October: The Story…

October: The Story…

Writer’s Feedback: The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness or Loss by Sandra Marinella, MA, MEd

“There is nothing so wise as a circle.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Thank you all for your understanding of my absence last month; I needed a mental health break. I am grateful for the safety of your patience and compassion. Last month, I was overwhelmed by fires, covid, and the newest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This report finally links climate change and human activity and issues a dire warning that we must act now if we hope to change this trajectory. We are an impetus of imbalance. As cancer patients and survivors, this is not news to us.

The report strikes a deep trigger that is already primed by fires and the pandemic, and what is wired together fires together.

My experience with cancer and climate change is a deeply linked trigger. I grew up with a strong intuition of what we were and are doing to the Earth and each other. Cancer and climate change bring up overwhelming mixed feelings of depression, sadness, disappointment, anger, and rage. This overwhelming nexus of emotions can send tension through my body, cause jitters, nausea, and disorientation. My head will swoon, and my heart rate goes up.

It’s that time of year too; time for a checkup at UCSF. Thoughts of reoccurrence creep in and little things set me off. I am primed for triggers that distract me from the present. I remind myself that I am here now. I am human and I am not alone. I am here to share, to observe, to learn, to heal. I remind myself that I manage my stress (not the other way around), I contribute to my community, and I work to help heal our relationships with each other and this Earth.

Writing with you all is such a gift and I’m excited to share The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness or Loss by Sandra Marinella, MA, MEd.

One of our writers and BGHP shared this online event with me, and I’d like to share what I gained. The most valuable information I garnered from this online presentation was the wealth of neuroscience-based evidence validating the healing we experience through writing. Also, I am eager to share the writing exercises that were discussed, as we continue to narrate our own stories and share in this healing experience of creative expression.

Freewriting – journal away! Writing in your own way. Release and catharsis through doodling, drawing, listing, poetry, narrative; let the writing flow. Sandra recommended that you fire the inner critic and get to writing.
Challenge writing is writing through or about difficult experiences by engaging in expressive writing. Sandra offered studies validating the healing power of this style of writing by Dr. James Pennebaker.

Reframing your story. Sandra shared a beautiful example of this from one of her writing students. She described a brother who really loved his sister, whose own story was full of struggle and difficult life choices. He reframed her story in a way that helped him to realize his sister was determined to make her own choices. Try this exercise by authoring your own story, describing in detail what you experienced and what was felt. Then, reframe your story with gratitude and positive memories that you can reflect and learn from.

Positive writing centers us on the good and meaningful things that happen to us. Sandra shared writing from Jen Campisano, author of the blog “Booby and the Beast”. Jen used positive writing and narrative therapy throughout her diagnosis and treatment and shared her journey in her blog.

Gratitude writing is taking the time to regularly express what you are grateful for, which ingrains and deepens the practice. Our brains recognize story, so when we practice gratitude writing we are helping hardwire our sense of safety, health, and overall well-being
This month’s theme on our Healing Journey is Death and Rebirth, writing about feelings of death and life. I know it is a bit strange to through in here at the end. But I want to make sure we can write on this theme.

Prompt 1: Freewriting: doodle, draw, make lists, pro vs. cons. Write poetry, craft a narrative; let loose.

Prompt 2: Reframe your story. Tell us a story: start by writing the story exactly as experienced, then reframe with gratitude, positivity, and lessons learned.

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