Monday 8 May 2017

Writing is My Therapy

By Karen M. Davis

Some people like to run, walk, meditate, have a massage, talk with friends over a glass of wine, or do countless other things  to clear their heads. These are all a form of therapy, coping with the stresses and worries of everyday life. My way of dealing with stress, anxiety, pressure or whatever you like to call it, is to write.

Writing therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the act of writing and processing the written word as therapy. Writing therapy posits that writing one's feelings gradually eases feelings of emotional trauma. (Wikipedia.)
I know many writers who have loved to write for as long as they can remember. I am not one of them. I only discovered my passion for writing by circumstance, really.

After twenty years in the New South Wales police force, I was diagnosed with chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - something I still have to manage as best I can - and I was forced to leave the career that I loved for my own health. It was not a good time to say the least. A psychologist suggested - as did my mother - that I write about the traumas I had witnessed and experienced as therapy. I couldn't see the point in this at first but it was pointed out to me that it was a recognised  "form of therapy," so I decided to give it a go. What did I have to lose?

At first, just thinking about the horrific things I'd seen was bad enough. Writing about them was even harder. But what I found by putting pen to paper - or fingers to keyboard - was that telling my stories and expressing my emotions in words was in fact a form of release. As they say I was literally getting things that were weighing me down off my chest, dark memories out of my head and onto the computer screen. This allowed me to see things from another perspective. It also distanced me from the situations I had encountered. I can't explain it exactly but I certainly know it helped. It also reminded me of the positives of my job; the good things, the funny times.

Eventually my real life stories grew into a book of memoirs which I entitled "Cop This." By this time I had developed a love of writing, which gave me a new purpose, a different direction and a fresh and exciting passion. 

Turning  my experiences into fiction enables me to tell my stories from afar, so to speak, from the safety of my study. When writing I'm completely in the moment. I'm back in the police world I know so well, with my old workmates ( my characters) in the parts of Sydney I love and have worked (my settings.) The plots are inspired by my memories as my fictional world consumes me and comes together like just another day at the office. Well most of the time...


What is your form of therapy?

I love to love listening to audio books - these are my new discovery as it allows me to do two things at once.
I love to laugh at funny baby videos.
Image courtesy of jpeg
I would love to learn a different language.


  1. Hi Karen. To be in the police force is not an easy decision but one that should be commended. Police risk their lives every day to save the public and too often they lose their lives, or as you have described, succumb to the stress of policing work. It's wonderful that you have found writing, immersing yourself in the lives of imaginary characters, as the best form of stress relief for you. For me, stress relief comes in a number of forms: writing, bush walking, immersing myself to rock music (addicted to that music genre). Another thing I do is keep a positive outlook on life. I find that very relaxing.

  2. Hi Karen! I couldn't agree more with your view that writing is cathartic (even if no one else sees it). But when writing doesn't work as a stress reliever for me, I like to walk, to read or to do jigsaw puzzles.

  3. Hi Karen. Thank you for sharing this with us. I am so glad your bad experiences have had such a positive outcome on the other side. I have just discovered podcasts and listen to them in the car while driving to and from work. I suspect audio books will be next.

  4. PTSD is such a sneaky and unrelenting villain, isn't it? I'm so glad your writing has been a cathartic release, Karen - and we get to benefit by reading your terrific stories. Reading is my go-to de-stressor, and watching television, and cross-stitching. The last two are a perfect match together. Sometimes I play computer games while watching the telly too. Solitaire works a treat for me. Watching my grandchildren also works, I love to see them play and laugh and be silly. But mostly, reading. Writing is also fun, I find time flies when that happens! Keep going, you're obviously doing everything right to work back from that PSTD. And hurrah to all those fabulous police officers out there who do an amazing job. Respect.

  5. Hi Karen, thank you for sharing the background to your writing with us. It is good you could use writing as a way to assist you in your recovery from PSTD. I loved your first two novels and am looking forward to reading the third.


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