When Writing Makes You Realize You May Need Therapy

This post gets pretty real. And it probably won’t teach you any writing technique, but perhaps it will help you with writing in some way. Mostly it’s a bit of self-care.

I have a bit of a dark past. Those childhood experiences have woven into the fabric of my entire life (without me realizing it until more recently) and it tends to come out in my writing—which is good and bad. But also eye opening.

For many (if not all) writers, writing is therapeutic. It’s a healthy way to get out thoughts and feelings or help sort out events or circumstances you’re trying to make sense of—maybe through a personal essay, or perhaps torturing a fictional character with situations you’ve personally suffered through.

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But even with the benefits of writing out all the messed up or hard times (or deep, dark caverns) from your life, it can also take a toll emotionally, mentally, and even physically.

For example, I wrote a nonfiction book about healing from sexual abuse which also includes my personal stories. Every time I’d sit down to write, my anxiety would skyrocket and I could feel my heartbeat intensify. A panicky feeling would permeate my whole body. It took a lot longer than I thought it should to write because of the effects on me. It’s the same when I work on posts for my website on the same subject.

And every fiction idea I have seems to be on this same heavy topic. Clearly, I’m using writing to work through my trauma. And I’m mostly fine with that, but it does make intense scenes and situations difficult to write.

Do certain scenes or subjects you write (or read) amp up your emotions? Do you disassociate while writing, losing track of what’s real and what’s not, perhaps thinking you’re a victim all over again? Does it take time to recover from writing intense scenes? If so, are you cognitively aware of something in your past that may be the cause of the trigger? Or have you suspected something buried in your subconscious?

I’m not suggesting that every time something affects you that it means something dark and disturbing. Writers also often have the gift of empathy and can feel emotions from an experience they haven’t personally gone through. But it could also hint at something you may not be fully, consciously aware of.

Your body and soul remember traumatic times that you may have blocked out.

Granted, when I started my aforementioned WIP, I was already in the midst of therapy (oh, the crazy horror/thriller story ideas I get from my brain during therapy!), so I knew some of what was going on. But the intense emotions and memories that would creep in were still surprising. Like, “Hey, I’m working through this and this shouldn’t be bothering me.” And then I would feel like I was losing my mind, but really I am just still working through the healing process.

My point is, take care of yourself. Be mindful of what you experience as you pour your heart onto the pages of your masterpiece. If something you’re writing is triggering for you, pay attention to it. Take a step back and pull yourself into the present. If you know what it is, acknowledge it and thank your mind and body for trying to protect you. Remind yourself that you’re safe now.

Also, if you think you may need the help of a professional, there is no shame in therapy. It’s actually a very healthy and adult thing to do. If not a professional, perhaps you just need to chat it out with a friend or spouse (who may also suggest therapy depending on the situation or severity of what’s going on).

Writing is therapeutic, but it also may dig up some skeletons from your past. Listen to your inner-self. If you need to take a break, do it. Be kind to yourself and do what you need to be mentally, physically, and emotionally safe.


Wendy Jessen is the author of more than 500 articles—family-oriented articles on familyshare.com and book reviews. She recently started a website for something she is passionate about–helping victims of sexual abuse find hope and healing. Wendy is the mother of 6 spirited children ranging in age from 5 to 15. In the throes of writing a few books (fiction and nonfiction), she finds ways to procrastinate which usually involves scrolling through social media. Wendy often stays up way past her bedtime reading, loves kid-free date night with her husband, family vacations, and kids’ bedtime, aka, the human version of whack-a-mole.