Healing Through Writing

A friend recently posed a question on social media about writing and if it has helped heal or ever hurt you. I immediately thought about how healing writing poetry was for me in high school. It truly was a form of therapy. Being diagnosed with depression was scary. Living with depression was even more scary, as well as confusing and lonely. Writing poetry helped me make more sense of what I was going through. Being able to express how I felt and what I was living through brought comfort.

Writing, especially poetry, was based a lot on inspiration. I know some people who can sit down and just write a poem. I could only do it if inspiration came to me. One day the inspiration stopped. So I stopped writing for a long time, and it was incredibly painful. Years later, the inspiration started coming back to me, and in the last few years I have written a lot of poetry. Once again it has been therapeutic to me.

I’ve shared a lot of my poems here, but they never get many views and rarely any kind of response. Maybe people don’t like poetry. Maybe it’s because this isn’t a poetry-specific blog. I don’t know. What I do know is the sense of contentment and healing that has come with being able to express myself through poetry again. It may not be good or anything worthy of praise, but I write and share it for myself and anyone else who may have felt the same healing power through writing—or reading—poetry.

Dark Place
By Tacy Gibbons

Hiding out in the bathroom.
Shame, blame, not a game.
Don’t know how to face
the race of time
and the mountains that stand in the way.

Fear, tears.
Just wish I could disappear.
Don’t want to see
who’s looking back at me in the mirror.

Guilt, wilt.
Mom, c’mon, wife, life.
Can’t shake my own expectations.

Get up, get out.
Run all about.
The bathroom will be waiting another day.


Yes, More Poetry

Here are a couple more poems because that’s what I’ve been inspired to write lately.

Open Book
By Tacy Gibbons

I am
an open book.

When you see me sitting there
will you read from the beginning,
only to stop halfway through out of boredom?

Will you simply start where the page is open
without bothering to read what came before?

Will you flip through a few pages here,
a few pages there,
then toss it aside, uninterested, uncaring?

Will you close it up, look at the cover
and decide it’s not worth your time?

Or will you read each page,
beginning to end,
sometimes stopping to ponder . . . 
wonder . . . 
reflect . . . ?

Will you push past the difficult parts
and appreciate the story being told?

I am
an open book,
waiting for someone to read all my pages.
By Tacy Gibbons

Sometimes you sit next me,
constantly nudging me, reminding me you’re there.
When I get up to go you follow at my heels
like a new puppy afraid of getting left behind.

Sometimes I keep you at bay,
glance you in the distance, staring me down.
I avert my eyes and focus on the light, the here-and-now.
I’m happy without you.

But lately you’ve invaded my space, my life, my body.
You wriggle beneath my skin, turn my stomach
and tighten your hands around my throat.
You leave me immobile, paralyzed,
attached to rigid chains and a weight that never lightens.
Prisoner, I am, that can’t break free.

Let’s Be There For Each Other

I’ve been finding myself inspired by quotes lately. It might sound cheesy, but we live in a world where it’s so easy to just post a quote on social media. I have a friend who does nothing but post inspirational quotes on Facebook. Many of them have been what I needed to hear in that moment and some have led me to think and ponder. The quote I’m inspired by today says, “Someone who drowns in seven feet of water is just as dead as someone who drowns in twenty feet of water. Stop comparing traumas, stop belittling you or anyone else’s trauma because it wasn’t ‘as bad’ as someone else’s. This isn’t a competition. We all deserve support and recovery.”

Something I’ve come to learn in life is that no one “has it made”. At least I’ve never met anyone who does. We all have struggles. We all suffer. In this age of social media it’s easy to look at someone else’s life (through the lens of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc.) and think everyone else is having so much fun, doing awesome things and living this great, struggle and trauma-free life. But that just isn’t true.

It can also be easy to think that others must not be struggling as much or that they must be happier because of all the things they have and are doing that we don’t have or don’t get to do. That also isn’t true. The past year-and-a-half I’ve got to travel to San Diego and Hawaii. I even got to go to The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame (a life-long dream of mine) several months ago. We’re building an addition onto our house that is going to give me and my husband this big dream closet. There are good things happening, but there has also been so much hell that I’ve been through as well. It got so bad at one point last year that I tried to take my own life. From the outside looking in it may appear that I am one of those people who does have it made. But just because I’ve been able to travel some and am getting a big closet doesn’t mean that horrible things haven’t happened. It doesn’t mean trauma hasn’t punched me in the face and beaten me to a pulp. Because it has.

As an advocate for mental health I believe it is so important not to judge and not to compare struggles and trauma. Instead, I believe we should be looking for connection and extending empathy and compassion—even when we can’t see or don’t know what someone else is going through. Some people, like myself, are very open about our struggles and seek to educate others on mental illness issues. Others keep those things to themselves, and that is okay. It took me many years to open up about my depression, anxiety and OCD. And even now, there are things I choose not to share or go into detail about—for various reasons. I respect everyone’s choices about what they do or don’t share with others. Through my own painful experiences I have learned that no one has a perfect life and everyone has trials, struggles and suffers through difficult things in life. This means we all have more in common with each other and aren’t as alone or misunderstood as we might think.

My hope is that we can all be more loving, understanding and compassionate with each other. Just because our trauma is different doesn’t mean one is worse than the other. And one of the best ways to help ourselves is to be there for each other.

The Truth About Toxicity

I’ve been wanting to talk about toxicity for awhile now, but have put it off because I think it can be a very polarizing topic. For me, toxic people and toxic characteristics are real. They are very real for others as well.

For those of you who feel like you are in a toxic relationship of any kind, I’m here to say it’s okay to step away. You and your happiness matter and sometimes the only way to achieve that is to set boundaries or even completely cut ties with the people who are abusing you.

So what is toxicity? A dictionary definition explains that toxicity is “the quality of being very harmful or unpleasant in a pervasive or insidious way.” Toxic traits include, but are not limited to:

Using Excuses
Judgmental Behavior
Controlling Behavior
Unrealistic Expectations

Unfortunately, I think the word “toxic” is being used too often as an excuse to just cut people out, which diminishes the real effects that some people suffer from actual toxic people. True toxicity is a pattern of behavior that persists without a person acknowledging it or choosing to do anything about it.

Something important to understand about toxic people is that they may not be toxic to everyone. I saw this quote attributed to Tamara Yancosky that says, “Extremely toxic people will only be abusive with a select few; this way their behavior won’t be found out by the majority.” If someone tells you a certain person is abusive or toxic, don’t just automatically brush it off or think they’re crazy just because you don’t see that person as toxic. I have had first-hand experience with toxic and abusive people who seem completely nice and normal to everyone else. And maybe they are nice and normal to everyone else. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t toxic to some.

Just like toxic substances poison, toxic people poison. If I knew something was poisoning my garden or my body I would do everything to remove that poison. It is also okay to set boundaries with or remove poisonous people. I really like this quote by motivational speaker, Hank Smith. He said, “I do not believe in using the word ‘boundaries’ to just cut people off simply because they do or don’t do what you want. That is manipulation. When I talk about boundaries, I’m talking about protecting yourself and others from emotional, physical, sexual, or any other form of abuse.” Setting boundaries with or walking away from toxic people is about protecting yourself from real harm.

Something I have been accused of from toxic people is that I just need to forgive, stop holding a grudge or that I’m only doing it to teach them a lesson. A quote that really resonated with me is, “We don’t walk away to teach people a lesson. We walk away because we finally learned ours.” This is what happened with toxic people in my life. I walked away because I finally learned my own worth and value. I finally learned that I was worth more than the poisonous way in which I was being treated. It was absolutely about me finally learning my lesson and had nothing to do with trying to teach them one. I don’t have the time or energy to spend on something like that. Just like I don’t have the time or energy to hold grudges, which leads into another awesome quote from Hank Smith. “Don’t let someone convince you that you are holding a grudge when you are holding a boundary.”

It is okay to have boundaries, and it is also okay to cut the poison, or toxic people, completely from your life—even if those people are family. I think that is something that is really hard for people in the culture where I live to understand. I live in a place that is predominantly members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe that families can be together forever. I believe that. The key word in there is can. Never is it stated that families will be together forever. It’s stated that they can be. Much depends on that. But this error in belief, or even acknowledgement of the actual belief (with that word can) seems to make some people think that they have to maintain familial relationships in this life even if they are toxic or abusive. That is absolutely not true. Another belief I, and members the church I belong to, adhere to is that God wants us to be happy. It is impossible to have happiness or joy when in a toxic or abusive relationship. That means that God does not expect us to stay in those relationships, even when they are family.

This is an important topic to me, one I will probably revisit again, focusing on more specifics, but for now I hope this helps others to understand and find their own hope.

May We Encourage Each Other

I saw this quote recently that really spoke to me. “Your journey is not the same as mine, and my journey is not yours, but if we meet on a certain path, may we encourage each other.” I think this is the epitome of empathy. Empathy isn’t about understanding or the ability to say, “I get it. I’ve been there, too.” It’s about being there for others even when we don’t understand what they’re going through. Empathy is meeting on a path that doesn’t look the exact same as someone else’s path, but still giving encouragment, a hug and saying, “That really sucks. I’m so sorry. I’m here for you. I love you.” I do think it’s possible, even when we are going through our own struggles. What a beautiful thing when two people on a rough, rocky, difficult road can embrace each other, wipe each other’s tears and be there for each other even though their rough, rocky, difficult roads aren’t the same.

Depression can make it hard to look at anything but yourself and your own struggles. I know because I have had depression and had a hard time thinking of anyone but myself and my own struggles. But as I continue to learn and grow I’m trying harder to look outside myself and see how I can be there for others. As I have done so my own depression has eased and I’ve found connection, which is one of the most important things in the world to me. I hope I can keep getting better at this. And I hope we can all pass others on our journey who will encourage us and whom we can encourage as well.