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  • Writer's pictureGabriel Keye

The great escape: healing through creativity

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

Sometimes, trauma feels inescapable. It alters our brains, affects our physiology, and can impair our cognitive functioning. For years, I was too much of a mess to focus on anything productive. I was too anxious and mentally muddled to do much of anything at all. Then I started writing. When I'm at my keyboard, my thoughts suddenly become clear. If something haunts me while I'm writing, I use it to fuel my passion, taking away its power over me. The more I write about the things that hurt me, the more I feel myself overcoming them. I'm still disoriented at times and still suffer from all three types of flashbacks (visual, somatic, and emotional), but when I'm writing, they aren't problems for me, oddly enough. I'm not the only one who finds creativity the best way to overcome and heal. I want to tell you about two people who are very dear to me and how they're dealing.

My friend Jack took a knife to the neck while serving with me in the army. Despite his many challenges, including the textbook symptoms of combat PTSD, he's done an impressive job at staying afloat. His trauma extends before the stabbing, actually. He had a very difficult time during his time in Gaza, experiencing things that nobody ever should. One thing Jack has going for him, however, is being a sick guitarist. I would even venture to say he's radical and gnarly. When he left the hospital, I expected him to go the way I did. And he suffers, he does. But he's released quite a few songs since then, and he does it with a smile. When he's playing those strings, it's clear that the past and future don't exist, just his badass music. I don't want to give too much away about him, but he does a sick Dream Theater cover and he's a successful college student. God bless the guy; I genuinely don't know how he does it.

The other guy I want to mention by yet another pseudonym is Russell, another IDF veteran. Russell, like me, had a real rough go at civilian life. He still has his challenges, but that's to be expected. Living in the city overwhelmed him to the point where he felt forced into a change of scenery. He came to find that time in nature was exactly what he needed. It was on one of his retreats that he realized going back to his roots brought him a feeling of presence and stillness. Nowadays, Russell spends his spare time flintknapping primitive weapons, making bows and arrows, and fashioning clothing and sandals from the remains of animals. No, he doesn't kill the animals; hunters sell him furs, sinew, and the occasional bladder. And now he's found peace in those moments of creative pursuit. He has a wife, two kids, a steady job, and a paleolithic arsenal.

I'm not saying you need to become a rock sensation or a mammoth hunter to find peace, nor am I saying that creative passion will cure you, but it can be a considerable relief to take a reprieve from the daily struggle. And don't worry if you suck at it. I'm using Grammarly right now; nobody's perfect. It may sound cheesy, but the important thing is to have fun and truly immerse yourself in the experience. Trust me, getting creative helps. What do you have to lose?

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