Why I Stopped Writing for 20 Years: The Impact of Sexual Assault on Creativity & Purpose
(guest essay by Michaela Alexis)
I was a weird kid.
While my siblings were rolling around in dirt and sprinting through sprinklers in our backyard, I would curl up on a couch indoors and bury myself into an adventurous story.
My parents pleaded with me to read “normal” kids books, but I remember once having a complete breakdown until they let me read the biography of Russian ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev. After reading everything in sight from Jillian Jiggs to the ingredients on the back of shampoo bottles, I began writing stories.
One summer, when I was a little girl, we visited Barbados, and stayed in a charming pink bungalow near Silver Rock Beach.
Our days were spent climbing to the peak of the pebbly hill nearby, pretending to be Sandpiper birds, or frolicking in the swimming pool across the street from our vacation rental.
One afternoon, after my siblings had gone indoors to dry off and get ready to eat dinner, I continued to splash around in deep end of the pool. A group of older Bajan boys climbed in, started making kissing noises and catcalling.
They started wading towards me, and pushed the youngest boy towards my float, laughing. They shouting directions to him. I was fondled and grabbed, and I jumped off my float to get out of the pool. One boy clutched my wrist and kissed me hard. The other boys were laughing. I reached for the ladder, managed to pull myself up and out of the pool and ran as quickly as I could across the street.
I went straight to my room and cried into my pillow.
I was too young to comprehend what had happened, but I immediately felt like something of mine had been stolen.
I was fixated on the kiss because that was the part I understood. My first kiss was with a stranger, and it wasn’t my choice. That wasn’t the way things happened in movies, where the main characters fell in love and lived happily ever after! What was I going to tell my friends when they asked if I had ever kissed a boy? I internalized my shame.
I lost my appetite for creative writing on that day. It was a lot like swearing off a certain meal that you’ve had before you got sick, even if the food had nothing to do with your illness. I didn’t want to imagine anything at all, and my creativity was replaced by feelings of shame, embarrassment, and anger. Then, I forgot. My brain went into survival mode, and repressed the memory. It wasn’t until my last year of high school that the memory re-surfaced, triggered during a presentation on sexual assault.
I never lost the skill of storytelling, but the passion vanished. My teachers urged me to go into journalism or become an author, but I brushed off their advice. Creativity requires an enormous amount of vulnerability. You are essentially putting a piece of your soul out into the universe and saying “This is my heart, I hope you like it!”. I wasn’t strong enough yet. At the time, I didn’t think I ever would be.
I went into legal studies, but even during my time in law, I always became absorbed in the details of each case we studied. I just couldn’t shake my love of storytelling.
But my childhood experience started spreading like a rash onto my perception and behaviour. My anxiety and fear of crowds transformed into agoraphobia. I was extremely fearful of strangers. I was angry, guarded, and broken. I went through the darkest chapter of my life, until, one day, I glanced through tears at my reflection in the mirror and decided that I was tired of being a runaway.
I fell in love.
Then, I accepted that I was worthy of love.
Finally, six months ago, I realized that the key to a purposeful life wasn’t avoiding pain. “It’s about showing up, loving fearlessly, baring your scars, and sharing your gift with whomever deserves it.”
Some of the pages of my story may be tattered, or marred with old coffee stains and tears, but whose isn’t?
What truly matters is our ability to turn the page, pick up a pen, and begin writing again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michaela Alexis is a content marketing specialist accidentally turned Linkedin Influencer living in Ottawa, Canada. She had her first article go viral on Linkedin in March 2016, and has been writing ever since. Michaela spent a year and a half battling Agoraphobia before reclaiming her life and now teaches others how they too can overcome obstacles in lives. When Michaela isn’t writing, she’s teaching Canadian newcomers how to network and maintain confidence during their job search process, sweating it out at a hot yoga session, or car dancing like nobody can see her (but they totally can).