I have been working on a blog series called “Draining the Wound.” PTSD creates a spiritual wound that needs to be drained to enable better healing.
The foundational metaphor is that PTSD is similar to an infection. If I ignore it, leave it untreated, it will get worse. Like a physical wound it will redden, swell, smell, and need to be drained.
The more I ignore my wound and its symptoms, the more the infection spreads and inflicts damage. Writing helps to drain the wound. Writing creates more space for me to be alive. Draining the PTSD soul wound comes in the initial act of writing and in the subsequent revisions where I try to sharpen what I am trying to say. Sometimes it is very painful to do.
You probably noticed that there are no other entries yet beyond this one on Draining the Wound. I usually write these entries as a separate document and then work and revise as time and physical ability allows. The process of revision allows me to find out where my writing is really going. To find out if what I am writing is what I really mean to write. Raymond Carver and John Gardner, two well-regarded writers and writing teachers, stated that only in the revision process do we discover what it is we are really trying to say. For them revision could be 20 drafts over a considerable amount of time. [For my students, trying to get them to write at least three drafts and not hand in the first thing they crank out is one of my own teaching challenges. We live in hope.]
Living in my PTSD and not letting it destroy me is a process of constant revision. As my damaged hands and spirit allow, I try to be a writer. I find that in writing, teaching, and in spiritual direction I try to live beyond the PTSD-Identity. I have written both fiction and non-fiction and the occasional piece of poetry. Each writing exercise is just that, an exercise, like prayer, that keeps me alive, human, and in relationship.
Writing allows me to explore my experience. It allows me to figure out who I was, who I am, and who I am becoming. I may or may not write directly about the trauma or how the trauma has changed me. Every act of writing allows for some soul healing (if PTSD is involved or not). Whenever I allow myself to be creative I am choosing life over death. I am choosing my future over despair. The act of writing and revision encourages me to be in relationships. Those relationships decrease the seduction of isolation and despair.
In writing I find meaning. I find I have value. It would be wonderful to be a published author and be one of the very few who can live off of their writing, but I don’t realistically expect that to happen. But that blunt economic reality is not a cause of despair. I experience the real immediate blessing of writing in the very act of writing itself. If I post this to the PTSD Spirituality Blog or if it ends up in my book, or if I use it within other venues like PTSD Workshops, or spiritual direction, or if I do nothing with it ever again: I remain better off than I was before I started writing.
PTSD wounded my soul. It continues to stalk my soul and wound it further. Writing is a form of prayer. There are a variety of types of prayer. Many of them we recognize as obviously being prayer. But beyond the more obvious forms of prayer we ought to realize that every breath and action is prayer. Our every breath and action moves us either to better relationships or more damaged relationships. I know that PTSD strives to isolate me into depression and despair. Fortunately, effective prayer serves as an antibiotic to part of the PTSD infection. Writing and revision serves as one of the examples of this form of prayer. When I write, I am draining the PTSD wound.
By writing I review my own life, I review my history and its meaning (even if I am not writing memoir or biography). If I am honest I review the portions where I have damaged others – I should not solely focus on the good parts of my life. I cannot change the past, but I can better understand it the more I come back to it and write about it.
Our lives should be in a near constant state of revision. Note that this revision is not trying to falsify something in the past and claim that it never happened (We leave that to politicians and despotic governments). Rather this type of revision, like that spoken of by Carver and Gardner, allows us to hone our meaning, to understand what we really mean, what we really want, who we really are. When I speak or write about PTSD Spirituality I am engaged in this revision. Almost every time this topic engages me, I understand it better. Every time I understand PTSD better, I reduce the range of damage it can inflict on my soul and those with whom I am in relationship.
Writing helps to drain the PTSD wound.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z