By Luna Merbruja
If you are reading this article, it’s probably because you’re taking the time to start intentionally processing your trauma. I know the pathway to beginning a healing journey is often met with overwhelming confusion and too many starting points.
Perhaps in your search for a starting place, you found this guide nestled in a list of resources. Or maybe you weren’t looking, but saw this shared by friends online. However this reached you, I’m glad it did.
We have very few step-by-step guides to dealing with life after trauma, and my hope is to share wisdom around processing trauma through writing while also holding healthy boundaries and care techniques. I learned these tools while writing and editing my memoir, Trauma Queen, and working as a Project Advisor for Mirror Memoirs.
Feel free to keep what works for you, and change or discard what doesn’t.
1) Create A Support Team
In the least, have 2-3 people you can call or text if you become deeply triggered. Some tell-tale signs are heavy breathing, racing heart, dissociation, panic, or writer’s block.
It’s okay to feel these feelings, it’s part of your body reacting to your memories. It’s also important to pause and take a deep breath to ground yourself again. It’s not healing if you are hurting yourself with this writing process.
Oftentimes, people gravitate towards three actions:
1) Inaction, meaning, staying alone in the triggered state and not feeling great.
2) Self-care and calming down.
3) Being vulnerable and asking for support.
Self-care is a great option, and if you’re well-practiced enough to handle your own triggers, that’s great! Please do what’s easiest on your heart.
If self-care sometimes includes calling upon others for support, that’s wonderful too. When you call a friend, you can ask them to tell you a story about their day, or open an invitation to spend time together that day. If you prefer texting or sending a message, make sure to communicate a bit of urgency. For example, “Hey, I’m processing some triggering stuff right now and could use some light-hearted company. Can you text or meet up with me?”
More often than not, friends will respond honestly about their capacity. If they say no, that’s okay! This is why you have a few people to reach out to. I know it feels difficult in the moment, but trust me, after writing about trauma for five years, this is a practice that’s important in supporting you in your healing journey.
You don’t have to do this alone, I promise.
2) Be Intentional When You Write
When you’re writing about trauma, be sure to set some guidelines for yourself. My personal boundaries are the following:
– No processing trauma after 7pm
– No processing trauma without eating a meal either before or after the writing session
– No sharing these writings publicly
– Watch a comedy show within an hour after writing
– Call/text a friend if I start crying during or after the writing practice, and ask for affirmations
– Stretch my body after writing
– Drink water while writing
These are most of the boundaries I hold for myself. Having these written out holds me accountable to my own health and well-being, especially as I dive deep into old wounds.
These boundaries also create an intentional writing practice where you center your needs. Here’s some questions to help think about writing boundaries and care techniques:
– What time of day are you most grounded?
– What does self/community care look like?
– What brings you back from feeling triggered?
– When do you have time alone?
– What are your favorite happy memories?
– Who can you call if you’re feeling triggered?
– Who do you want to share your writing with?
– How will you take care of yourself during and after writing?
– How will you know when to stop writing?
3) Have A Clear Goal
One cause of writing block is not having a clear goal. When processing trauma, it can be hard to envision what “the point” of your writing is.
The truth is, there doesn’t have to be a point to your writing. You can write as if you’re talking to someone. I process my trauma through diary entries because it’s easiest for me to write freely. Since “Diary” is a neutral person for me, I have no fear about their judgments or responses, which creates this sense of safety for me to be as honest, messy, and raw as I need to be.
If you’re someone who needs more structure, here’s some questions to help prompt your goals:
– What is most important for you to focus on right now?
– What is most impacting your life right now?
– Why are you choosing to heal?
– What do you want from this process?
– What are your hopes in writing about trauma?
4) Lastly, Write
Now that you have some boundaries, care techniques, and goals in mind, it’s time to write! I’m proud of you for making this intentional decision to heal. It’s a gift no one else can give you but yourself.
I’ll leave you with this list of prompts:
- What is something I can’t tell others?
- How has trauma shaped my personhood?
- What is most scary for me to think about?
- How does trauma bring me close to (or take me away from) others?
- If my trauma is a relationship, what does that relationship look like?
- What is something I wanted to say, but never could?
- How do I feel about my trauma?
- Acknowledging my trauma past, what does my future look like?
- How would I treat another person who has the same traumas as me?
- What superpowers has trauma given me?
Thank you for reading and happy healing,
Luna Merbruja is a Mexican-Athabaskan healer and multimedia artist. They are the author of Trauma Queen and Heal Your Love, with writings featured in Nerve Endings: The New Trans Erotic, Everydayfeminism, Autostraddle, and other publications. This city-raised, small-town loving writer is also a video gamer, filmmaker, and book editor at biyuti publishing.