Writing Through Trauma
Today’s guest post comes from author Cindy Benezra, whose memoir Under the Orange Blossoms: An Inspirational Story of Bravery and Strength is out now in paperback.
If I had the foresight of how difficult it would have been to write through trauma, I would have never begun! I would have closed up my spiral notebook, crunched up my scattered notes, and tossed them in the dustbin where they belong.
When something traumatic happens to us, we sort out that trauma to the best of our ability, and file that memory somewhere in the corner of our minds. We generally leave it there because it was traumatic. Why shake up the dust of that traumatic event? Living in the present can be way more comfortable than revisiting past trauma.
I like to picture the inside of my head as this glorious large box filled with tiny other boxes that live harmoniously together. Each precious box holds memories, information, and content that has made me into the person I am today. In a dusty corner of my mind, I have perfectly stacked boxes of traumatic events. A sign of “do not disturb” rests upon them advising me to let them be.
As I was going through the process of writing Under the Orange Blossoms I had to disturb all those perfectly sorted boxes. One by one, the lids came off and I started to descriptively write about the secrets that were stashed in them. I created a timeline of my life. In black and white, I could see for the first time all the horrifying events in my life laid out. I described not only what I saw, but what I touched, background noises, what I smelt, and what the pain felt like in my body was. I realized I had to dig deeper into that pain to carefully allow the reader to understand my journey while being cognizant not to traumatize the reader. It was horrific and an emotional stretch that I did not know was possible.
After eighteen years of therapy of perfectly sorting out my trauma boxes, they were spilled out in a giant pile. The content had to be descriptively sorted out and shared with others about my deepest and darkest memories. It was Pandora’s shit storm in my head, heart, and body.
I began writing the chapters out of sequence to protect myself from the saturation of recalling trauma. The end of the book is where I began, my father’s eulogy. It’s the here and now, a wiser and more grounded voice. It sets the tone for the chapters to follow.
The beginning was the most traumatic to write so I wrote those chapters towards the end. With my trauma therapist practically on speed dial, I wrote from a teenager’s perspective of suicidal idealization, flashbacks, and confronting my abuser. The other chapters followed according to my mental energy.
I started to have nightmares when I relived the past. I’d wake up shouting “Help me!” night after night. Mark, my husband, kept telling me to quit, that I was making myself sick. I listened to him and stopped writing to allow things to calm down, but I continued with writing again when I felt strong enough to do so. I kept on thinking about myself as a young girl desperately wanting to find a book that showed me how one would take the steps to go through trauma. I needed to know there was light at the end of the tunnel. As a young girl, I needed hope and I was determined to give someone, somewhere, that hope. I continued on writing and with all the time off, it took me five years to complete Under the Orange Blossoms.
Cindy Benezra is the author of the newly released memoir, Under the Orange Blossoms, a story centered around finding healing and hope from the trauma of physical, mental, and sexual abuse. The audio version of the memoir is set to be released at the end of February 2022, which includes interviews with her sister on suicide and mental health, exclusive to the audiobook.
Cindy is open to collaborating with others to bring awareness to the cycle of abuse and trauma through podcasts, speaking engagements, or other philanthropic opportunities such as fundraising charities. She can be reached at email@example.com
You can buy a copy fo Under the Orange Blossoms here.
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