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Writing your way through anxiety

For as long as I can remember I loved to write. As a child I would always have my yellow pad of paper in hand. I wrote poems, short stories and even created magazines albeit they comprised of a dot matrix printer and cut outs from a magazine.  I love every aspect of writing – the way you could see my excitement through the scattered scrawl of my fast paced penmanship. I loved (and still do) seeing a clean piece of paper transformed by my words; words that carry you away - enlighten you and have the power to change your thoughts and show you the raw emotions of the writer. The point is that words surrounded me and I loved it and still do.

Writing is such a cathartic journey where our brains really do react differently than when you just think the thought. The act of putting it down on paper stimulates different cells in the back of the brain. Pretty cool stuff when you think about it because all you are doing is taking your raw experiences and imagination and transferring it to paper.

Writing for me, has served a very different purpose throughout my life. Much of my writing when I was a teenager was very painful to read as an adult. I struggled with severe anxiety and depression. Almost all of my poetry is very dark and shows the magnitude of my fears. Looking back at all of my writing I realize how alone I did feel. At that point, writing for me was a voice that I could not speak aloud. Although, I occasionally submitted my work for contests the bulk of the work has never been read by anyone other than me.

Somewhere along the line in my twenties the writing stopped – life happened and my father died and much of my voice fell silent.  I did write a few poems about my father’s death but I felt a significant void.  It wasn’t until in my thirties that I began to write again but this time it was more about telling my story and making a statement. I felt like I had lived through a lot and realized that I belong here just as much as anyone else. I grew proud of my voice and accomplishments.

Life has a way of challenging you and making you question your whole existence. I was in a place where I had a tremendous amount of responsibility and my outlet became journaling. In an effort to clear the clutter from my mind, like when I was a younger I began to carry around a notebook for my ideas, thoughts or stories.

In 2009, I took myself to the hospital. I was sure that I was having a heart attack. Up until this point I was able to manage anything that life had thrown at me  - anything that happened to the kids, the death of my parents, a move – I survived it all, until now. I spent a few hours in the hospital, got a thorough evaluation and the reality was I had suffered a severe panic attack. I kept track of my feelings through writing – writing coping lists, phone lists, here and now lists, realistic thinking lists. I wrote down everything.

For the next year and a half I spent my days healing. I used writing as a tool to reconnect with myself as well as to help others understand where I was at emotionally if I couldn’t always communicate it.

My Journal -  I would write down all of my random thoughts and hopes and despairs in my journal.

Lots of sticky notes – I would use these to write down quick positive affirmations that would catch me in an effort to be surrounded by only those positives.

The more I wrote the more ideas came into my head and my creativity began to soar. Before I knew it my children’s book about anxiety “Just Like You” was created.

Just Like You Manuscript – It came to me one day while staring at a blank white piece of paper. All of my life’s experiences could not have happened for nothing. I wanted to share a little part of me with others that too struggled with anxiety. So in the span of 1 hour a first draft was written. It was raw but I knew that I had uncovered something that not many people talk about nor like to talk about – the debilitating effects of anxiety.

I had found a very real, very passion voice inside of me and in the next two years I would take that idea and craft it into the children’s book that sits on the shelves of bookstores today.

Did people criticize my efforts? Of course and to them I heard their thoughts and packed it away reminding myself that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. For some the ideas of the book were just too raw for them and they did not want to share in the messages. That too was alright because one day they may just pick up the book and find solace in the pages instead of fear.

I think the greatest message that I can share is to listen to the voice inside of you that wants to create your own masterpiece. Regardless of where the written words go be it a poetry contest, your own book or an article in a newspaper or blog always know that your voice is as important as anyone else’s. With vision and passion great things can be done and along the way you heal. Let it go, release all that is in your amazing soul and sit back and watch how your words can resonate and touch others. It is one of the best gifts that you can give to yourself.