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Therapeutic Pages

July 6, 2010

Writing as a form of psychological therapy is an established practice—used by writers, therapists, teachers and teenagers for years. In fact, the subject has even been explored on this very blog, by several of our columnists. This week I’ve found, much to my surprise, that writing can also work as a form of pain therapy.

Several weeks ago, I started Morning Pages again. I haven’t done it every day, but I’ve stuck with it more than half of the days since. But in the last 2 weeks I’ve been fighting something a little more challenging than writer’s block. I’m suffering through a prolonged series of very intense headaches. And the Morning Pages are helping…at least a little.

Late last week I started my Pages by trying to describe the pain I was feeling—not really planning to use it for anything, but half of the purpose of Morning Pages is simply to clear out all the junk that clogs up the creative pipeline. And in the middle of my Pages another headache started.

I don’t know why—maybe I was just tired of giving in to the recurring pain—but I tired to write through the pain. And the pain increased I just kept writing. When the pain got severe enough that my eyes began to tear, I just kept writing blind. And while it didn’t alleviate the pain, it did make me less anxious, more able to deal with the pain.

What I wrote that first time was unintelligible, meaningless scribble. But I’ve continued the experiment, keeping my Pages journal close at hand so that I can grab it when a headache starts. And as I’ve kept at it, my blind handwriting has gotten good enough that I can manage to read some of it.

What I write isn’t really usable—it’s sort of like reading the screenplay of a dream—but the physical act of putting pen to paper has served as a form of therapy that helps me deal with my headaches. Maybe when I’m through this cycle I’ll be able to find a use for the pages of tortuous scribbles.

Dale’s would like to thank Jodi and Annie for covering his slot last week.
  1. July 6, 2010 5:13 am

    As a regular sufferer of headaches and migraines, you have my absolute sympathy. You’re also a real trooper for fighting through that pain barrier to get something written on the page. I’d be very interested to read your description of the pain, actually!

    Hope the headaches get better soon.

  2. July 6, 2010 8:58 am


    While I’d love to take credit for being a “real trooper for fighting through that pain barrier to get something written on the page,” the real credit goes to the boredom. I’ve been all but home-ridden for more than a week, because I’m too sleepy to drive, and after a while I just get tired of TV and laundry. 🙂

    As for the description of the pain, I’ll send that to you off board.

  3. July 6, 2010 9:34 am

    While I don’t suffer from cluster headaches, I am prone to frequent headaches. Certain smells, situations, stress, whatever. Over the years I started categorizing them by intensity. There came a point when a certain type (I called it low-grade) of headache started, I found myself more creative. That was back in my video producing days. I think the constant pain forced the part of my brain that would normally wander off and get me distracted to focus on the pain and grounded me, allowing the rest of my brain to focus on the project. To this day it still works and I try to take advantage of it. When I’m done with the project, I’m exhausted and typically sleep for hours. From what you describe, your pain is much more intense than what I am describing. I give you credit for writing through the pain. I hope it continues to help you.

  4. Deanna Schrayer permalink
    July 8, 2010 10:00 am

    I used to suffer from severe migraines myself, so I can certainly sympathize, and I do.
    I’ve had fibromyalgia, (a chronic pain disorder), for several years now and I’ve found that writing through the pain helps, even if what I’m writing makes little or no sense. Sometimes it does make sense though – when I did a series about fibromyalgia on my nonfiction site I was able to describe the pain in such a way that even those who’ve never experienced it could at least empathize. This is part 4 of 5 of that series, “My story”, with the description:

    Kudos to you for having the strength to write through your pain!

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