Your Domain Name In 2003 I was dying from a very toxic relationship. Seriously, my kidneys were failing. Intuitively I knew that this disease had something to do with my relationship, so I worked my way out of it. And back in. And then back out again. I was walking on eggshells every day I was in it, and I never knew what would trigger an explosion.
One day, while buying comic books with my kids, I realized that my “romantic” life was just like every issue of Archie Comics. Archie would fall for Veronica, Veronica would treat him like crap, Archie would turn his attention to Betty, and then Veronica would be sweet again to pull Archie back in. I realized that I was Archie and she was Veronica. My regular life and my kids were my Betty.
So I began exploring this realization more and more in the only way I really knew – by writing. As I wrote about it, I healed. As I wrote, the anger I had toward her and the antics she pulled during our time together faded, and the memory of her mind games began to have less power to pull me into an emotion tailspin. For almost a year, I would rehash the bad choices I made and think about what I would have done differently. The cool thing was that as I wrote and rewrote, I found I was less emotional about all that crap. The reason for this pain subsiding wasn’t because what she did was any less villainous; it was that I used my story to rewrite the endings, so that I actually did the things I wished I had done.
Writing was my way out of a lot of self-defeating internal dialogue. And it continues to be, because I’m still not perfect for some strange reason.
The thing about writing is that it makes you put down on paper your internal dialogue, much like traditional therapy makes you talk about it. The key difference for me between writing and traditional therapy (and I’ve done both, extensively) is that I can write something out, then go back and edit. I can insert the snappy response I wish I’d thought of. I can beat the monster before it crushes me. I can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. I can save the day and get the girl (not the one that almost killed me, but that dream girl). I can change the ending. I can even be cool (which sometimes requires quite a bit of imagination, trust me).
The power of turning your painful memories into a story is pretty well documented. Writing therapy and art therapy are both legitimate branches of psychotherapy. They are particularly powerful for introverts who don’t like to process their thoughts out loud, as extroverts do. Typically introverts like to think about things before voicing them. Writing and drawing allows you to bring up stuff that you might not want to share with anybody, but still need to work out. The combination of writing and art therapy has a unique power to help you turn old painful stories into things you can use for good. This makes comic books a secret lab for turning setbacks into powerful accessories for your utility belt.
And everybody needs a secret lab. Or at least some cool accessories.