Alex McGill: On Writing + Healing

Illustration:  @leiabryans

Illustration: @leiabryans

Poem: @alexjmcgil

Poem: @alexjmcgil

Writing has always been cathartic for me. I struggled with anxiety from a young age, and I used reading and writing as a means of escape, a way to get out of my own head and into another space.

When I started writing poetry, I used it as a vessel to move everything that hurt from my body to the page. A way to verbalize and move past the things that were hard or harmful—heartbreak, mental illness, loneliness, feelings of worthlessness—by acknowledging and accepting them as part of me and part of my life. Learning to love myself and the things I could create was a new kind of release, a form of personal therapy.

I went to university in Montreal and was part of a super welcoming and supportive creative community where I felt comfortable sharing my—very personal—work via readings and publications. When I moved to Toronto five years ago, I lost a lot of that confidence and stopped sharing my work or seeking out literary communities. I was dealing with a combination of mental health issues and isolating myself, feeling like I wasn’t good enough to contribute publicly.

The shift came while I struggled with the intense emotions that come with the end of a pivotal romantic relationship and the loss of a best friend and confidante. Simultaneously, I have been actively recovering from an eating disorder and had experienced a difficult relapse that same year. As I painfully entered this new phase of self-discovery, I vocalized and processed my emotions through poetry. Everything I thought and felt but couldn’t say out loud I recorded. The resulting collection was the first thing I had felt like I wanted to publish in a long time. I started doing readings and connecting with my community, slowly building back my confidence through writing and sharing. 

I’m still learning to be gentle with myself, to understand that my feelings are real and valid and that my experiences might echo those of others.

By: @alexjmcgill