How Writing Your Truth Can Help You Heal

Filed in When Writing Is Hard by on December 7, 2015 • views: 2196

By Mindy Halleck

Writing StepsAs an author and cancer survivor I believe writing aids us in understanding life’s challenges, and that through understanding we become better writers.

When we translate painful or confusing events from the unspoken into written language we alter our perceptions and fundamentally make the experience graspable. You can heal the body by connecting to the mind using writing as a restorative tool.

Natalie Goldberg wrote:

“Write about what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

It took three of what I call “tours in cancer-land” for me to finally “split open” and comprehend what life, at least my life, was about. It was about writing, and ultimately healing through the act of writing.

Writing Shines a Light Into the Black Abyss

The subconscious mind can be a dark source of paralyzing nightmares that latch on and don’t let go.

This stockpiled stress allows illness to infiltrate cells and psyche, keeping you in dis-ease and even making it worse.

Think of writing your truth—whether it be grief, rape, incest, bullying, or disease—as though you are shining a light into that black abyss. Once this light is shone, those nightmares tend to wither, and sooner or later their influence over you wanes.

Whenever I write about difficult topics, I visualize my cancer like a tiny black bat in a cave wincing and shrinking against the light. I love that image!

Through Writing, I Created My Own Shaman

Most writers create characters from deep in the subconscious mind, from unresolved issues or from traumatic events. And most of the time it’s unconscious until they re-read their work later and experience an epiphany about what they were really trying to write.

That’s what happened to me.

Though I have a strong belief in God, I needed more. During my decade of surgeries where my neck was cut open three different times from jugular vein to jugular vein, and my “giblets” were removed—thyroid, lymph nodes and a tumor—I intuitively created a shaman in my novel, Return To Sender.

When I was in the hospital or home unable to speak, not sure if I ever would speak again, I dreamed of a healer, felt him praying over me, meditating on my illness and telling me to not be afraid.

When I finally wrote (spoiler alert) his death, I mourned for several days—obviously (in retrospect) I was working at a deep level on my own fear of dying.

A Final Ceremony for a Character That Assisted Me on a Hard Journey

At first I was afraid I’d made a horrible mistake in writing his death. In writing his death, had I in turn written my own?

But then I realized it was time for him to go because I was strong enough to move forward.

Because I believe healthy rituals are good for the soul, I took a copy of the page where he dies to the lake, tore the paper into pieces, put the pieces on a large maple leaf, settled it on the water and lit the paper on fire.

The tiny fire that floated away from the shore was a final ceremony for a character who had assisted me on a hard, hard journey. In that ritual I asked him to take my cancer with him. If you read Return To Sender you’ll see how my transformational desire was written into his death scene.

That ceremony freed us both from our cancer bond. In saying good-bye to him I said good-bye to my paralyzing fear of cancer.

Keeping the Little Black Bat in His Cave

Of course, the fear will always be there, but it’s no longer that paralyzing fear. Why? Because as I seek to understand through writing about past traumas and stressors in my life that lead to dis-ease in a body, I am empowered.

An empowered body is enabled and thus begins a deep healing process.

“It is important to release the original trauma and see connections in order toheal from the trauma.” James W. Pennebaker, PH.D, author of Writing To Heal.

I now embrace that there is dis-ease within my body, and I work to understand it through writing, managing stress, and seeking out and engaging in alternative healing, such as acupuncture, nutrition, massage, resonance therapy, and long, long beach walks. All have been guides in my passage out of cancer-land.

I continue to thrive despite a bit of the tumor in my throat. I am closely watched by my team of doctors who constantly tell me that my attitude and approach to wellness has made me a triumphant patient.

I’m confident that I can keep that little black bat in his cave, and that I am triumphant because of the powerful tool of restorative writing.


pr pic for site 2015Mindy Halleck is an award-winning fiction writer, novelist, and social media and writing instructor.

In 2015 her debut novel, Return To Sender, a literary thriller set on the Oregon Coast in the 1950’s, received a “Reader’s Favorite” award. Her short stories have won the Writer’s Digest and the EPIC Arts Association fiction contests. Halleck also blogs at Literary Liaisons and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest writing community.

In addition to being a writer, Halleck is a happily married, globe-trotting beachcomber and three-time cancer survivor. Find more at her website.

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Comments (9)

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  1. Chere Hagopian says:

    Thank you! What an inspirational post. Some of the greatest writing in the world has come from sorting through deep pain, so it can only improve our writing to delve into what hurts. And putting it on a page instead of keeping it inside is so freeing!

  2. Brett says:

    Great story! Thanks for sharing.

  3. JazzFeathers says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. Your courage is inspiting.

    I do think writing has healing powers. When my mum died, it was writing that carried me on. As you said, it deconstructs our fears and incecurities and give us the means to control them, as least to some extent.
    This helps us understand ourselves better and to be more understanding and open with others, I believe.

    Really a beautiful post.

    • Mindy says:

      You are so kind to comment. I appreciate your feedback and am happy you, too, found writing to be a healing and coping process. Blessings, Mindy

  4. Mindy thank you for sharing this story. Its really cool seeing how writing helped you cope with that you had and have going on. My mom had a very similar situation in her throat so I sent this to her in an email. I hope things continue looking up.

    • Mindy says:

      Thank you, I am happy my story resonated with your and especially thanks for forwarding to your mom. I wish you and her well. Cheers, Mindy

  5. Thank you for sharing the journey of meeting your shadow! You keep that little black cat where it belongs! I agree that writing can open a door to the examined life, and when we write about the places that scare us we empower ourselves. I am truly lucky to have met you in life, Mindy. So to read about your journey, and see the depths that the pen has taken you is healing for me too. And aren’t we all connected by our stories? Again, thank you for sharing such authenticity. Sign me your friend and your fan!

    • Mindy says:

      Ah….thank you! And yes, we are all connected by our universal stories and journeys. The more we share the more we discover how much more alike we all are than different. Thanks for taking time to read my journey. Cheers, Mindy