Trying longer-form writing again - and why I have trouble with it

I've always had trouble writing personal content. Recently, I've started exploring the why behind that.

Trying longer-form writing again - and why I have trouble with it
Photo by Andrew Neel / Unsplash

I struggled with even choosing a platform for writing. There are so many to choose from in 2023... from the trendy like Substack all the way back to the tried and true WordPress and even the bratty (yet adorable) little sister to WordPress, Tumblr. However, I've settled on Ghost which I think gives a good balance of the ease of content management with a solid feature set. I can also self-host and it's not a pain in the ass!

But this isn't why I'm here. I need to write about my experiences.

I've always had trouble writing personal content. Writing about my experiences, feelings, emotions, memories, and other vulnerable things wasn't something I ever learned to do well. Back when I was in school, I was always great at what we called "transactive writing" – news articles, how-tos, op-ed pieces, you know the drill. We've all been there.

Recently, I've started exploring the why behind that, and it involves a few bummers. I'll try to avoid bummers because they're never fun, but it's important to know that everyone has them and let's face it, bummers are a fact of life. To avoid the details yet still convey the gravity, let's turn to everyone's best friend (Science!)

I grew up in an abusive household. This isn't generally information I volunteer, because for the longest time I didn't want to gather the sympathy that comes with it, and I also know I'm more than my history. As a result, I tend to downplay my past, but I'm married to a psychologist and one of the first things she told me about after we met was the monumental CDC/Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study conducted in the mid to late 1990s, its findings, and how the data is being used to shape trauma-informed learning and care in schools. The simplest metric is what's called the ACE score, which is a 0-10 figure that indicates how many of the ten base adverse childhood experienes were present in your development.

I scored a perfect ten.

The negative effects from ACEs are so powerful, researchers stopped differentiating between scores once you get to 4. Only 12.5% of respondents to the CDC/Kaiser study (n=17337) scored 4 or higher. The slice of the pie for 10 must be really small... but I'm in it.

You can learn more about ACEs by visiting the CDC ACEs page or the CDC VetoViolence ACEs infographic.

Now that we've established that I should probably be dead in a ditch somewhere, here's why I'm somehow still kicking, and with relative success at that–I had a support system. It wasn't much of one, but it was enough to have an influence and offset some of these negative outcomes. The remaining ones are invisible for the most part: a CPTSD diagnosis, the inability to identify my own feelings and emotions, being driven by guilt about LITERALLY. EVERYTHING. All-or-nothing thinking.

I have so much more to say, but writing this much has been exhausting. I'm working on that... but it may help to spread the effort out a bit. Hopefully this serves as a good foundation.