Reopening Unhealed Wounds


My poetry teacher, discussing the trauma in Sharon Olds’ work, said that writing about hard things can be incredibly healing. However, he emphasized, it’s important to give the wound time to heal first. He likened it to a physical injury – you need to give it time to heal and then slowly begin to use it again until it returns to as close as possible to its pre-injured state.  

I smiled sardonically to myself. I’ve never given myself time to heal. If anyone has been at all consistently reading my Her Campus articles, you will have noticed that I talk a lot about mental illness, especially eating disorders. These are things that are still very real in my life. I don’t know if I can even say that I'm reopening wounds, because I don’t know if they’ve closed to begin with. It’s all still so present in my everyday life. And in general, I use writing to deal with unpleasant feelings.  

Writing is an outlet for me. I’d rather cry in bed and write than cry in bed and do nothing at all. It makes me feel like I’m not completely useless. And so, in my worst moments, I think writing does really help me.

I don’t think it’s obvious in my articles on here, but I often hesitate a lot before submitting something especially personal and dark. I feel like people don’t want to read about my countless deep-seated issues. But I’ve had people come up to me afterwards and say that what I wrote was really meaningful. That it made them think about how they view mental illness, that they related to what I wrote, that maybe they’re unintentionally engaging in behaviors that can make some people feel really bad about themselves.

This is what I want to do. I want to be able to use my experiences to make a change, even on a tiny level, because then it means that I didn’t live through all this for nothing.  

The inner debate that I'm feeling right now is about the moments that I’m fairly okay, which are getting more frequent. Is there value in writing the same dark things when I’m feeling fine? I know I do my best revisions when I’m in a clearer headspace, but sometimes I find myself dragged down by my writing and end up in a worse mood than I started with.  

Our assignment this past week was to find a photo of something important to us and to write a poem inspired by this. I choose a selfie of myself from high school, when I was at my worst. I put on my eating disorder playlist, and I sat down to write. I think I created something good, but it wasn’t easy. And afterwards, while I was proud of what I had written, I felt pretty shitty overall. I think it was worth it, but I’m not sure.

I’ve always thought of writing as healing, as good for me. But now I’m worried that all I'm doing is picking at my scabs again and again and never letting them heal.  

Despite all this, I think I am slowly getting better. But might I be getting better faster if I didn’t keep writing about all this? Am I prolonging this years-long process? I just want to be okay again, even if I don’t remember what that feels like. It’s got to feel better than this, right? Am I holding myself back?  

This is something that I’m probably going to be thinking about for a while. But as of right now, I don’t know if I’m going to stop writing about such heavy topics. The fact remains, especially when it comes to poetry, that I'm far better at writing about mental illness and heartbreak than anything else.