A Journey Through Words - interview with author Don Shetterly
In 1991, Don Shetterly was paralyzed from a condition known as a “conversion disorder” for a short period of time. Since that time, he has spent many hours healing and recovering from the trauma and abuse he suffered as a child. Writing became therapy to Don and his book of poetry and writing, “A Journey Through Words” is about his own process in the journey to heal. We have conducted an interview with him.
How different is writing your book: “Hope And Possibility Through Trauma” versus writing ''A Journey Through Words''?
When I wrote Journey Through Words, I was just writing words that were helping me express the hurt and pain that I was attempting to heal from. It was raw writing at times, letting words flow without thinking of what they would be intended for or how they would impact everyone else. It was my outlet and my moment where I could bare my soul with whatever was showing up in that moment.
When I wrote Hope And Possibility Through Trauma, I was more focused on not only telling my story, but processing much of what I was working on in my own healing. My intent was to help others by sharing the painful process I had gone through, so that they would feel as if they were not alone. It really was not a book at first, when I started writing all of these things. It was more of writing to free my soul from the pain. Later on, it was more about helping others and through that, I was able to put all these things together into the final book. I really was not thinking about writing a book when I sat down to write some of these parts, but as I wrote, everything came together and became a part of a collection which became the book in its final form.
There is definitely a difference in the writing and I think that both books show a progression of my own healing and growth. In the early days of healing, there is much pain to process and so it takes a step by step, never ending process of going into the pain and allowing the healing to take place. That is the process that evolved through both books and is actually evolving into my next book even further. I have the opportunity now to look back and see the progress, from what I have written in the earlier days of this process. It is amazing to see how I have evolved and grown as part of my own book writing process. I believe my writing has truly helped me grow in ways that I never thought I could, so that’s a benefit of writing that carries with you for a long time.
When did you start using writing as a therapy?
In college, it seemed like all my focus of writing was on class papers and assignments. Outside of that, I did very little writing. Once I got out of college, computers were just starting to become something everyone bought for their home. It was then that I started to keep a journal, but I was not very active daily with it.
When I first went into the hospital after being paralyzed, my writing began to take on a different meaning for me. I found that I could put some of my most intimate thoughts on paper, that were too difficult to ever share with anyone else. It became a source of beginning to let all those painful parts out that I had hidden deep inside of me all those years.
As the years evolved, the writing became a key point of my own healing and growth. Sometimes, it was my only outlet and I felt safe writing the words. The more I wrote, the more I started to see my life and experiences in a whole new light. It was as if the writing helped show me more about myself and by knowing more, I was able to go deeper into myself, which was reflected in my writing.
I have found that sometimes it is not easy to tell someone what happened, or the stories and horrors that are trying to come out. However, as I found through my own healing, the writing was my saving grace. It was my safe outlet which I could control.
There have been so many times through therapy and healing for me, that the words I wrote were the only connection I wanted to the pain. It was through that connection that I found a voice for the little boy that could not talk or speak or stop what was going on. In finding the words, I found my voice and in finding my voice, I found the words to heal in ways that I never thought was possible.
When your suffering is getting in the way of your focus, what is your personal experience in coping with your feelings and overcoming trauma?
One of the things I’ve learned is that if I try to ignore the difficulties and issues that I’m facing, it only makes things worse. Of course, that lesson seems to be forgotten many times. I know that in order to overcome the issues that are showing up, I have to let them happen and allow them to be. The more I fight them, the more difficult it gets.
In those moments, I often turn to my creativity. I focus on letting words come out or maybe music flow that can help me push past some of the stuff.
I try to feel and sense. I try to focus on what it is that is happening, but not be taken over by it. I try to surrender to it. Using some of the body healing techniques that I have learned over the years, I am more able to go in and do significant release work on myself. Sometimes this just involves stopping and noticing and observing what is going on. Sometimes it involves going to the ocean or being out in nature.
At other times, I focus on meditation and breathing connected to movement. I know that if I can allow whatever is causing the suffering to move through me, that I will find peace and joy on the other side of it. Sometimes it takes far more courage than I think I have, but I am constantly learning how to interact with my own mind and body.
What inspires you the most while writing this book? What is your reason for writing this book?
I know what it is like to deal with a difficult healing path and life. I’ve been to the edge of the cliff and back. Experiencing child abuse and traumatic moments is difficult to heal from and often people feel like they are left alone out in the dark. They feel as if they have no one that understands, even if someone is standing there with an understanding heart.
I have written this book to help people know that they are not alone, and that while they are struggling, others have walked in those same shoes. It is through my own personal experience that the words I write, can offer hope and help to others. Maybe, just maybe, the words will be an encouragement and support so that they can find their footing on their own path.
I feel like too many people claim to have all the answers, but it is in the personal experience and story of those who have walked the same journey, that the stories offer hope and healing. They offer encouragement that if others can do it, then they possibly can too. I find personal experience is much more beneficial at times than someone purporting to have all the answers, as they boil things down into simplicity that is void of emotion and real life experience.
I am working on a new book which I hope to have finished and out by the end of the year. It is taking what I have written and added much more about some of the specifics in how I healed my life. I hope it will be a further addition of healing and support and help to those who are struggling to deal with their own life of trauma and child abuse.
Why did you name this book, “Hope And Possibility Through Trauma”? Who do you want to reach especially?
When you are in the early days of healing or when things are beginning to hit you front and center, hope is barely something you know. It feels like there is no hope. It feels like you’re not ever going to make it through this. It feels hopeless and helpless.
Healing is tough work, especially when it comes to trauma and child abuse. Often the path forward is not clear and many times the difficulty of healing is more than most can deal with. It is easier to almost give up and numb one’s self, rather than find healing and hope after trauma. I wanted this book to not only reflect that I had been through some horrible things in life but that there is healing. There is hope and possibility. Yes, I understand that this is not easy, but there is a life beyond the trauma and child abuse. There is hope. Even though this book shares my pain and struggle, I wanted my focus to be on the hope and the possibility of healing trauma in someone’s life.
Which other ways do you unlock your potentials in creativity?
Creativity is very important to me and has been one of the best things that I could have found to help me heal. Without it, I’m not sure I would have made it this far. However, I never thought of myself as creative. I just considered myself to be an average person like everyone else. By letting go of the limits I placed on myself for creativity, I started to discover this creative side in myself. The more I nurtured it and connected with it, the more it helped me heal and unlock so much more potential that I did not know existed.
I also create relaxing piano music. Even in some of the worst experiences growing up, I had my piano. Creating on the piano is one of those things that helps me find a sense of peace and calmness. It is an escape into another dimension that allows me to view things differently. It is a connection to so much more that is around me than I can normally see in a day.
Another way I am creative is through my Mind Body Thoughts blog where I just allow myself to go in and write. I write about things I see and how they impact me. I share moments of my own discovery in life where I am learning or struggling with something that seems far beyond hope and possibility. I share my own life through my blog and my books because I know that people often need that. So my creativity through my words is there to help shine a light on the path of life that can be treacherous.
Painting and photography are also things I dabble in if I can get my own self-criticism and self-judgment calmed down enough to let me do this. I struggle with looking at my own creations as having any value, but I understand this is one of the ongoing life lessons for me to learn more deeply.
In all I do, I am a very creative individual. I often see the world through a different set of eyes than most do. My creativity allows me to see the finer moments and times when things are more connected than we notice. Creativity is one of those life-saving moments for me and because of it, I try to trust myself in sharing it with the world.