished accounts and expecting closure. I needed the polished account for the review process, but aside from that, I should stick to journal entries and breathing deeply. And not reading news reports about Russia or North Korea! I shall sit with my anger and fully experience it. I’ll let insights like the one about wanting revenge surface. What else will I learn?
Have faith in the process and don’t stress if it takes more than three days. And stay tuned. I’m contacting others who have survived writing trauma-based memoirs. I shall share their wisdom with you as it accrues.
And please, if you have thoughts or experiences to share, post a comment, or email me at ritergal (at) gmail (dot) com.