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Why My Writing Workshops Have Been Better Than Therapy

I have been in therapy for years. Some therapists were better than others. BUT, I have never come out of a therapy session on a realistic cloud nine.

Not an “oh my god I can get on Oprah,” bipolar fantasy. Not an “I can’t sleep for a week, or two” high. But an “I am an amazing person with something to say” and “I was just validated by good people, I have found my niche and I feel great about me” frame of mind.

I love my writing life! My workshops and meet-ups. Now, if I could just figure out a way to get my insurance to pay for it.

Sayonara therapy, you did your job; it was necessary. Now it is time for me to do mine. I got this.

Today I finished a two-hour a day for five days workshop called “SheWrites Week” put on by Story Summit. One of my new faves, Brooke Warner, of She Writes Press did three of the sessions. See my last post about what I learned from one of her workshops. I could listen to her for hours. She is a rock star of empowerment.

And looking back, that was what was lacking from therapy. Now, I am not telling anyone to skip therapy sessions or stop medications; I have no business doing that. I am not a doctor. Brooke is not a therapist.

But maybe some writing group supplementation would be good to try.

Therapy serves certain times in one’s life. I needed it back then. Now I look for something different.

I am signing up for more workshops each week.

The San Miguel Writer’s Conference has me chomping at the bit for my next workshop with them.

And I joined a writer’s workout/workshop on Mondays with Nadine Kenney Johnstone.

These regular meet-ups keep me focused and upbeat.

Some might say workshops can be expensive. They can, I am selective. And compared to twenty-one years of therapy I am finding them well worth the cost.

Often we with mental illnesses are asked to journal. I did for years. Everything went on those pages. My angst, my railing against society, my unstoppable fears, my circular and fragmented discourse, my terror, my eating disorders, pages and pages of food counts – down and up.

When we moved from California to Mexico, I was in a state to purge it all. Walk towards the light. And I did. Journals from my years of traveling, aerograms to friends and family, entire pages describing a sunset, a meal, add travel bits and pieces of ticket stubs and restaurant checks, sugar wrappers. It all went into the garbage bin. I walked away, stopped, went back and looked at it, then walked away for good. DAMN.

Oh, how I wish I had kept them! Writing my memoirs would be so much easier today.

The travel memories aside, the therapy journals highlighted my dejected, frightened and depressed attitude and I thought they had no place in my new adventurous, married life. My memoirs would be easier with them too.

The thing is, I don’t think I learned anything meaningful from those diatribes I wrote day after day. There wasn’t any forward movement. I wallowed, week after week. Some blame was the town I was in. It did nothing to feed my soul, brighten my day. But most of it was me. I allowed myself to become a victim. Granted, I was very ill, unable to function and inside a tunnel I saw no end to. Either scrape me off the ceiling or spatula me off the floor.

But might things have been different if we conducted my therapy at the park? A blanket placed down on the puffy green grass, a chilled bottle of wine, a pleasant conversation, a book of poetry. A reframing. I think I would have learned more about self-care. Been pulled out of my funk. Given something beautiful to gnaw on rather than settle on thoughts of suicide.

I’d had a life of careers, and candlelit dinners, safari camps, shopping sprees, day hikes, and get-togethers. Self-sufficiency.

Then I was gum on the bottom of a shoe. Homeless.

My perfect therapy may not have worked with everyone. But I am a romantic at heart. I am lucky to have a husband whose encouragement and stalwart presence never wavers. He believes I can set my mind to do anything and I will prevail. His unstoppable love carries me. I would hightail it up to Oakland and Glenn whenever hospitalization came into view. I would call the week “my fix.” And I would pretend I was normal, back in a life that was familiar. Those days were like therapy too.

I go into other “therapy” sessions now. Not in the traditional sense. Each day allows me access to the world. I don’t even have to get out of my pajamas. But each writer’s workshop I take or writing group I take part in adds to my joy and my sense of accomplishment. I have found my peeps. I’m amongst committed, positive people who are interesting and goal-oriented. All qualities I admire. I am a fledgling writer. Not quite a year. But I still feel equal and accepted. And sometimes that is all I need to boost myself up and take on the day.

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