As part of ACPA creator Kathy Mac's "Wording Around with Prose" webinars, ACPA managing editor Jamie Kitts responds to their chosen text for lesson 2.1: Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo. This blogpost covers Chapter 9: "Writing the Wounded Psyche."
So, I know I said at the end of the last blogpost that, due to the heavy nature of that chapter's content and the direction it took me in, that I would keep those thoughts private. I still don't intend to tell you what those thoughts were. But today's chapter also takes readers into some heavy places and I can't just keep saying "Come back tomorrow when the content won't be heavy." Instead I'll try to hold to that (flawed and ultimately hurtful) writing maxim to make the personal impersonal.
Early in chapter 9, DeSalvo speaks about Alice Walker and Walker's reasons for writing. Walker's work is all in service of avoiding self-destruction and passing those coping skills to readers through her fiction. This rings true very particularly with myself and many writers in my circle; so many of us write in order to make sense of trauma in some form or another.
Several of us are managing a lot of anger right now. I live in the Canadian Province of New Brunswick (as opposed to New Brunswick, New Jersey, which I just learned is a real place). I know more people angry at our Premier than I do otherwise. I myself have been very vocal about my feelings. I scared someone pretty badly with some of the things I've had on my mind because I in turn am terrified by the direction things are going in. But also, I know my views and fears are not only matched, but some friends have even stronger views. So, if you think I'm scary, you should meet the rest of the heathens.
But even with all that righteous energy it can be easy to lose sight of another goal: to break this perfect circle and stop perpetuating the same hurt that got us here in the first place. I lost sight of this today and last week. That person I scared was someone I care about very much. We've made up and made good on what happened. But what I thought I was hearing was not actually what they were saying. I thought I was hearing someone turn on me; they thought I was in a crisis and a danger to myself, to say the least. Turns out we were both very wrong about what we were saying to each other.
However, there is some truth here that I wasn't totally ready to cede earlier. DeSalvo brings up the poet Jane Redmont and her life-lessons following psychiatric treatment: "the way oppression breeds depression... go beyond the biochemical and the intrapsychic, even beyond the family system, to the larger structure and events that shape our lives" (qtd. in DeSalvo). I'm normally very aware of my mental illness and health challenges. Actually, I requested my boss to let me start this work term in late June because I'd just started a new medication near the end of May and I knew it would affect my performance. But I always underestimate the environmental factors. Because it's true, my mental health is not well, and I suspect the same of several friends, especially those invested in seeing Clinic 554 stay open in Fredericton. Just like the weather climate affects our bodies, the political climate affects our minds.
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