As part of our continued outreach for our films about healing from abuse, we welcome Stephanie March today as she shares how creativity is a vital force in her healing from abuse. Stephanie is a writer, survivor, and advocate. Her articles have been featured on XOJane, Kindness Blog, and The Huffington Post. She is a regular contributor to Big Voice Pictures’ blog – and such a blessing to our team as we realized the demands on our time have limited our ability to blog. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we thank you Stephanie for your powerful voice inspiring survivors!
Writing has saved my life. It has been the CPR to my heart and soul over and over again since I was a little kid. It has helped me to express myself, find my voice, and heal from various traumas. As I’ve gotten older it has been crucial in my development as a human being and in my ability to reach out to others.
I truly believe that the ability to write is a gift I was given in order to navigate the abuse I endured as both a child and as an adult. It has allowed me to be resilient after adversities ranging from childhood sexual abuse to surviving domestic violence in adulthood. Resilience, as defined in this study by Professor Megan R. Holmes of Case Western Reserve University, is “the capacity for successful adaptation in the face of adversity”. This capacity, this ability to bounce back, is crucial after any trauma.
I needed this resilience as a kid in the worst way. By the sixth grade I had already survived three years of sexual abuse. I wrote about my young life experiences in journals. I read a lot and eventually discovered a love of poetry. And it was this discovery that created a powerful outlet for me. I poured my heart and soul into poetry day after day until I amassed hundreds of pages of poems. This allowed me to vent my confusing emotions in a place where I felt safe.
As I grew up, my love of poetry expanded into writing in general. This love of writing gave me hope for the future. I held onto that hope during some very dark teenage years and eventually it led me to the reality of college. I studied my way out of a bad home and into a new life for myself. The day I graduated from college with an English degree was a full circle moment nobody can ever take away.
I continue to write as an adult and believe it is one of the best therapies in existence. Creativity in any form has been proven, according to this article, to calm the lower regions of the brain where trauma impacts survivors the most. The article furthermore states that when the lower brain’s instincts are overly stimulated it can limit someone’s capacity to utilize higher cognitive functions: “Simply put, arts therapy helps trauma victims reconnect with that image-based part of the brain, a process with calms the parts of the brain that have been overworked by trauma”. It allows for expression and processing in a way that talk therapy can not provide.
Writing is what works best for me. For you it might be sculpting, painting, or playing a musical instrument. There are no limits with creativity. In addition to being therapeutic, it is a great cure for boredom. Boredom is a place where trauma memories, anxiety, and depression can sometimes present themselves. This article explains that research shows boredom can actually “boost creativity, encourage daydreaming, and foster the growth of new goals”. So next time you are bored, remember that creativity is a means for keeping the brain engaged in positive activities while also promoting an environment of active healing.
We live in a fast paced society and self-care is often something we view as a waste of time or something that can be put off until later. However, self-care is crucial for any person and its importance is tenfold for a survivor of trauma. Creative expression absolutely falls into the category of self-care. There are few things more important than healing and producing resiliency so one can withstand the pressures of life.
Do what comes naturally to you or consider taking classes in something that interests you. Returning to school as an adult might seem intimidating but it is completely possible. Everything from traditional universities to online colleges offer courses in arts and writing. If that’s not doable, consider a class at your local community center.
I am grateful that I was given a natural gift of expression and creativity. It has been sculpted by years of classes, hundreds of poems, and dozens of articles. If trauma has been my yin, writing has been my yang. It has given me air to breathe when I could find none. Take some time today and get creative. Pick up that pen or paintbrush and let the healing begin.