Writing Helped Me Move Past My Dysfunctional Childhood

I write books. I know that I feel better when I write. I write about different aspects of my life, where I have lived, about my childhood traumas, as different ways of expressing myself. The benefits creative writing gives people is to explore a range of issues in different ways – writing creatively requires imagination, when you’re more imaginative you are naturally more playful, dramatic, or solemn. Writing can raise your level of self-awareness and self-knowledge as Abraham Maslow suggested because it helps you meet certain needs, which in turn leads to greater confidence.

I just finished a book, Wormhole Wrangler, a time travel tale and one of the major characters is Angus MacDougal. He is someone I found I could relate too. Of course, Angus was born in the old west prior to the Civil War, and of course this is a fictional world, but it’s my world. I created him, and yes, he is a hero. A reluctant Time Traveler. Masculine. Tender. Understanding.

Angus experiences many confusing things on his journey which overwhelms him until he meets the love of his life, Elle Cates, one hundred and fifty seven years into his future. Elle has the same problems Angus does, issues of trust, anger, hurt, and trauma. Angus who is totally out of his element must depend on Elle to guide and teach him. Of course, he is uncomfortable in his new surroundings but he is resilient. It is painful for him to think about his memories, but with Elle, who is a kindred spirit having had similar upbringing, they both flourish and begin to heal in the course of their dangerous adventure.

I think is Angus is perfect in every way.

Perfect you say?

Yes he is. At least in my fictional world. He is perfect because he is willing to open that door to healing, to try to understand and acknowledge his past childhood experiences and thus begins to heal.

In real life I know humans are not perfect. We make mistakes – lots of mistakes. Some of those mistakes are easy to forgive; some mistakes seem unforgivable, at least so at the time, but we do forgive them and we learn from them.  That’s one way we move forward in our life. The most grievous of these “mistakes” however, can harm a family in such sinister ways its members never fully recover, especially children as they grow to adulthood. Even if they come to understand what happened to them, as Angus did, the hurt is so powerful it affects you your whole life. I lived through the same trauma Angus and Elle did.

Like Angus, I wanted to believe my parents were perfect, infallible, dependable, my hero’s.  I needed them for just about everything.

Our family dynamics were centered on my father, who acted like a tyrant when drunk, denying that drinking was a problem, while issuing orders and blaming everyone else. To cope and avoid confrontations, we had all silently agreed to act as if everything was normal, not make waves, and not mention his alcohol addiction. We all denied what we knew to be true, what we felt, what we saw. That took a heavy psychological toll.

I remember, even at an early age, of being embarrassed and hurt both emotionally and physically. If I could have moved through time and just disappeared I would have, as Angus was able to. But I couldn’t. I didn’t live in a fantasy world, I could only dream. Unfortunately I never had a close relationship with either of my parents and when they died, to my horror I was not upset as I thought I should have been. Now I look back on that, I think I should have tried harder to talk to them, should have tried harder to understand the trauma they had suffered in their own childhoods, before they died, but the truth is, I was too angry. I felt betrayed and lacked the strength to confront that betrayal.

Angus couldn’t do that either. Only after they died did he begin to think about his emotions. Yes, Angus lives in my imagination, but maybe I’m a little bit like him. You see, Angus’ father was an alcoholic. So was Elle’s.

So was mine.

My father was often a violent alcoholic. No two days were ever alike in my household. You never knew what might set him off. He suffered from at terrible demon caused from alcohol.

My mother was his enabler, she was a zealous Catholic woman who wanted to be viewed as a selfless giving person to the outside world. She did everything she could to make that happen.  Her expressions of love to outsiders was, I think, mostly for show, perhaps so others in the community might say “what a wonderful selfless person you are.”

She decided to suffer in silence because she wanted, above all, “to go to heaven.”  I often thought, what about your children? What about me, your daughter? I’m here, don’t you see me? Don’t you hear me? Can’t you love me?

In her own home, where she was needed most, my mother was unable to give her children any love, especially unconditional love. There were always strings attached like going to Catholic school, praying to St. Jude, and never talking about family issues. Life was chaotic, often violent, because of my father. My mother never intervened, if he was verbally abusive towards me, but she would defend her drunken husband if I dare say something about his drinking. I remember when I had asked him to stop drinking, her response to me was, “I’m not going to let you do that to HIM.”

He ALWAYS came first.

I lived in a nightmare.

I don’t believe my father ever knew what love was. I know he grew up in a violent alcoholic home. In my father’s life, alcohol came first, alcohol was more important that his wife, his sons, or his only daughter. Alcoholism was our family’s disease.

My mother had lamented to me she thought, when she married him, she could change his behavior. She couldn’t. That never works. Even if she had finally realized any change in him would never happen, her religious beliefs would not have allowed her to consider leaving him – ever.

I lived with confusion and anger throughout my early childhood and teenage years. I finally escaped when I married the man who rescued me. He had his own problems of growing up in a dysfunctional home, as I had, but we were kindred spirits and we truly have always loved one another. With give and take on both sides my husband and I literally pulled ourselves up and out of the mire. It wasn’t easy, but we made it.

Now, getting back to how writing was therapy for me – I always loved to write but I never thought I had enough talent to proceed. With my husband’s encouragement, my writing has evolved. Most importantly it has enabled me to tell my story through fictitious people, fictitious places, all of which exhibit my former problems in one degree or another. My characters, in turn, come to life on the pages of my books, they are very real to me. when I write about their trauma, their issues, their pain, my own trauma I suffered during childhood is exposed. My characters taught me, through their fictitious lives, that my parent’s behavior was not my fault. It was their fault. Writing helped me grow emotionally. It is self-healing and exhilarating as I wind my way through my stories I feel the pages from my own life turning.  As they unfold to expose feelings of depression and grief, of the terror and constant lies, my pain has slowly healed. I love that.

For others who have experienced any type of trauma, I am fully aware writing may not work to the extent it helped me. I am positive, however, that any exercise in writing would be beneficial.

Certainly I am not a great writer, at least so far! I do hope one day I can get up enough courage to be comfortable enough to write my own story, it would not be fiction. But not yet. My fictitious characters and their story lines are enough for now.

Of course, I do sell my books. Every book that sells leaves me with a great sense of accomplishment and pride. I feel stronger, more valued, that I have contributed to this world, even if in this small way, giving my readers a good fun story to read and helping me to heal along the way.

Even if you don’t want to write as extensively as I have, writing about any unresolved issues can help you. Writing helps you express your deepest thoughts, fears, and hurts. Some people discard these musings once written, thereby tossing all the pain and hurt away symbolically. Of course, if you’re not ready to be rid of your writing, or if you wish to keep it or continue to work on it, put it somewhere private, these are your thoughts and feelings. During your thinking and writing exercise, you just might find healing like I did. It really works.

You will find the character, Angus MacDougal in my book, Wormhole Wrangler. Keep reading and writing!