As a child I loved stories. The artillery fire of my parents insults towards each other raging above my head across the no man’s land of the carpet, I would retreat to my trench for shelter. Climbing inside the pages of a book for cover I smeared my face with a war paint of words. Stories were my shield. I hid behind them. Hid inside them. Words wrapped magic around my young shoulders and threaded starlight through my hair. I wore daisy chains of words around my neck. Stories lit my pathway through the dark and foreboding forests of childhood. In stories I could be anyone. Or anything. I could go anywhere. In stories I was strong. Fearless. I fought dragons and demons, monsters and magicians. I ran with wolves.
I was twenty when the monsters first crawled out from the shadows beneath the bed and climbed inside of my head. I weighed less than thirty-one kilograms, my body ravaged by an eating disorder which left me a hollow shell of the girl I had once been. I was all sharp angles and brittle bones, haunted by voices that only I could hear. I had hypothermia. Jaundice. It hurt to breathe.
It hurt just to be alive.
It was during this time that I first became aware of the healing power of words. Writing became my friend. I would sit with a blank page in front of me, dip my pen into my pain and allow it, for the first time in years, to flow down my arm, spill out from my fingertips and spatter the page in front of me. All the feelings I’d locked up inside of me for so long now unleashed in torrents of repressed emotion. Shackles suddenly snapped wide open beneath the weight of surging emotion cascading onto the page in a river of words.
I was finally free.
Free to be me.
I didn’t know then that writing would be my salvation. When the monsters I thought I had beaten emerged again to haunt the shadows of my thirties and forties. The monsters of childhood now transformed into men. Men for whom I would stuff my voice down the back of my throat. Men for whom I would shrink, like Alice at their mad tea party. Fold myself up. Make myself small. Men who would conquer me.
I lost myself again.
Now, writing has again become my healer. My joy. My trusted friend. The page before me does not want to conquer me, to control me, or erase me. It aches only to hold the weight of my words, keep my secrets, hold my dreams. My pen helps me to dig through the dark, damp earth of my mind, sewing tiny seeds that may one day blossom into something beautiful.
Writing helps me drag the monsters out of the darkness and into the sunlight.
I am no longer afraid.
I am finding myself again.
My pen is my sword and I am fighting back.
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www.writingonthewall.org.uk). As part of the ‘It’s Not Ok’ project her poetry, short stories and flash fiction will be featured in an anthology of writing for survivors of domestic abuse. Angela hopes to help other women to heal themselves through writing by sharing her story.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!