Pen to paper - #WhenIBecameFree - The Heartland Project

Helps -

Yes, keeping a journal is healing.

Looking back at my life and during some of those darkest moments there was one thing I always did - I kept a diary of sorts. My first couple of ones were filled with doodles, my love for animals and, of course, the band-Journey as well as David Bowie.

Sometimes there would be a poem - and others times just one sentence describing my deep thought or question for the day.

I would go in spurts of writing non stop for weeks on end, and then all of a sudden I couldn't find words to write.

For some twisted entertainment sake I'd leave cryptic messages for my mother in the diary I kept out in the open. However for the one hidden in a box, under my bed, I would write about my fears, my dreams, and sometimes how I wish I could close my eyes and life would stop.  I was a very depressed teen, way before Goth became popular.

This was back when I was sick all the time, and away from school -at home or in the hospital. My spleen ever expanding taking center stage and my secrets being shoved deeper within. My school labeled me as a truant because I was out more than in; the doctors wanted to label me as disabled -medically fragile is what they called it; my mother ignored the few times I tried to tell her everything, and my father just wanted everything to be okay for his Little Princess.

What got me writing was a counselor I saw when I was just 11 years old.. I was forced to go by orders of a truancy judge who more than likely saw things for what they really were. The school had taken action against my parents. We showed up to court with boxes of medical records, all those lovely hospitalizations and tests. I must admit I did enjoy him telling off the school district for wasting the court's time. However, by the time all of that occurred my self esteem was no where to be found, and I think he saw that in me. When he asked me a few questions I must have seemed like a shell of a person - I just blankly stared back at him. I had no voice.

He ordered that I go through counseling "Because the child has been through too much with school and being ill."

 My mother went with me to those sessions. It was ordered that the counseling be outside of the school, and independent from their system, however they were to pick up half the cost. I remember the drives to the sessions. I hated them. I would get the same lecture about not talking about what went on in the home, with my siblings, nor between my parents. I was not allowed to discuss my father's alcoholism, nor my mother's quick and often physical displays of temper. I was only to speak about the good things, and never to make my mother look bad...other than that I could speak about whatever I wanted. Joy! (note the sarcasm)

Yes, we were your typical American Dysfunctional Family of the 1970s ..."Smile for the camera!"

My counselor's name was Madeleine Settles. I have never forgotten her. All these year's later, 35 plus, her name is still in the forefront of my memory.

She was a kind woman with a soft voice - she seemed like a free spirit. Her hair was  red, long and in my child's eyes at the time I would describe as fuzzy.

I never once uttered to her about the past incidents of being sexually assaulted - I never told her how young I was the first time, nor how many different hands had a role in my scars.

She knew. She knew there was far more to me than I was allowed to share during those sessions. I sensed it, and she was the one who had me start keeping a diary. She knew that those secrets I kept so buried within needed to come out.

I can remember her trying so hard to reach me - at one time she even gave me an old guitar because she so wanted me to find a way to express myself.  I tried to learn how to play it, but that lasted all about a few weeks.

Children remember people who care, and she was one of those people. I remember one time, during one of my many hospitalizations, she came to visit me. It was the first time I ever had a bone marrow test done and I was terrified because the doctors thought for sure I must have had a form of leukemia. I didn't even know that she knew I was there - she came with a gift. A small gift. It was brooch of a clown, smiling. If I remember right she even told me that clowns also smile while hiding their secrets.

Yes, she knew.

So, thankfully she forced me to find ways to express myself including to start writing a diary. It allowed me the outlet I needed and was always my go to when I felt I couldn't keep going on. I still have some of those journals, they are buried in a storage container in my basement that I never go down to. They have traveled with me to many places, in the country and overseas. They moved with me everywhere I went - they contain steps of my journey, and validate my experiences. At times the pen and paper were the only things in my life I could trust to be real.

For anyone struggling with life, I urge you to grab a notebook, a pen and sit with your thoughts. Don't direct what you will write about, just let it happen. Allow yourself to spend quality time with yourself. You don't need to be a proficient speller nor do you need to be grammatically correct. You can draw, or you can just write one word that describes your emotions at the time - once you do that, you will find validation - and before you know it the rest will flow out. All the pain you've kept buried, all the dreams you've been fearful of dreaming, and all the tears you've denied to fall. The road to healing is just a few pen strokes away.

Also, please remember, healing is a process. Keeping a journal is just one tool towards healing. Nothing happens overnight, and from time to time there will be setbacks. Be patient with yourself, but never give up on what you deserve - love. Treat yourself well and slowly you will realize the love you've always wanted starts with you.

Okay - and now for the song - I almost always end my postings with a song, and while this one doesn't exactly fit this post, I like it, and that's good enough for me! ;)

If you are a survivor working towards bettering your community while using your life experience and/or working towards change in laws - please contact #WhenIBecameFree - The Heartland Project at  and visit the website at #WhenIBecameFree-The Heartland Project


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