Creative Therapy

July 18, 2013 | By | 17 Replies More

I have thought about blogging for a while now. The idea had floated around my head but always ran for cover when self-doubt checked in. Could I really do it? Would I have anything interesting to say?  Would anyone actually want to read it? Then I began to think about why I began writing in the first place. Well, that’s a story in itself.

Cassie Kennedy, who writes with PTSD

Cassie Kennedy, writer and poet from Scotland

To put it very simply, I have PTSD. First diagnosed in 2011 and I am now on the road to recovery after my second bout. It’s no picnic. It’s a debilitating condition that affects every edge, corner, nook and cranny of your life. I worked in Public Protection with the Police Service for 5 years and read about horrific crimes.

For me the consequences were nightmares, panic attacks and an unexpected side dish of depression.  Now before I continue I’m not jumping on the ‘poor me’ wagon. Honest. True life confessionals have never been my thing. I prefer guts and glory. I don’t like sad stories. I don’t want my story to be one.  This wasn’t anyone’s fault. No one was to blame. I believe this life changing event happened to me for a reason. If I had not had PTSD I would not be a writer. 

It started, quite simply, with a journal. The emotional lows came out as anger, tears, frustration, and sadness and had nowhere to go except swirl repeatedly around my head. The resulting headaches were awful until one day in a pique I switched on the laptop and started to write it all down. My first book The Perks of Being Me came from that diary. I wrote when I was happy, sad, angry, worried and anxious.

It became my therapy. It became the reason why I got well.  For me, the two will forever be linked. There is the person I was before, who loved reading with a passion and kept a secret notebook in her bedside cabinet with plotlines, characters and stories but never quite had the guts to do anything about them. Then, there’s me now, the woman who got better, who began to hear the characters speaking to me to in their unique voices insisting that I wrote for them.

Finally, I listened. Now I can’t stop. I won’t lie to you – the PTSD has not disappeared. It’s something that sits in the corner of my mind.  Every once in a while I get a visit. My views have fundamentally changed because of it. But for me, I will never be fully well if I continue to think of myself as ill. I don’t want to have a silent partner as I dance through life. I want to dance to my own drum beat. For me that is what writing is. It’s freedom in the purest sense.

When I write I become something I more than that girl who was ill.  I am free from all the limitations that held me back. In order to get on with my life I had to re-invent myself. I could not look in the mirror every day and think of myself as ill and ever get well. I had to change my perspective and take on a new persona.

That’s when Cassie Kennedy, the Writer was born. I went to a local writing group where I got advice and support from a brilliant tutor and my fellow students. A short time late I joined Twitter and started telling others about my passion; what I was writing, what had inspired me that day and what helped. Now I am part of a supportive online community where everyone dares to pursue their dream. We all have a creative passion whether it is as an Artist, Sculptor, Poet or a Songwriter. You will know what it is; the subject that lights the fire in your belly and makes you feel alive.

A blank page does not scare me. It excites the hell of out of me. Just close your eyes and imagine all those vast and amazing possibilities. I write them down everywhere: online, on random post-its and notepads or if I’m organised, Evernote. Don’t be afraid to write what is in your head, for that random spark might just turn out to be that something special. When the words escape onto the page you are moving away from the limitations you have previously set for yourself. You are now in another world where you can be, see, do, and make anything you want happen. Imagine for one moment…no limits whatsoever. For me the proof is in the pudding.

I am just about to finish book six of a nine part fantasy series. I don’t worry about the word count. I am far too fascinated by my characters and their stories to stop. I must write and read every day. It’s as essential to me as the breath in my body. Remember, my story started with one simple headache.  So if I can leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this: forever banish the self-doubting whispers and follow your creative dream, whatever that may be. Share and talk about your passion and live the life you were meant to. Your dream may just come true.

— Cassie Kennedy is a Writer and Poet.  She was born in Scotland in 1977.  Please feel free to connect with her on Twitter, @cassiekennedyw.

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Category: Being a Writer, Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing

Comments (17)

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  1. I’m a war veteran, and I’m just now hitting 24 years after the war. I don’t have PTSD, but the events were so profound, it took me all of that time before I could write about. Before, when I tried, it was about the experience; now I can write about characters who are vets instead.

    One thing I really want to note though for writers like this is not let your desire to be heard override common sense. I’m on several FB pages for veterans, including one for women. They’ve posted anthology calls, which sound like really great opportunities for the veteran. But then I look at them in more detail. Most don’t pay the writer at all, and in many cases, it’s also really clear that the people doing the anthology have no experience whatsoever. The worst thing would be put your heart into writing something and then have the publisher fold and take your rights with it. That happened to me years ago, and there were warning signs.

  2. Devin Caputo says:

    When I was younger, I suffered from severe (undiagnosed) Depression. My escape became my writing. In my stories, I was normal and happy. I could experience the enchantment of fantastic beings. I was a beautiful, unscarred and unbroken individual in my stories. I wrote all the time. As I aged, I sought medical help and tried to heal. In a way, the Depression fueled my creativity and I miss that. Like you, I wrote Fantasy. I am working at writing again, but haven’t found the motivation or encouragement I need. How did you force yourself to just sit down and write?

    • Hi Devin,

      Thanks so much taking the time to read and reply. I appreciate it.

      The short answer to your question is – forcing my writing doesn’t work for me. For example, last night, I tried to write a chapter, and two hours later all I’d accomplished was some random surfing and a few additions to my You Tube playlist 🙂

      However, maybe I can suggest a few things that encourage me to begin writing?

      Twitter – I find this social network incredibly supportive. Some of the best feedback I’ve had has been via Twitter (despite the bad press it gets). As writing can be a solitary passion, its great for connecting with other writers, poets and creative people.

      Blogging – Do you have a blog? I started mine last July and I’ve never regretted it. A blog can be as short as long as you like and on ANY subject you want. It’s great for confidence and lets you stretch your legs creatively away from your fantasy novel ideas.

      Photography – I tend to see my stories visually and love to take photographs, they’re great for sparking ideas. You can also follow a photography accounts on Twitter e.g. Google pics, abandoned places etc.

      Evernote – best free app ever! (also accessible online). Great for recording notes when you are out and about. You can also add voice memos, photographs. One idea, frequently sparks another and before you know it you’ve got your story.

      The combination of the above seems to give me enough, a few sentences sometimes, to get the laptop open and start typing and after that I find it just comes.

      It’ll happen Devin, you wrote and before and obviously loved it,
      trust yourself and your passion to come and it will.

      All the very best


    • lucy Davies says:

      Thank you for this courageous piece. I only gave myself ‘permission’ to start writing when I used it as a therapeutic tool for PTSD too. It healed me more than I thought possible and lead to a complete life change. Now I write daily and am finishing my first Ya fantasy novel! I am inspired by this quote and I think you summed it up in this piece’it is not our darkness we are afraid of it is our light if we let our own light shine we give permission for others to do the same’- Marianne Williamson

  3. Jo says:

    Very impressive…..

  4. Dear Cassie,

    Thank you for sharing your brave and inspiring story. As someone who has PTSD on their list of challenges in life as well, I could really relate to so many points in your article. I am in awe of the fact that you’ve written so many books in the series now, good for you! I will be looking you up on Twitter and keeping in mind what you said about how you ‘would never be fully well if you thought yourself ill’. That is a very excellent point, and one that had not occurred to me before. It is an attitude that I will aspire to, to think myself well (or at least, getting better…)

    Thank you for writing about your experiences! I am sure you are helping more people than you will ever know.

    ~February Grace

    • Hi February,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment here and tweet. Your heartfelt words meant a lot to me.

      For me, PTSD & its nature gave me a blank page I never knew I needed. Which was equally exciting and as scary as hell. It’s an open road out there February, and you can go in whatever direction you please. believe in yourself and your dreams.

      I loved your blog in particular ‘Do you taste your coffee’ really touched me and made me teary.

      All the best meantime, happy writing xx

  5. Kristina James says:


    Thank you for sharing your experience. As a military spouse and a PTSD sufferer myself, I understand the hardships that come along with that diagnosis. I also know the power and freedom that comes from sitting down with a blank paper of endless possibilities. The rush of inspiration takes over leaving everything else behind, at least for a few hours.

    Best of luck to you,
    Kristina James

  6. Lisa Cassidy says:

    Hi Tess,

    Thank you for your lovely e-mail.

    I’m sorry to hear you are having symptoms from your research post. My symptoms developed a year before I had a panic attack at work and was signed off. My body was telling me what my mind refused to accept. It was another two months before I was diagnosed with PTSD. I mostly remember feeling numb and exhausted trying to pretend I was fine when I definitely wasn’t.

    It’s not my place to make a diagnosis but I hope you don’t mind me making a couple of suggestions that may help? I’m not sure if you have spoken to your supervisor but I would like to encourage you speak to someone within your organisation that you trust. Does your organisation have a Welfare Officer or Occupational Health Nurse you can talk to in confidence? I had a wonderful Welfare Officer who understood my symptoms and diagnosed my PTSD before referring me to a counsellor for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). This therapy helps your mind to process the images it can’t cope with. You need professional help to get well from PTSD.

    I was initially worried about disclosing my symptoms to my employers but once I made them aware they were very supportive.
    They moved me to another post within the organisation. Remember they have a duty of care towards you. Also there is greater public awareness of PTSD now. It is well known that emergency workers and those working in criminal fields are especially susceptible. My family and friends were very supportive to, you will be surprised by the support you will have. You don’t have to cope with PTSD alone.

    Please don’t be afraid to ask for help Tess. You have spoken about how you feel alive when you write – there is no reason why you should not feel that way all the time. Criminology work is demanding but no job is worth your health. You are inspirational yourself Tess, posting your message here is a very brave thing to do.

    Please look after yourself Tess, keep being creative, keep your notebook and pen handy, spend your time doing the things that make you happy and most of all believe in yourself, you will get well.

    Best wishes

  7. Cassie,

    This is so great and I really relate to everything you’ve said. While I’m not sure I suffer from PTSD I also wake up to intense nightmares, have had panic attacks and depression. I have been a research assistant in the field of criminology for some time now and have read some pretty horrible stuff too. It’s interesting how we are able to come out of these periods using creativity to express ourselves. I too picked up a pen again and the minute I began writing my mood shifted and I felt alive. It wasn’t that I was necessarily writing about my experiences, it was just the act of writing that was therapeutic.

    You were so right in identifying the silent critic that writers so often find themselves in battle with. At times I find it difficult to ignore this voice that tells me I should give up because “what’s the point anyway?” You have given me inspiration, so thank you.

  8. “…forever banish the self-doubting whispers and follow your creative dream, whatever that may be.” Thanks for this 🙂

  9. Fiona and Des, thank you so much for your lovely comments. I’ve been blown away by the positive feedback to the blog so far and am very appreciative. Best wishes Cassie

  10. Des says:

    Cassie, you are inspirational! I developed goosebumps as I read your story and feel truly inspired. Thank you for this.

  11. Fiona Sekkat says:

    I read with interest and admiration. The challenges faced by anyone who has endured and continues to cope with conditions that strip the very essense of who you are away and leaves you bare speaks of a hidden strength and exceptional character. I will look forward to reading more and as I read i realise I too have hidden strengths – thank you.

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