I conducted one of the presentations, called “Healing through Creative Expression” and doing that presentation made me much more nervous than anything else about the day. In it I led the attendees through my own path to healing through the use of my writing, starting with snippets of poetry, then stanzas of it, then complete poems, followed by parts of a novel in progress, and leading up to the writing and production of my autobiographical play Invisible Boy based on my own experiences growing up in a small town in southwestern Wisconsin. I talked a little bit about photography, painting, and other art forms, sharing a few examples that others had given me permission to share, but like my writing most of the presentation was based on my own life experiences. For me healing is about sharing one’s story, whether it’s with a friend or family member, a therapist, or in a more public way such as art. For me my writing has always been my friend and my healer, and I wanted to share how important it is. I have always believed that sharing my own healing can lead to the healing of others. My catharsis can help others find catharsis, as long as my story is universal in its telling.
Art as healing may not work for others. Sharing stories publicly may not work for others either. Everyone has to come to their own healing in their own way and for most people the majority of that will be through intensive therapy. But for me, writing has always been the way I process emotions. Due to my childhood abuse I have always had trust issues, but processing my emotions through the written word I can explore at my own pace and share when I feel I have the words right. But I can also hide behind the words, even when a full-length play about my abuse is produced. In a theatrical production it is not me speaking, even though it is my words; it is actors who take those words and give them their own interpretation and life.
In Thursday’s presentation, though, it wasn’t an actor. It wasn’t a piece of paper that others were reading. It was me standing up in front of the room reading from my work, talking from the heart about my abuse, my life choices and pain, and about my healing. It was me laying my soul bare and having to trust those there with my words and with my soul. Thankfully they were gentle with me. I don’t know if everyone got some good out of it, but when it was over several people came up and talked with me or hugged me and thanked me for being there. I don’t know if it was meaningful to everyone, but I know it was meaningful to at least some, and it was definitely meaningful for me. It helped me take a few more steps along my own path to healing and for that I am thankful.