When I was sexually assaulted by my partner he made me tell a story. When I was finished, he strangeled me unconscious. He did this knowing I’m a creative person, which in turn traumatized me and negatively affected my creative process. This person who I lived with and trusted had betrayed me in the deepest way and my creativity had become associated with trauma.
This moment changed my life. Suddenly creativity wasn’t safe anymore, it was a trigger. The mapping of my own mind had been fundamentally altered. It took me three months before I finally had the courage to leave him – but once I did I had a new problem: I found myself unable to work on the novel I was writing before the assault. A 44,000 word first draft on the tips of my fingers was now untouchable. The novel I had started writing to recover from my psychosis was now a curse. I had invited him into my creative universe, but he betrayed that trust with the assault and his demands to know more about my characters. His words, “tell me about Jennifer,” haunted me every time I tried to write. His demand to be near me while I was creating left no sacred space for me to work in – and now his memory was there, looking over my shoulder every time I tried to write.
Because of the trauma, I lost my career in social media. I was plagued with chronic pain as neural tension squeezed my nerves, and eventually panic attacks had me leaving work to visit the hospital. It only got worse. The thought of working on my novel had me suicidal. I felt as if I had been hexed by a series of life circumstances taking away the one thing that gave me hope: Writing. I believed if I could only finish writing my novel without the trauma my life would be very different. He was the cause of an unbearable writers block that took me away from me the one thing that had given me hope.
I stumbled over this blockage for years, unable to find a way to proceed. I could rewrite things I had already written, but writing new passages and events was impossible. The negative association in my mind only reinforced itself over time. As is the case with PTSD, we become hardwired to panic. I found a therapist for my panic attacks. Then a psychologist for my PTSD. I sent out a sigil (a prayer) to the environment where I would be able to write. Finally, it came true.
I felt robbed of my identity and the way I used to feel before the assault. With her help, I reaffirmed that I was still the creative person I was before – that my novel wasn’t lost. Every creative thing I did was a step towards healing, re-wiring the negative associations I had with creativity and getting back to writing.
The solution came to me in a good friend’s basement. I was pacing, thinking about life and screencapping a poem as I wrote it, proud of every sentence and wanting to share my progress on instagram. “What if I did it all publicly?” the question bubbled up in me like an answer to my prayers. I would write the remainder of my book online. I would record the process of my healing. I would turn my struggle into art.
And that’s how Project Process was born. I thought I would wait a week to announce it but I was so enthused that I started working on a public google documents folder right away. All my working files would be accessible. My fiance suggested I livestream to twitch so people could follow me as I worked on the files. I set aside a regular time to do this weekly. Though I may work on the project anytime inspiration strikes, I’ve committed to two hours a week to do it publicly. If I find myself unable to work on my novel in this time, I can write about my trauma or otherwise journal about the process of writing and healing. Anything I do is a step towards completion, and because of this I’m no longer shrouded in loneliness and shame about my writing, the assault and how it affected me. I no longer have to be alone in my recovery from PTSD. The commitment to write publicly allows me to face the source of my pain head on and in a manageable way.
By making my writing public in such a raw state, I’m inviting people into my novel’s universe – it no longer being something I just shared with my abuser. I’m reclaiming it. I’m inviting people to see it as a living creation and something they can influence with their comments and questions. By turning it into a collaboration, I’m no longer alone in the process. It has become something bigger than I could have created on my own. It has become a statement on the power of our collective healing.