A Little Bit of Adrenaline is my Favourite Medicine: Horror, Healing and PTSD 

This essay has been a long time coming. I started drafting it eight months ago, to be precise. I intended it to be something very different, but in the end, it was a tool for catharsis. It’s funny, I always used to tell people I wrote creatively to help process my trauma and to make sense of an often unkind world. I’ve used “writing for wellness” for almost 35 years, assuming I begin the count from when I first began keeping a personal diary. Add in the years of stereotypical “teen-angst” poetry, some clumsy and poorly-planned attempts at copying my favourite horror authors in my twenties, fast-forward through motherhood when raising children took greater precedent over writing, and we reach what I thought of as the Comeback Period where I finally seemed to hit my stride. And then… disaster struck, and I found I couldn’t write for wellness anymore. 

Strap yourselves in, folks. This could take a while.

Everyone knows what PTSD looks like. We’ve seen it played out plenty of times in the movies. The hyperventilating, hallucinating, flashback-driven character garnished with a-side-helping-of-auditory-fuckery commonly introduced in Horrors and Thrillers. The ‘Nam veteran (or Gulf, or whichever war seems applicable). The (usually female) sexual assault victim. The grieving parent who lost their child too soon, often because of their own actions. The problem is, PTSD is not really like that at all. These characters show fictional PTSD with little thought given to the reality. But how else can a filmmaker show someone in mental health crisis if not through a selection of over-exaggerated tropes? 

It’s all bollocks, of course. And I should know, having spent the last eighteen months dealing with the reality. Oh, and using Horror to get me through it. 

I’m T.L Wood and you may know me from previously published essays such as: ‘What You Need Right Now is a Nice Soothing Horror Story,’ ‘Staring Down the Darkness: Horror and Mental Health’ and ‘The Tao of the Black Dog.’ In case it isn’t obvious, I really like writing about Horror and mental health. In fact, maybe a little too much … 

I shared a bit about what happened during the time, but to keep it simple, the TL/DR version (as the geek kids might say) is that in 2022 I experienced medical and dental trauma that caused a significant amount of drug-resistant nerve pain and ultimately resulted in the removal of all my adult teeth. I will also say upfront that while I hated having to make the choices I did, I do not regret making them, only that I wish I could have done so under better circumstances. Speaking from a place on the “other side” of trauma, I am happy with my decision and it has actually improved my life for the better. In fact, in some ways, I wish I’d had the knowledge and support to do this many years ago. But I would be lying if I said this was easy or had eliminated any residual mental distress. Unlike in the movies, there is rarely a handy fix for PTSD. 

A few years ago, a friend shared a blog post with me. It expressed the idea that grief is like a ball in a box. As it bounces around and hits the sides, it causes a great deal of mental anguish. When the grief is fresh, the ball is massive, and it hits the box almost all the time, but as time passes, the ball gets smaller and the hits much weaker. We learn to cope with how that ball feels, and we learn not to upset the box. Sometimes we get the urge to give the box a shake, to remind ourselves of those feelings. Yes, humans can be quite complex creatures, and often do things that seem counterintuitive, but actually help us grow stronger and process our emotions. Just like when we immerse ourselves in Horror fiction when we’re feeling vulnerable or upset. To quote from one of my earlier essays: Horror, by its very nature, is confronting while showing us where the boundaries are. Horror lets us shake that box in a safe and controlled environment. It gives us space to feel uncomfortable but know we’re still in the driving seat. 

I have to admit, I really liked the ‘ball in the box’ metaphor. I even liked a later re-telling of it that says the ball does not get smaller, but that the box grows bigger, implying that we grow around our grief rather than do things to make it shrink. They’re both fantastic, visual ways of understanding some deeply complex and painful feelings, and had helped me many times previously. I thought PTSD would also be like that. That eventually the pain would get smaller, or I would get bigger, and shaking the box would be a controlled way to process my experience. But I made a mistake.

Real talk once again: I genuinely think medication is a useful and valid tool to support people with finding and maintaining good mental health. I also respect and understand why some people don’t like it, don’t want it, or find it inappropriate for them. That said, my personal experience is that when it worked for me, it probably saved my life, but when it stopped working, it was a real bummer. So once again, in the interests of moving forwards: I tried it, at first it worked, things changed, and then nothing seemed to work at all. 

I needed new tools. 

I am almost at the top of the climbing wall when I feel the strength fade in my fingers and the muscles in my forearms start to spasm. My grip slips and I whimper, scrambling to gain purchase on the ledge. I hold on, balanced precariously, trying to support my weight, but I know I can’t stay that way forever. Gravity will always win. 
I look down at the ground. It’s a hell of a long way. I will myself to carry on, to hold on for as long as I can. But the palms of my hands are slippery with sweat and terror has finally set in. 
Oh, shit… 
I have no choice but to succumb. I let go and embrace the fall. 
The floor comes up to meet me fast, but the impact never comes. The rope and harness do their jobs and keep me safe from harm. Above me, I hear the rumble of the auto-belay as it lowers me to the bottom. The descent takes mere seconds, but still I whisper a silent prayer — to who or what, I don’t know. 
“Please don’t break. Please don’t break. Let me get down safely.” 
And then my feet touch solid ground and I feel like a character in a superhero movie; all I’m missing is a scarlet cape. 
My whole body thrums with adrenaline, and my heart threatens to pound out of my chest. 
I turn and climb again. 

Adrenaline is fucking amazing! 

Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is both a hormone and a medication that works to regulate visceral functions. It plays an essential role in our fight-or-freeze response by basically dialling specific bodily functions up to eleven, such as: increasing blood flow to the heart and muscles, influencing our pupil dilation, and even affecting blood sugar levels. (Thanks, Wikipedia.) 

When you experience a significant amount of stress, your body releases adrenaline to help you manage it. It helps you focus so you can deal with the situation. It provides a cover or distraction for any pain you might be feeling so you can cope with it. Your body knows when you are feeling a heightened sense of emotion and does whatever it can to shield you from harm. 

I’m not a doctor, or a psychologist, or even a scientist. I’m a Horror writer, mostly. I cannot speak in detail about the full effects of adrenaline, or even explain exactly how it works, but I know what it does to my mind and body. And I love it.

I was forty-one the first time I went up an indoor climbing wall. My first thoughts were, “Oh, this isn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” followed by, “This is exciting!” and “Wow, I’m really high up…” and immediately after that came The Wobbles. My entire body started vibrating like I was being shocked with a low-level electric pulse. My legs trembled. My arms shook. My fingers simply stopped working. Before I could fight it or get my feelings under control, I experienced what I can only describe as an emotional power cut. I understand now that this was a freeze response — an automatic and involuntary response to a threat. In a split second, my brain had decided that freezing, rather than trying to fight or run away, was the best way to survive what was happening. Unfortunately, when you’re balanced on a ledge a long way from the ground, this is a rather unhelpful response.

When I was a kid, I had a toy called a wall climber. Made of rubber, it had sticky hands and feet. The idea was to throw it at a wall or window and it would “climb” down in a sort of rolling backflip. Eventually, as it picked up more cat-hair and carpet fluff, it lost its stickiness. It would hang for a moment, as each pad peeled away, before dropping ungracefully like a dead fly to the floor. 

And that was how my first indoor rock climb ended. Good job I was wearing a harness. 

The Wobbles didn’t stop when I got to the ground, but weirdly, I didn’t feel scared. No, I was more exhilarated, excited, and rather damn impressed with myself for doing something I didn’t know I could. I’ve always loved things that terrified me physically, like rollercoasters, gravitrons and drop slides, but this felt different and new. I was thrumming with energy as if I’d gained a really awesome Power-Up just like Sonic the Hedgehog collects gold rings. 

Like I said, I’m a Horror writer, so I know a thing or two about fear, or at least I thought I did. I realise now that it comes in many forms and doesn’t always manifest as dramatically as the movies might have you believe. I’ve experienced genuine fear quite a few times in my life, with a couple of those times feeling like it was the end for me. Oddly, those events didn’t cause my heart to pound or my whole life to flash before my eyes. No, it was in those moments that everything simply… stopped. 

Despite building my career on manipulating words, I could never find the right ones to describe those emotions. How rubbish does it sound to say that in the moments before your apparent impending demise, there is no great fanfare or affirmation of your successes; your mind grows small, and you simply cease to be you. How boring. How illogical. No one would read that. We need fear in our fiction to be visceral, perhaps even violent, or frantic. We need to feel confronted by the tension, to feel our hysteria rise with the threat. 

Sometimes, that is exactly how it happens; the body and brain work together to emit a resounding Luke Skywalker, “Nooooooo!” and to fight back the terror that overcomes them. But a fear response, unlike laughter, is not a universal language. 

I think one of the best depictions of PTSD in the movies comes from one of my long-time personal favourites, ALIENS (1986). Ripley’s trauma shows up in sweat-coated nightmares and sudden, vivid flashbacks, punctuated with the banality of carrying on with her life as best she can. She smokes a lot and drinks too much coffee, and spends most of her time talking to her cat rather than people, and (aside from the smoking­–I quit almost 20 years ago) that was pretty much me too. What works for some didn’t work for me, and the first therapist I saw was so desperately wrong a fit for me they set my healing journey back by months. During everything, it seemed easier to not talk about it. Not think about it. To compartmentalise it as much as possible, take the meds and just Carry On. 

It was quite easy to stuff those memories into a box and shut the lid. To stay busy and focused on work. Although my experiences had stripped a hell of a lot of creativity out of me, I could still do well in my job and do a damn good impression of a functioning human being. Until I couldn’t. 

Fight. Flight… Freeze.

I don’t really remember when it first happened, that sensation that everything had ground to a sudden halt, and I was merely outwardly observing myself, moving in excruciatingly slow motion. That “power cut” I felt when I first climbed, my body shutting down. Suddenly, it was happening when I was doing my shopping. In the shower. While driving my car. It was not only terrifying, it was also downright dangerous. My GP explained it was a survival response. My poor, battered brain, that I thought had been doing quite well until now, believed it needed to protect me from any further harm, and so it was perceiving everything, everywhere, all at once, as a danger. Except, rather than flooding me with adrenaline to get me the hell away from the threat, it was making me play possum at the most inconvenient moments. 

People describe the symptoms of panic attacks in various ways. Most commonly, they have an elevated heart-rate and/or a tight chest, sweaty palms or feeling lightheaded, a dry mouth or shortness of breath. Yes, all of these things are down to our old friend adrenaline again, flooding our bodies with a fear response and getting us ready to fight or flee. A panic attack happens when this response is triggered, but there is no danger about to happen. Thus, a person can experience these symptoms in apparently stress-free situations, such as watching daytime television or while doing their grocery shop. 

I’ve had panic attacks before, and I knew what they felt like. This was not that. Was it?

The common denominator across all panic attacks is: a strong feeling of impending dread, danger or foreboding.

“How did you feel when it happened?” my GP asked.
“Like I was going to die, and there was nothing I could do about it,” I replied.
“And what did you do? How did you make it stop?”

At this point you’re probably thinking, “Hey, T… I thought you said this was going to be about Horror?” 

Yes. It is. 

“So where’s the Horror?” 

Funny thing about PTSD is that along with putting you in a state of what the psychologists call “hyperarousal” (which, contrary to how it might sound, is not about feeling really horny, but is a way to describe your body being constantly on high alert) it also dulls the parts of yourself that experience joy and excitement. Everything becomes very grey, dull, and boring; a bit like a damp February afternoon in Middlesbrough with fuck-all to look forward to and it’s always cold. (Apologies to my lovely Northern England friends. I spent 8 years living there after university, and my memories of the place ain’t so sweet. The Levellers sang it best with ‘Hope Street’.) When everything is boring, everything is boring. Literally nothing can bring even a spark of interest and concentrating on anything for any amount of time (even things you usually love doing) is incredibly difficult. 

When you’re a writer by trade, that’s not a good thing. Goodbye words, hello writer’s block! (To any fellow writers reading this, I hope you never know that great disturbance in the Force, the pain it can inflict on a creative mind.) 

The meds weren’t working. Talking wasn’t working. Time was marching on, but I wasn’t feeling any better. In fact, I was feeling much worse. I couldn’t make my brain work how I wanted and needed. I had no choice but to quit my job, and my creative thinking was completely blocked. I was resentful and angry and a very difficult person to be around, so I stopped being around people as much as possible. I felt so stupid and useless all the time; sometimes wondering if it would be better to give up and other times furious at myself for even considering such a thing. 

That day when my GP asked me how I pulled myself out of the “impending doom” feeling, I wasn’t sure how to tell her that, frankly, I got so fucking angry at the thought that this was it for me, that I had no more time left to do all the millions of things I still wanted to do, that rage seemed to reboot my brain and somehow I could keep going. I felt that spark of being alive again. Just like when I conquered a climbing wall. 

If you’re a fan of Star Wars (I’m not, but my kid is, so we’ve been rewatching them recently, hence all the references) you’ll probably remember Yoda’s wise words to Luke:  

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” All well and good, but what Yoda didn’t tell us, and John Lydon did, “Anger is an energy.” 

Anger, like fear, is also an adrenaline booster. It gives us that hit-the-NOS-boost we need to get the fuck on with things, get the fuck away from things, or get really fucking scary, so things leave us alone. Anger can be really, really powerful, and can make you feel like you’re beating the awful shit that’s being sent your way, but it’s also extremely destructive. Like NOS, it’s only good for short, controlled bursts. Use it too much and you’ll burn out your engine. As I mentioned earlier: Horror … gives us space to feel uncomfortable but know we’re still in the driving seat. It lets us let go while still staying in control. 

In a time of great uncertainty and emotional upheaval, I needed to find a way to maintain control over my fluctuating moods while unpacking everything that had happened to me. Finding space to process the past while forging a new future. Rage would not be the power I needed, especially not if I wanted to keep my friends and family rather than alienating everyone. 

To paraphrase a popular 90s movie quote: “I chose not to choose rage. Who needs rage when you have Horror?”

Despite everything being, to put it mildly, A Bit Shit, I could still find the energy for three (very influential as it turns out) things: going for walks in nature, having hot bubble baths, and watching movies / TV shows–although these often had to be watched in short bursts, over time, and most often in the bath. (Rather than seeing this as a bad thing, it was probably the most ideal combination my poor, battered brain could offer me.) 

Most people, when faced with something uncomfortable, will reach for the things that are familiar and comforting. It’s logical and comes from our brains knowing exactly what it is it wants and needs: a tried and tested method that will make us feel good. Sometimes that’s things like using drugs or alcohol. If that works for you, it’s not for me to judge. It might also be listening to a certain kind of music, or reading a favourite book. Whatever it is, it will be something we know is 100 percent guaranteed to bring us out of the funk we’re in. For me, that’s creepy, clever, middling-on-the gore, psychological or emotional Horror-slash-Thrillers with a nice dose of Big Bad Monsters and/or a sci-fi twist—bonus points for humour too. My preference lies in things that can’t easily be pigeonholed, or that straddle genres in interesting ways. 

You want a list? Okay, I’ve included one at the end of this essay. Take a peek if you want. I’ll wait… 

I am fully aware that some of my very favourite Horror movies are not traditionally considered part of the Horror genre at all. Also, I can write a separate essay on each of them explaining why they are Horror. Horror has a special relationship with those who consume it, primarily using emotion to illicit reaction. It can be confronting while showing us where the boundaries are. It awakens hidden fears and desires and is often the most unsettling when it imagines danger in “safe” places. For me, all of my favourites do exactly that, and that’s what makes them Horror. (And if we’re talking about movies that elevate your pulse rate, my Apple Watch tells me that PHONE BOOTH is the one that throws it right off the charts!) 

It was THE MIDNIGHT CLUB on Netflix that got things rolling first. When I read that the Guinness Book of World Records recognised the premiere episode as having the most jump scares in a single TV episode (twenty-one to be exact) I knew I had to watch it. PTSD makes you jumpy, usually when you don’t expect it. It’s a pisser as you can go from being perfectly fine to a gibbering mess in moments just because someone slammed a cupboard door. I wanted to know what would happen if I did expect it. 

What happened? A great deal of hysterical laughter happened. 

It turns out that the controlled adrenaline burst was absolutely what I needed, and suddenly my brain wanted more. Over a period of roughly six months, before and after my surgery, I watched as much Horror as I could, starting with my comfort faves, and moving on to some of the really gnarly stuff which I usually avoid because I find it boring. In my Bad Brain times though, gnarly slashers and extreme body horror were the tonic that helped (although I still can’t deal with finger-breaking scenes. What even is that all about?!) The more blood, the more gore, the better! I couldn’t face looking in the mirror at the aftermath of my dental surgery, but I could happily chow down popcorn to gory cosmetic body modification (CRIMES OF THE FUTURE), someone shoving a metal rod in their thigh (TETSUO: THE IRON MAN) or even an eyeball being sliced in two (UN CHIEN ANDALOU). I set aside some time every day to watch something my loving grandma would describe as “unpleasant” and slowly… slowly… my brain came back online. And I started writing again.

I wrote a blog post in January entitled, “Bite-size chunks of positivity” It was about searching for the positive in amongst the shit, even though I was really struggling to find it. 

It can be hard to get back into the swing of things that used to be so easy but have now become difficult. Hard to reclaim who we are after we have lost a part of ourselves. I spent a lot of time feeling sad and angry about what I’d lost, and the worst part of that was feeling like I couldn’t write anymore. I felt like something that really made me who I am had been taken away, and it terrified me. Especially as I was no longer sure about who I was. Giving myself that tiniest nudge to just scribble down a few thoughts and ideas, or make goals that mean I have to think beyond the immediate and believe in a future, has helped my brain feel so relieved. I know now a lot of the loss and despair was the trauma talking, and while that’s okay, being able to see what lay beyond that was important too. 

When you’ve been through a terrible situation where you felt like you had no control, Horror can give that back to you. Real trauma is so much more complicated than fictional trauma, but in a controlled setting, we can  process our fear, trauma, and anger in ways that can be therapeutic. A friend who is also a counsellor suggested I was using Horror as a form of exposure therapy; the more gore I watched, the less sensitised I became to real-life scary stimulus. Sure, I still jumped when someone slammed a cupboard door, but my reaction and the after-effects had far less negative impact. 

Remember that flood of adrenaline hormone your body releases when you experience a threat? What I forgot to mention is when the threat is over, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, sending a range of calming hormones to the brain to help you feel safe and relaxed. (It’s also one reason some people need to sleep a lot after a traumatic event.) This helps regulate your emotions and ensure you don’t remain in an elevated fight/flight state. For some people, it’s the come-down that is the addictive bit. The warm, fuzzy feelings of being safe, of the monster being banished once more. 

If you were expecting some grand conclusion where I explain exactly why Horror helped me, I’m sorry, but I’m going to disappoint you. I don’t really know other than to assume that giving myself permission to become immersed in the darkest of fictions helped me to see the light present in my real life. Even when that light was about as bright as a 99-cent pen-torch from an op-shop bargain bin, it was still there. I just had to find the best way to revive it. 

Ripley, my idol, overcame her trauma by returning to LV-426 to confront her greatest fear. She strapped herself into a P-5000 Powerloader, said that iconic I’m-done-with-this-bullshit line, “Get away from her, you bitch!” and threw the Alien Queen out of the airlock. She fucking won!

I don’t have a Powerloader, and I suspect I’d get into trouble if I started throwing people out of airlocks—no matter how awful they might be—but in my head, in the creative part of me that was important, that’s exactly what I did. The things that should be terrifying ultimately became empowering. Despite how much to the contrary it might seem, Horror heals. 

To finish, I think John Wick said it best. Hopefully, now I’m writing again, it’s true for me too:

“People keep asking if I’m back, and I haven’t really had an answer. But now, yeah! I’m thinking I’m back!”

T.L.Wood’s Top Comfort “Horror” watchlist includes (but is not limited to):

  • Alien / Aliens (of course!) 
  • Jacob’s Ladder
  • Flatliners
  • Pitch Black
  • Last Night in Soho 
  • The New Mutants
  • Near Dark
  • The Lost Boys
  • Blood Red Sky
  • Fright Night (the remake, sorry not sorry)
  • Nightbreed
  • Stir of Echoes
  • Get Out
  • An American Werewolf in London
  • Dog Soldiers
  • Saw
  • Signs 
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane
  • 12 Monkeys
  • Donnie Darko
  • What Lies Beneath
  • The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 
  • Night of the Hunter 
  • Children of Men 
  • Phone Booth 
  • Moon
  • The Mike Flannigan Netflix collection (I have deliberately excluded The Fall of the House of Usher as I found it very weak):           
    Midnight Mass
    The Haunting of Hill House 
    The Haunting of Bly Manner 
    The Midnight Club


I don’t feel very well today,

But if you asked me what’s wrong, I’m not sure I could say. 

My mind is dim, but my body’s on fire,

My thoughts are chaotic, strung out with barbed wire. 

My concentration is… ooh, what’s that?!

I feel like my insides have been all squashed flat, 

And when I try to spell it out, all the words come tumbling back in doubt. 

No, I don’t feel very well today, 

But as strange as it seems, I know come what may,

Tomorrow will be different, a bright fresh start.

To stop. Take a moment. Count the beats of my heart. 

Feel the rhythm of my living that pounds away,

That drives me through each brand new day, 

That takes my hand and whispers… hey, it’s okay

To not feel very well today. 

That rest is good and necessary, 

That self-care and self-love are equally very

Important to keep that heart-fire burning,

To keep the love inside you turning,

To dream and desire, to know you are yearning

For more, yet more. 

To heal, and to feel,


Whistle while you work

I could not write or create without music. Music fuels me and inspires me and can turn a slow and unsatisfying writing session, into one that flows smoothly and without hesitation. A good playlist can make all the difference between getting those recommended 2,000 daily words down, and committing only two lines to the page. It is a complex issue, however, if the playlist is too good, all I want to do is abandon my task and get lost in the music.

I’ve listened to quite a lot of different songs and genres while writing “Dark Winds Over Wellington”, many of them are from movie scores or are instrumental only – less vocals mean I am equally less likely to get distracted – but some have simply been in my head since I started planning a story. Little snippets of a chord, or a fragment of song lyrics that get stuck in my brain. They travel with me as I write, becoming the soundtrack to the stories in their own right.

Just for a bit of fun, and to give myself a palate cleanser while battling with the editing process, I put together a Spotify playlist, a soundtrack to my chilling tales, which also serves as a little peek into what sparks my inspiration. It might not make much sense yet, not until they are linked with the words themselves, but all of them have a reason for inclusion and a connection with the words they compliment.

Photo credit by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash


I am a writer.

I am entirely confident in making this declaration because not only do I write absolutely every single day, but also I do not feel like I have any choice in this. I carry my phone, and a notebook and pen with me everywhere, because when inspiration strikes, it quite literally sinks it’s fangs into me, like a thought snake.

I have many, many strands of lines, rhymes, questions and contemplations in my phone, some of them audio recordings as I’ve not even had time to type them before I almost lost them. For I am not only a writer, I am also a home-educating mother, and almost every single time the mother part of me must take precedence, my children’s needs more in demand than my creativity. I do not begrudge this, however, as I also find that my children are frequently the source of my creativity, they inspire me with their own thoughts and ideas and we take time to work together on our own projects.

Almost every time an idea will start with a line that just appears out of nowhere. It grows and swells, and entwines itself all around inside me until I am able to give it my full attention. I often imagine ideas like little butterfly or fairy-like creatures, lifting, soaring and landing upon me, leaving little pieces of inspiration in their wake.

If I were to deny myself the time and energy I put into my writing, I know I would be unhappy, I would not feel fulfilled. I know this because for many years I did not make the time to write, or find the motivation to explore my creative side. I cannot even say I didn’t have the time, of course I did, I simply chose to use it for other, less satisfying activities. I used my mental health as an excuse to avoid writing, I used poor physical health to avoid writing. In fact, I used almost anything I could to avoid writing because I was afraid. Afraid that I would not be any good, or I would be wasting my time.

I realise now that nothing that you enjoy or find fulfilling is ever a waste of your time. Your level of skill or talent is irrelevant. Creating for the sake of creating, for the pure enjoyment of making art and pouring a part of yourself into something you create is liberating and invigorating. It allows you to take time to explore your thoughts and experiences in the way you need to.

As a young child, drawing pictures, you did not worry about if what you created was good, in fact good had no marker. You didn’t care about the opinions of your peers, if you had used colour or shape correctly, if the subject was realistic or accurate. You drew purely for enjoyment.

This feeling, this connection, is what I strive to recover when I write now. I will write even if I am the only person ever to read my words. I will write even if I am told I am “no good” or “average” or even receive no feedback at all. I will write with passion, with enthusiasm and with enjoyment. I will connect my inner child with my adult self and explore what makes me happy, however and wherever that takes me.

I am a writer, and what I do is write.

On Reading Aloud

I have a dream, well, perhaps more of a desire really, to be able to stand up in front of an audience of my peers and read some of my written work aloud.

I used to be quite good at it when I was at school, with my teachers often choosing me to read aloud in class. My hearing disability means I have quite a loud, clear voice. A lot of profoundly deaf people can sound quite nasal or monotone, as they get no feedback from their speech. I am thankful that when I lost my hearing around the age of 8, I had already learned to speak and understood intonation, emotion and emphasis quite well. I also watched people very intently so as to lip read them, so I feel like I have a good understanding of body language and how to mimic it. I even worked as a secondary level English teacher for a few years, and had to not only speak in front of over 30 students, but completely lead the class.

Unfortunately, as I have grown older and the direction of my life has changed, my deafness is also the very thing that gives me the most anxiety, on top of my usual anxiety!

When I am put on the spot in a social situation, I can usually roll with it and respond pretty well. Even if I misheard someone or didn’t hear them at all, there is a period which allows instant feedback. This in turn allows me to assess the context of the interaction, reinsert myself back into the conversation, or at least to apologise for not hearing and ask for questions to be repeated, for example.

Perhaps strangely, I feel like this instant feedback opportunity is lost when I have to prepare to speak aloud. When I have the time to think about what I will be required to do, I fall apart. I do what those in the acting industry calls “croak”, and my voice is literally useless.

My social anxiety has always been an issue for me since my late teens. Thank you, stupid broken brain. Most of the time however, or at least while navigating social interactions, I can find ways to circumvent it’s negative effects and mask how I feel. I can paste on a smile, breathe deeply, relax my body, and remind myself that while I might feel like this is the herald of impending doom and death, it really isn’t. I will survive this.

The expectations of reading aloud to a group of people should theoretically be easier as there is less spontaneous interaction taking place, but in contrast, there are more pairs of eyes on me.

In that moment, if I mess up, more people will see me do it, and that means more anxiety about how I will react. If someone asks a question and I don’t hear or mishear and respond incorrectly, more people than usual will experience that. If I pronounce something incorrectly, it will be noticed. My deafness might make me look stupid, inexperienced or even rude.

While I shouldn’t care about that so deeply, after all it’s not something that I can really change, nor do I do it on purpose, for whatever reason I really do care. I can only assume it relates to the element of not being in full control of a situation or in control of how I present myself.

I am working on things I can do to combat my insecurities and find my confidence. I record myself reading my poems, listen to them and consider how I could improve my performance. I practise deep breathing and lung capacity exercises, and mindfulness techniques before I speak. I try to ensure I am prepared but not so over-prepared that I sound like I am speaking from a script.

I remind myself that I am in control and that I absolutely have the necessary skills required to speak aloud, that my voice is loud, clear, and engaging.

I am hopeful that if I work on these positive routines, eventually I will be able to do what I wish to achieve, and share my written work and creativity in the way I want others to experience it.

Leave a comment:

Have you got any experiences of speaking or reading aloud? What kinds of positive things did you do to make the process easier and to relax yourself?


Written in August 2017, only a few days after landing in New Zealand after 30+ years in the U.K.

Because what is moving to the other side of the world without some angsty poetry to document your feelings.


Pack up my life into boxes to be shipped across the sea,

My home reduced to a list of items meaningless to all but me.

My heart is heavy with both dreams and sadness, the guilt and joy, they swing and pivot, my head so full yet, oh, so empty.

And I float, above myself, observing all I do, a disconnected soul drifting in the smoke of my desires.

Locked in a place between worlds, before reality can finally be pieced together,

Where a dream becomes solid, a choice becomes real.

Say goodbye to those boxes, sailing onwards across the seas, a few steps behind me,

I’ll not suffer to be reunited with my experiences, all the memories I’ve made, they’re already here with me inside my head, within my heart.

I have no fear that I’ll make new boxes.

Fill them with the ideas of my future, and with the passions of my past.

I’ll unpack them with the others, build a tower of myself

So I can climb, climb, and look out beyond at things as yet beyond my reach, and trust that one day soon all this will be another box of me.