Writing as a Pathway to Healing by Guest Kathy Pooler

Today my guest is Kathy Pooler, author of Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. My review of Kathy’s memoir is hereAs part of her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour, Kathy shares her thoughts and beliefs about writing as a pathway to healing. Join us in the comment section to share your own thoughts about the relationship between writing and healing.

Welcome, Kathy!


 

I know from personal experience that writing has a healing effect.

From the age of eleven when I received a pink journal with a lock and key, I have written my way through my life challenges. Writing in my journal always makes me feel like I have a safe place to go to unload my concerns and fears. And when I do, I can make sense out of what I am feeling. It feels like my concerns take on a different shape once they land on the pages. Often times when I go back to read my entries over, I will see something I haven’t seen before—a new insight or idea that might help me understand myself a little better.

What I didn’t know when I started writing but have since found out is there is scientific evidence that what I experience intuitively has a tangible health benefits.

Dr. James Pennebaker (http://www.utexas.edu/features/2005/writing/) is a noted psychotherapist who has studied the therapeutic effects of writing on health. Now a professor of psychology at the University of Texas and the author of Opening Up, he chronicled his own journey of healing from depression through writing.

Recent research suggests writing may even ease the symptoms of serious non-psychiatric diseases. For example, blood tests show that subjects have more robust immune systems several weeks after completing writing exercises. http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun02/writing.aspx  this link refers to all material through quote on next page.)

Another leading researcher in this field of writing to heal is Dr. Joshua Smyth of Syracuse University. He is quoted by Bridget Murray, in this article as saying:

There is emerging evidence that the key to writing’s effectiveness is in the way people use to interpret their experiences, right down to the words they choose. Venting emotions alone—whether through writing or talking –is not enough t relieve stress. To tap writing’s healing power, people must use it to better understand and learn from their emotions.

In a landmark study which appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, 1999), involving 107 asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients, Dr. Smyth discovered that

70 patients in the stressful-writing group (wrote 20 minutes /day for three consecutive days) showed improvement on objective, clinical evaluation than the control group. He concluded that “writing helped patients get better and also kept them from getting worse.

Both Drs. Pennebaker and Smyth acknowledge that writing’s effectiveness in healing will be dependent upon several factors, including a person’s willingness to find meaning in the memory and integrate it into a healing process.

Writing’s power to heal lies not in the pen and paper, but in the mind of the writer.

The journals I wrote in throughout my trials became the seeds for my memoir. Writing my way through the painful memories helped me to get on the other side of them and find a new meaning for the part they played in shaping me into the person I am today.

But there were many days, I put my manuscript aside; walked away and came back to it when I felt strong enough to face my past mistakes. I’m not the same person I was back then and it was excruciating to re-visit those times when I could have, should have made different choices…

Eventually, with the support of mentors and fellow writers, I did find my way to the other side. I began to forgive the young woman in my story who made so many self-defeating choices that had led to untold heartache for not only her but her children. I shed the guilt and shame I had carried around for twenty-five years and started feeling compassion for her. She did the best she could. She acted in good faith, albeit naïvely.

Writing my memoir helped me find my pathway to healing. My greatest hope is that others who have struggled or are still struggling will find hope for their own healing on the pages of my story.

And, if and when I have the chance to talk with my readers, I will tell them that writing helped me to find my pathway to healing. It’s research-based.

Get to Know Kathy Pooler:

Kathleen (Kathy) Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner whose memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, published on July 28.2014 and work-in-progress sequel, Hope Matters: A Memoir are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments:  domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.

She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.

She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: http://krpooler.com

Twitter @kathypooler
https://twitter.com/KathyPooler

LinkedIn: Kathleen Pooler
https://www.linkedin.com/pub/kathleen-pooler/16/a95/20a

Google+: Kathleen Pooler
https://plus.google.com/109860737182349547026/posts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4812560-kathleen-pooler

Facebook:
Personal page, Kathy Pooler : https://www.facebook.com/kathleen.pooler
Author page: Kathleen Pooler/Memoir Writer’s Journey: https://www.facebook.com/memoirwritersjourney

Pinterest  (http://www.pinterest.com/krpooler/)

One of her stories “The Stone on the Shore” is published in the anthology: “The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment” by Pat LaPointe, 2012.

Another story: “Choices and Chances” is published in the  “My Gutsy Story Anthology” by Sonia Marsh, September, 2013.

Take a Look at Her Memoir:

Ever Faithful to His Lead Cover Ever Faithful to His Lead Cover

Ever Faithful To His Lead : My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse is a memoir, a true life tears to triumph story of self-defeating detours and dreams lost and found.

A young woman who loses sight of the faith she has been brought up with attempts to find her way in the world, rejecting her stable roots in lieu of finding adventure and romance. Despite periods of spiritual renewal in which she receives a prophecy, she slides back, taking several self-defeating detours that take her through a series of heartbreaking events.

When Kathy’s second husband, Dan’s verbal abuse escalates, Kathy finally realizes she must move on before she and her children become a statistic.

How does a young woman who came from a stable, loving family make so many wise choices when it came to career, but so many wrong choices when it came to love, so that she ended up sacrificing career and having to flee in broad daylight with her children from an abusive marriage? What is getting in her way and why does she keep taking so many self-defeating detours?

The story opens up the day Kathy feels physically threatened for the first time in her three-year marriage to her second husband. This sends her on a journey to make sense of her life and discern what part she has played in the vulnerable circumstance she finds herself in.

She must make a decision–face her self-defeating patterns that have led to this situation and move on or repeat her mistakes. Her life and the lives of her two children are dependent upon the choices she makes and the chances she takes from this point forward.

Paperback: 242 Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Open Books Press (July 22, 2014)
ASIN: B00M17OXYO

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The remainder of Kathy’s tour:

Monday, October 13 @ Women’s Writing Circle
Kathleen Pooler sits down with Susan Weidener for a friendly conversation about how Kathleen crowdfunded her memoir, Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse.
http://www.susanweidener.com/

Tuesday, October 14 @ Lauren Scharhag
Don’t miss Kathleen Pooler’s interview with Lauren Scharhag as these ladies discuss the hot topic of memoir. Find out more about Kathleen and her own Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse.
http://laurenscharhag.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 14 @ Vera’s Version
Join Kathleen Pooler as she guest blogs about “How Writing Memoir Helped Me Find Self-Forgiveness” at Vera’s Version and shares insight into her memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse.
http://verasversion.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 15 @ About Amish
Kathleen Pooler and her memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse makes a stop to visit Saloma Furlong at About Amish where you can read Saloma’s review and get in a giveaway for an opportunity to read Ever Faithful To His Lead for yourself!
http://salomafurlong.com/aboutamish/

Thursday, October 16 @ Lisa Haselton
Join Lisa Haselton as she interviews Kathleen Pooler and we all learn more about Kathleen’s memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse.
http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 17 @ Jerry Waxler
Author, Friend, and Fellow Memoir Writer Jerry Waxler reviews Kathleen Pooler’s Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse  This is a blog stop you won’t want to miss!
http://www.jerrywaxler.com/

Monday, October 20 @ Romance Junkies
Join Kathleen Pooler as she stops at Romance Junkies for an insightful interview about herself and her memoir, Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse.
http://www.romancejunkies.com/rjblog/

Tuesday, October 21 @ Mary Gottschalk
Kathleen Pooler shares her latest project: Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse as she visits with friend and fellow author Mary Gottschalk and fittingly writes about “Girlfriends Matter”. This is a blog stop you won’t want to miss!
http://marycgottschalk.com/home/

Wednesday, October 22 @ CMash Reads
Join memoir writer Kathleen Pooler as she guest posts at CMash Reads. Kathleen will share her story of “Writing Through the Pain” and tell more about her popular memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse.
http://cmashlovestoread.com/

Thursday, October 23 @ Bring on Lemons
Hear what Crystal Otto has to say as she reviews Kathleen Pooler’s Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse  Don’t miss this blog stop as Kathleen Pooler has graciously provided a copy of her memoir for one lucky reader to win via a giveaway!
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse by Kathy Pooler | A Review and a Giveaway

WINNER OF BOOK GIVEAWAY IS DOLORES NICE-SIEGENTHALER!

Congratulations, Dolores. Watch your email for more information on receiving your copy of Kathy’s memoir.

Nothing can rescue her until she decides to rescue herself

Kathy loses touch with the faith she was brought up with as she attempts to find her way in the world, leaving her stable roots for adventure and romance. Despite a spiritual prophecy, self-defeating detours take her through a series of heartbreaking events.

When second husband Dan’s verbal abuse escalates, Kathy finally realizes she must escape before she and her children become a statistic.

How does a young woman from a stable, loving family make so many wise choices when it comes to career, but so many poor choices when it comes to love? Her life and the lives of her two children hinge on her choices and the answers she finds.

Join Kathleen Pooler on her roller-coaster ride of self-discovery, from shame and guilt to inner strength, in her tears to triumph.

(Image and synopsis provided by Kathy Pooler)

My Thoughts:

Having known Kathy Pooler for some years now and exchanging writing ideas via Internet, phone and blogs as well as assisting Kathy as a beta reader for her memoir, I am unable to give an unbiased review.

However, I am able to tell you that from vignettes written here and there, Kathy has pulled together a stellar written work which not only tells her story honestly but also provides hope for others walking the same path.

Kathy’s growing up was parented by a loving couple who always appeared happy and stable. Members of the Catholic faith, service above all else was the message passed on to their children. Hence, Kathy’s interest in nursing and her compassion for others.

Kathy dreamed of that perfect marriage, just like mom and dad’s. Yet choices made in her first two marriages did not play out like the perfect image Kathy saw in her dreams. Concerned with her own safety and that of her children, Kathy left her first husband and promised herself to make a better choice next time. And yet once again that did not happen.

During these trials, Kathy worked hard both on the job and in advancing her education while still maintaining her role as a mother to her daughter and son. She continued to dream her dream of a good husband.

Soon Kathy begins to see what choices she needs to make in order to bring her life into focus and find happiness. From this decision came the title for Kathy’s memoir.

I highly recommend Kathy’s memoir to anyone living in an abusive situation, with or without children, and to anyone who has a son or daughter in an abusive relationship. While we as parents are not always able to say what we feel to our adult children, Kathy’s book will give you an understanding of how to cope as your adult child works through these problems and signs you can watch for to know what is happening.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.

Meet the Author:

Kathleen Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner whose memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, published on July 28, 2014 and work-in-progress sequel,Hope Matters: A Memoir are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments:  domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.

She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.

She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: http://krpooler.com

Connect with Kathy here:

Twitter @kathypooler https://twitter.com/KathyPooler

LinkedIn: Kathleen Pooler https://www.linkedin.com/pub/kathleen-pooler/16/a95/20a

Google+: Kathleen Pooler https://plus.google.com/109860737182349547026/posts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4812560-kathleen-pooler

Facebook: Personal page: https://www.facebook.com/kathleen.pooler Author page: Kathleen Pooler/Memoir Writer’s Journey, https://www.facebook.com/memoirwritersjourney

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/krpooler/

Book Details:
Publisher: Open Book Press
Published: July 21, 2014
Paperback and e-book available
ISBN: 978-0-9859367-9-2

Where to Purchase: Available from Open Book Press with links to Smashwords and Amazon and from Barnes and Noble. Also available from your favorite booksellers worldwide.

BOOK GIVEAWAY — SIMPLE as 1-2-3!

Clicking on this link will take you to an entry form.
All that’s needed is your name and email address.

The giveaway ends at noon on Wednesday, September 3rd.
At that time, a winner will be selected using random.org.

The winner will be announced on this blog on Thursday, September 4th.

 

Upcoming Guest Posts, Interviews & Book Reviews

  • On Tuesday, August 26th, I will post my review of Kathy Pooler‘s recently published Memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. Kathy has told her story with integrity and holds out hope as a gift to those suffering through abusive relationships.
  • On Thursday, August 28th, my review of Lorraine Ash’s memoir Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life will be posted. Another story beautifully written from strength and courage with another gift of hope offered. Reminder: Two copies of Lorraine’s memoir will be given away.
  • On Thursday, September 4th,Marie Abanga visits with me as I interview Marie about writing her memoir, My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption and the struggles she overcame. I met Marie when she visited this blog and left a comment. I knew upon reading her book and learning more about her life I wanted to share Marie with my other followers in a special way. I’m looking forward to Marie’s visit, and I hope you’ll come back and meet her.
  • On Tuesday, September 9th,I review Marie Abanga’s memoir My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption.
  • On Thursday, September 18th, Mary Gottschalkwill be my guest writing on “giving up on marketing.” Mary is the author of a memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam (here is my review) and a recently published novel, A Fitting Place. Having been through the publishing and marketing business with both books, Mary has advice and wisdom to share with us.

A Cautionary Tale about Memories

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

In posts here, here, and here, I have written on the topic of writing and its healing benefits. Today I want to share a cautionary tale with you. Something happened in our family two weeks ago today casting a different light, at least for me, on the subject of memories, writing, and healing.

I am a proponent of the healing benefits of writing because I thoughtI had come close to healing from scars and memories of my past related to my mother’s parenting skills and my ex-husband’s similar abuses. I now know this is only partially true.

The incident bringing this understanding to light occurred in our home and involved our eldest child, a son aged 43. Coincidentally, he is the son of my first marriage and later adopted at age 18, at his request, by my second husband. The details of what happened are not important to my post. However, I will say that Bob and I were stunned at their occurrence.

What is important for you to know is that I was alone here with our son when this happened and mid-point through the incident, I felt as though I had time travelled decades backward. My emotions kicked into high gear, and I immediately found myself wanting to put space between the two of us.

As soon as I did, the incident took on the heat of a glass blower’s furnace, and I felt my emotions accelerate into what felt like a nightmare. I could not be living through this again! And yet I felt as if I were staring at my mother and ex-husband rolled into one.

The reaction I was having to our son’s behavior was familiar to me — a tightness in my chest, shallow breathing, a need for air, a need to close myself off from what was happening. As a child, I would run and close my door and lock it when Mama treated me abusively. With my ex-husband, it was a different story; he was bigger and stronger than I and so I rolled into a fetal position and cried.

Finally, I walked to our entry which prompted our son to leave. And then all of my past emotions and feelings came surging forward and out. I cried the next three hours until my husband returned home.

♦ ♦ ♦

What I have learned from this experience is as follows:

  • Although this incident brought back unhappy and painful memories, my recovery from them has been quicker. For the past two weeks, my husband and I have talked about what happened but less and less each day. Bob has yet to speak to our son about his actions but will in due course.
  • I realize that my emotions were the result of seeing in action what caused my pain before, and I began taking steps to remove myself — standing up from the kitchen table where we sat, walking step-by-step into our kitchen, and then into our entry. I placed myself at a distance from the person hurting me with his words and emotions.
  • Initially, I haven’t been able to write here or on my memoir. I realized yesterday I was ready to write again because writing is what brought me far enough to take the steps listed above. This morning the subject of this post came to me, and here I am. Later today I plan to begin work again on rewriting my first draft of my memoir.
  • Based on all of this, I have learned that yes, writing is a healing agent from whatever pain, abuse, unhappiness or loss we have experienced. However, not all of those memories disappear. They are a part of who we are forever. They make up our being, the person we have become, for we have learned from them. And yes, like in PTSD and other similar emotional situations, there are triggers which precipitate memories surging back quickly.

♦ ♦ ♦

Be cautious as you write to remember we cannot wipe away our memories by writing, but the writing itself with its cathartic nature will teach us how to handle the resurgence of those memories should something or someone trigger them.

“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree.
The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity,
covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.
But it is never gone.”
∼ Rose Kennedy

Is Memoir Writing Always a Healing Agent?

Earlier this week after reading a post on Marion Roach’s blog by Jill Smolowe, author of Four Funerals and a Wedding , I felt I may have held my theory on the healing benefit of writing memoir a bit too tightly. So tightly in fact that I took a step back and re-read Smolowe’s post, Finding the Message in Memoir.

The result of that re-reading and analysis on my part is this post. Granted there are more than two views on the healing benefit of writing memoir, but here I share only two with you, mine and Jill Smolowe’s.

In her post, which I strongly encourage you to read, Smolowe points to a question that comes to many of us who write memoir, “Did you find writing the book cathartic?” There are multiple answers to this question depending upon whom is answering. For Smolowe, who obviously gave much thought to the inquiry, it was a matter of defining her message and it’s value for her readers:

But before I can make the commitment to breaching my own privacy and spending considerable time revisiting a painful chapter in my life, I need clarity on two points: What is the lens through which I will tell my story? What is my message, the bit of hard-earned wisdom that I aim to share? For me, finding the answers to those questions requires detachment and emotional distance from the events.

Smolowe continues in the next paragraph:

As a result, I do not find the writing of a memoir cathartic. Nor do I approach the task with a hope or expectation that the process will heal me. Instead, what propels me is my belief that there is a book missing from the shelves—one that would have been helpful to me in my time of turmoil, one that I hope may now be of use to others.

For Smolowe, detaching from the painful events is accomplished through journalling:

That’s not to say that writing can’t be therapeutic. When I want to alleviate tension, stress or upset, I regurgitate my experiences into a journal. Raw and unfiltered, these entries provide an outlet to vent. Sometimes that act of writing helps to calm my roiling emotions. Sometimes the writing even serves, yes, a cathartic function. 

For me, the work of memoir writing is selecting, culling, honing, shaping, rewriting. Rewriting. Ruthlessly chopping. Rewriting once more. The driver is my intellect, not my emotions. Catharsis? For that, my journal will have to suffice.

Before I continue, I want to underscore my respect for Smolowe’s choice in her handling of this particular theme. Her decision to write without baring her emotions will likely be more helpful to her readers. 

* * *

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

And this is where our paths diverge. Where Smolowe and I differ is in the relevant theme behind our writing.

Smolowe is dealing with unbelievable loss in her life and the emotions following them. Her writing is predicated on the hope of helping others cope under similar circumstances, but she is careful and, rightly so, not to characterize her writing with the emotional weight of her own losses. I applaud Smolowe for this consideration. And I understand and respect the detachment in her writing.

On the other hand, I am writing my memoir around a theme of a different type of loss–the loss of my inner child’s voice during childhood abuses. In order to voice the still raw pain and confusion from childhood abuses handed out by my mother until I moved across the country in 1983, I began to feel a tremendous sense of freedom as I worked at my writing.

While drafting my memoir, I am at last allowed to have a voice and say what my young heart and mind experienced some six decades ago. Had I spoken at the time of these abuses, punishments would have been harsher and the imprint would have left deeper scars. I remained quiet and still, never fighting back.

Now, as I write, including letters to my mother after her death in 2001, I experience unimaginable release from some of those scars and pains. It has been extremely cathartic for me to feel the unbinding of emotions as the words flow.


The most important takeaway from this post, I hope, is that you are the master of your memoir writing journey. In the event that I have left the impression that writing a memoir is always healing, I want to clear the air: The healing benefit that some find in writing memoir is not necessarily the same for all. As mentioned above, it is dependent on your chosen theme.

Bottom line: Each life story is different because each life is lived differently. Each life is lived in a different environment, a different place, a different time, with different experiences.

You know the reason behind your writing. Write your truth. Write the story that you know.

Living with Fear | Guest Post on An Untold Story with Sue Mitchell

I am honored to be with Sue Mitchell at An Untold Story sharing a portion of my story. I do hope you’ll follow me over to Sue’s blog to read the rest.Note: As Sue and I discussed this guest post and using an excerpt from my work-in-progress, I expressed thoughts about a memoir I had just read. In that life story, the writer’s experiences somewhat paralleled my own. The author’s words opened up new avenues of thought and reflection I’d never expected to experience. I’m writing my story hoping to touch others so that they too may begin to think, reflect and heal.

Living with Fear

Young children scare easily—a tough tone, a sharp reprimand, an exasperated glance,
a peeved scowl will do it. Little signs of rejection— you don’t have to
hit young children to hurt them—cut very deeply.
~ James L. Hymes, Jr.

For a child, living in fear has to be one of the worst emotional states to find in one’s environment. Living isn’t living when it’s done in fear of something or someone. And that’s how life was in my childhood home.

Fear was an everyday occurrence. Not the fear of physical harm. Instead, the fear of words, another’s emotions gone wild, punishment, the unexpected. A child is supposed to be happy, carefree. This is impossible under a cloud of fear. Like waiting for the thunder to roll, the clouds to burst open, then drenching, chilling rain falling on you.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “fear” as:

a:  an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger

b (1):  an instance of this emotion (2):  a state marked by this emotion.

Imagine living with these feelings day in, day out. Never knowing what to expect. Always on guard for that moment when tensions rise, tempers flare and you become the focus of anger and temperament.

~~~~

July 3, 2012

Dear Mama,

Brad, almost age 3
Brad, almost age 3

I wonder if you remember anything special about cherry Jell-O.  Probably you remember making it quite often.  After all, it was Brad’s favorite!

BUT do you remember an afternoon when the worst thing that could have happened to a mother happened to you?

Lovingly, I’m sure, you had prepared another of those “humongous” pans of cherry Jell-O.  And you had carefully placed it in the refrigerator to do that gelling thing it was so clever at doing.

I don’t remember where you had gone after that, but little eyes were watching and big ears were listening.  As soon as they had perceived you were nowhere near the kitchen, Brad went to work.

Despite the fact that he was just passed three years old, he had somehow managed to learn how to reach up far enough to open the refrigerator door.  His eyes spied that pan of Jell-O, and Brad was going to have some.  And onto the floor it went!

As always, the minute you heard a crashing sound you were right there to see what one of us had done.  And there it was — red Jell-O all over your kitchen floor!

Read more here . . .