Remie Michelle Clarke, award-winning Irish writer, ghostwriter, editor and international voice-over artist, on how writing is the most soothing of art-as-therapy forms.
“Creativity is a basic human response to trauma and a natural emergency defense system,” writes Louise DeSalvo in Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives. Art has been a human drive for as long as we know – from the cave wall paintings of prehistoric times, to the myriad forms of art that humans create today. It is a way for us to express our unique experience of the world we live in; to try to claim and hold still a moment of time in our fleeting lives. It is also a way to help us let go of those dark places in our psyches – moments of time that hold us so tightly it feels we may never be able to shake them free, keeping us bound to a place we may be desperate to run away from.
Writing is, for me, the most soothing of art-as-therapy forms. Whether it’s morning pages, journalling, poetry, or memoir, the simple act of moving a pen across a blank page gives relief, as though the ink staining the paper allows the darkness one holds within to trickle away. It brings relief. Burdens that feel too heavy to share, thoughts too complicated to utter, memories too troubling to unload onto another, all flow out. The pen becomes a torch, shining a light into hidden corners, letting parts of you so wound up in suffering finally breathe. Things that aren’t spoken or expressed can fester, grow into terrible shapes, and take up more space than they ever had to begin with. The grief that hangs in every corner of your home. The disappointment that settles upon you like a lead cloud. The deep, deep shame. But writing these emotions out, whether nonsensical, whether anonymous, can help to manage the weight.
This is why I created the anthology The Broken Spiral in aid of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. I wanted to offer a home for writers to share stories that would act as a refuge for survivors. Perhaps to inspire them to take pen to paper and let their own feelings of heaviness flow out. Silence tends to walk hand in hand with the difficult experiences we can go through in life – the sense that if we were to open up about what troubles us, we would be deemed a burden. But such suffering is far more common that we are led to believe. And if we felt able to share our private hurts more openly, we would realise that.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre know this from their decades of work with survivors of sexual assault. They know that expressing pain helps to relieve it, and that every story shared, counts. Stories are powerful and can build awareness, cultivate empathy, and ultimately create change. It doesn’t matter what you write, but that you do. Difficult and repetitive thoughts and feelings that at times can become so stifling it might feel hard to breathe, can be released. A problem shared is a problem halved, or maybe even dissolved. Understanding this, the DRCC have created the platform WESpeak. As part of the We-Consent project, this secure, anonymous online platform empowers survivors of sexual violence – and their supporters – to safely tell their own stories, in their own time, in their own words. The DRCC hopes that these stories of struggle, strength, and healing can foster a community of support, solidarity, understanding, and hope. For in community there is strength. Ní neart go cur le Chéile.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre will be present and encouraging the sharing of stories at the Murder One Festival in October, along with myself, when I interview rape survivor, author, and activist Winnie M Li on October 8th at the DLR Lexicon. Li is an inspiring example of someone who had the courage to move out of silence and share her painful experience openly, to use the pain to create something valuable for herself and others. The act of her writing her first novel, Dark Chapter, based on her experience of being raped on a remote Belfast trail, can serve as a reminder that what is shared does not have to take away from life – in fact it can enable growth, expansion, and moving out of a place of survival to thriving in life.
Join us on October the 8th at Murder One, and help us to shine a light into dark places.
(c) Remie Michelle Clarke
About Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
DRCC is an independent charity that exists to prevent the harm and heal the trauma of sexual violence. It runs the 24-hour freephone National Helpline 1800 778888 and offers a range of services to those harmed by sexual violence, including counselling and therapy, and accompaniment in the legal system and during forensic medical treatment – more at www.drcc.ie. DRCC also conducts research and campaigns to raise awareness of sexual violence and to engage with the public on the issue of consent, especially as part of its long-term national We~Consent project – visit www.we-consent.ie for more information and resources.
DRCC – www.wespeak.ie