Writing My Personal Story Has Been a Cleansing Experience
I want to write about how cleansing it was for me to write a 3,000-3,500-word personal narrative. This memoir is the beginning of what I hope will become a book-length personal narrative. I like to think of the benefits that I get from writing personal narrative as “narrative therapy.”
When I write about my experiences as an African American woman living with schizophrenia, I am writing my story which began twenty years ago. I have made progress simply by sharing my story with others. As I read the first two pages of my narrative with students and alumni at Memoirfest—a memoir-reading party that Dr. Giunta, the memoir class professor, holds every May and December at her house in Teaneck, New Jersey—I was being bolder than I have ever been before.
I have written personal essays and narratives that I have shared in safe spaces, but never as part of a college-level workshop or at a gathering of students as I did at Memoirfest. I felt so good after sharing the first two pages of my memoir with everyone and getting their positive feedback. One student told me she really enjoyed my piece, which I shared with her just before she left at the end of the night. She was doing her honors thesis and, although I cannot remember her name, her comment meant a lot to me.
The first class that I shared my life experience as an African American woman with schizophrenia was English Composition II while doing research in the Guarni library for our final research paper; Dr. Alina Gharabegian was my instructor.
I had been encouraged by Dr. Hamburger to take ECI and ECII at the university level. I took the Advanced Creative Writing Workshop with him and did not do well, barely passing the course. Dr. Hamburger encouraged me to repeat ECI and ECII, which I did to improve my writing skills.
Dr. Gharabegian had assigned the class a five- to seven-page research paper on the broad topic of love. We could approach the assignment in any way we liked. In her comments on my proposal, Dr. Gharabegian suggested that I write about schizophrenia and love. I felt like someone was opening a door for me. I was surprised by her suggestion, but also thrilled. I had not yet written a paper about my personal experiences with schizophrenia during my time at New Jersey City University.
I was happy to be taking Memoir Workshop with Dr. Giunta, who taught me to avoid writing my story as a chronology or autobiography. When I nailed voice, it was like church bells were ringing at that moment, and I felt so accomplished, mature and independent. I am so glad I took Memoir Workshop and then Advanced Memoir Workshop during the spring of 2015. I graduated from NJCU in August 2015 with a BA in Creative Writing.
I am fond of NJCU because of my experience in Dr. Giunta’s class. She was an amazing, supportive, caring and sweet person as well as a great teacher. I feel such an overwhelming debt of gratitude to her. I never thought I would have such an experience with a professor or as part of a class. It had such an amazing impact on me and on my life.
Now I am back at NJCU majoring in Early Childhood Education. I feel more a part of the university's community now than when I began in the fall of 2007.