How writing helped me heal


When I was a child…

I spent my time chasing fairies, riding dragons, “doctoring” bugs, exploring the nature around me, and being drawn into my brother’s thoroughly entertaining world of sci-fi and G.I. Joes. I often wore a tiered pink dress that my parents swear was the most hideous thing they had ever seen, but heck…I thought it was beautiful, so I wore it. I wore the heck out of it. I loved the game of make-believe and the entertaining world my little brother pulled me into.

I believed the world was magical.

When I started school, I continued to live in my fairy world, full of mermaids and unicorns. But then other kids were introduced into the picture. So was the structure of the school day. I hated it. I didn’t want friends, and I had no interest in the stupid stuff that my mean teacher, Mrs. Scaryface, was trying to teach me (well, okay…I liked phonics. It made sense to me.). Her breath stank like coffee and she made me sit in a desk. She was so mean. She didn’t let me go to the bathroom, so I peed my pants while I watched the girl next to me stare at me in horror. I was a “weird” kid (by “normal kid” standards). I was the one who ate grass, sniffed rubber cement, licked glue, and insisted on being the dead uncle when other kids tried to convince me to play “house”. I did have one friend…and he was a boy. Other kids said boys and girls couldn’t be friends since that meant that we’d have to get married. After defending my friendship through shouting (I figured it was the only way they could hear me), I gave up. They wouldn’t ever listen. Ugh. I hated other kids.

I did, however, love my journal. I could say or do whatever I wanted in there, and nobody cared.

When my parents split up on Christmas Eve and later divorced during my second-grade year, I started to attend another Catholic school. I continued to be weird and misunderstood. I went to the library demanding, “Give me all the mermaid books you’ve got.” This Catholic school had no mermaid books. It was freaking terrible. I made one kind friend. I spent the night at her house and her brother saw me in my underwear. Scared me to death. I could no longer be friends with her. At school, EVERYTHING I said felt stupid. The sisters insisted that children were to be seen and not heard. My parents did the best that they could, even though they lived 4 hours apart. Still, I feel pretty empty inside. At the same time, both encouraged me to write.

A seed was planted. They made me believe I could become a writer.

Without getting into the gory details here, I was entering my teen years. My mom remarried. I felt that nothing in my life was a choice anymore. There was no such thing as children having a voice. I became insignificant. I was expected to blend into the background.

I began to feel so empty.

However, during my freshman English class, I had my pencil and my paper. I had a teacher that encouraged me to write. I wrote, and I wrote. I wrote a saga about a dragon with eyes as big as a 6-foot tall man. I became friends with a girl. I had developed a mega crush on her, but there was NO WAY I’d ever own up to it, especially living in our little Catholic town. And shoot…if she had found out, she’d NEVER want to associate with me again. We wrote to each other every single day. I’d swoon as she’d hand me the perfectly folded paper, and I’d admire her in her adorable striped shirt. She wrote so well, and she was so smart. I wrote to her so she would write to me back. Every word she placed on the page was like an angel had kissed it. I finally was enjoying school.

A year later, my grandmother began to get ill, so we moved out of suburbia to Albuquerque to be closer to her. I changed high schools. I joined the drama club and met one of the best friends I’ve ever had. The drama club was incredible. The sponsor heard me, and was interested in allowing me to act in the plays she directed. She taught World Religions and I learned more from her during the two years that I attended that school than I had learned from anyone else…ever. She cared. When I wrote to complete the assignments for her class, she responded with praise and constructive criticism. She was amazing. She opened my eyes to a whole new world.

I was heard at school…finally! Unfortunately, my home life became unbearable. It got to the point where I didn’t know what else to do…so I picked up my stepfather’s gun in one hand and begged my best friend to help me on the phone with my other hand.

My best friend became my voice and saved my life that day.

An ambulance showed up to carry me away to a hospital, where I stayed for three months, followed by a longer stay at a group home. I was in heaven there. Had I known that life could be actually enjoyable in this new environment, I would have left long before I did. Unable to retrieve my transcripts from my old private school, I opted to get my GED.

I was 17 on a bus ride across town when I realized that I had dreams of either becoming a drug addict, or a single mother. Oddly, the second dream was the only one that came true. I couldn’t bring myself to try hard drugs. Trainspotting ruined it for me. At 19, my dream came true. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl that was blessed (yes, blessed) with a rare birth defect that left her paralyzed for the first two months of life. Between the pregnancy and the medical intrigue of my daughter’s condition, I found myself sucked into the wild and exciting world of medicine. I wanted to become a nurse. Of course, my mom was one to always talk sense into me. She educated me, during a very short time in the waiting room of the hospital that my infant daughter was staying in, on the different demands that I’d be facing now that I was a young parent. She told me that I might want to go into teaching. This would mean that I’d have the summers off.

I went to college. Gave birth to another beautiful child. Became a teacher like my mom. Found myself in failed romantic relationship after failed romantic relationship (to be honest, I didn’t even want to be in a relationship). Moved to Germany. Traveled all over Europe. Met the most amazing woman on the face of the planet. Met her incredible kids. Married her. She heard me. Lost my half-brother to suicide. Later on the same year, my stepdaughter took her life. At this point, my internal voice was screaming, but only whispers would come out. It’s right what they say, kids. Once you grow up, your voice gets BURIED.

My stepdaughter’s death ripped me apart. At the same time, it caused me to truly examine what is true for me. Losing my voice was the result of a 37 year-long practice in shutting up and remaining invisible. My sweet 14 year-old stepdaughter passed away, and when I thought I had lost just about everything, I started to dance, paint, and write again. I decided that I have a story and a perspective to share, and I am here to LIVE OUT LOUD.

So this is why I have chosen to start a blog. To reach others in a way that I wish I could have been reached, so that future tragedies can be avoided.

We ALL have a voice.

This blog is my battle cry. Although I am not adept at expressing myself verbally with eloquence in the face of conflict, my voice is art. It is my dance, my painting, and my written word. It is a culmination of the pieces that I have put together, and the masterpiece that those pieces have created.

I realize that you may be reading this while desiring to share your own voice as well. My greatest intent is to allow this space to be yours, too. Please express yourself here. Comment as much as needed. Share your art (I will post it). If you have a piece of writing to share, I want to share it for you. If you have a video of a song you have created, or a dance that you have choreographed that you would like to share, this is your place.

I am excited to see where this blog journey goes. I am also excited for you to share it with me.


2 thoughts on “How writing helped me heal”

  1. The ups and downs of this post felt like a novel; your writing is fantastic, Toni! I’m sorry for all the hurt and trauma that brought you here, but I am glad you’ve found your voice again through the process. I hope others are truly helped by what you’re putting out there!

    1. Uhmmm…I’m thinking it’s high time for you to get your stories online! Eh. Hurt and trauma are part of life. Thank you. I hope it helps others as well! ?

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