WellBeing reader Jane Turner shares the healing power of writing
I hit a rocky patch in the road at the end of 2014 when I found myself having to contend with the consequences of being made redundant from a well-paying job that I’d held for over 15 years. This coincided with the fact that my daughter was going into adolescence and I was going into menopause at the same time. I felt like I was in the middle of a perfect storm with both my own and my daughter’s hormones going crazy and unemployment stretching out in front of me.
After going through all the emotions triggered by my redundancy, I decided to make use of the time I had on my hands by writing a book about my experience of menopause. My thinking was that I could put the struggle I’d been having to good use by writing about the improvements I’d achieved by focusing on the fundamentals of diet, exercise, stress management and mindset.
The thing I didn’t realise at the time was that I was going to have to build a business around my book to keep my family’s finances afloat. The long and the short of it is that, after unsuccessfully applying for over 30 jobs, I decided to bite the bullet and save my energy for more fruitful endeavours. One of the unexpected consequences of this was that I experienced two incredibly powerful pieces of healing as a result of writing my story down for the book that became Thrive in Midlife.
I could have gone through the rest of my life without finding out what caused the gnawing feeling of emptiness that I’d been harbouring in my body for my whole life up to that point.
One of these came about when I was considering the options I had for handling menopause in 2014, compared with the options my mother had when she was facing the same scenario in the early 1980s. In Mum’s day, synthetic hormones were prescribed without a second thought and, sadly, she was one of the many women who paid the price, contracting breast cancer in her late 60s.
I’m grateful for Tamoxifen, still the drug of choice for treating breast cancer, because it bought Mum some extra time and that gave her a chance to get to know my daughter, Lucy. It also gave Lucy a chance to get to know her grandmother.
I share this part of my story with you because I felt my heart split open when I wrote about Mum’s brief relationship with Lucy for my book. This process changed the course of my life completely and resulted in my developing a book-writing wing in my coaching practice.
I’ll give you the backstory here so you can see why this heart opening was such a big deal for me. The thing is, there were a couple of traumas around the time of my birth that shaped the way I lived right up to 2007 when I stumbled on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).
I was aware of one of these traumas but the other one came as a complete shock. I already knew I was separated from Mum shortly after I was born because she almost died from a blood clot that travelled to her lung. But the bigger piece of the puzzle, related to the fact that I was the surviving twin in a case of Vanishing Twin Syndrome, didn’t come to light until I was 45.
My realisation that I’d internalised the trauma of losing my twin in utero came about when I was learning how to use Time Line Therapy to help my clients move beyond things like self-sabotage, which stopped them from getting to where they wanted to be. Time Line Therapy is one of the most powerful processes in NLP. Its power lies in the fact that it helps people to access material stored in the unconscious part of their minds.
As the name suggests, Vanishing Twin Syndrome comes about when a twin disappears in the uterus during pregnancy. Most mothers don’t even know this has happened because the foetal tissue is either absorbed by the other twin or absorbed into the placenta. So, if it happens before an ultrasound is done, there’s no material evidence that the twin ever existed.
What this means is that I could have gone through the rest of my life without finding out what caused the gnawing feeling of emptiness I’d been harbouring in my body for my whole life up to that point. One of the consequences of this is that, in the womb, I learnt how to shut my feelings off to avoid the pain of abandonment that I felt in the first instance when my twin left me, and then again when my mother was absent in the early weeks of my life as a result of teetering on the brink of death herself.
The sad thing is that Mum and I never really got around to bonding while she was alive. But I’m truly grateful that I finally made up for that in the process of writing my book, some 10 years after she passed away. Among other things, what this experience of reconnecting with my mother did was to loosen the grip of the toxic relationship with food I’d developed as a numbing strategy very early on in my life.
This was a fantastic result in and of itself, but then the universe stepped up to the mark just as I was finishing my book. A spot opened up for me in clinical trials that were being run by Sydney University to gauge the efficacy of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) therapy in the treatment of binge-eating disorder. Some would say the fact that this happened shortly after the cathartic experience I had in posthumously bonding with my mother was a coincidence, but I think not.
Some people might also think my decision to write a book at the end of 2014 when my life was in a state of utter chaos was a bit odd, but again I think not. I feel blessed that getting my own story down on paper led me to find work that doesn’t feel like work at all. Now, I get to experience joy every time I help one of my clients move through the wonderful journey of stepping into their power and putting their personal story or other aspect of who they are into a book that they author.
The write stuff
Hand-writing notes can improve your comprehension of what you are hearing.