Author processes trauma, grief through writing on Instagram

Artist Mimi Zhu lying on the beach.

Through their writing, artist Mimi Zhu has found a way to lift the curtain on the feelings and phenomena we experience, but has yet to find a way to express them clearly. Their new book, “Don’t Be Afraid of Love,” comes out on August 23.

(Justin J. Wee / For The Times)

Open Instagram and see a new post by Mimi Zhu, feeling like being saved. Mini-meditations on complex experiences – from trauma anniversaries to digital dating to calming social media – it’s all woven with the flexibility and insight of someone trying to figure it out for themselves in real time. Zhu has built a digital community of people who want to go deeper.

A writer and artist living in Brooklyn, NY, Zhu began writing as a way to screen their wounds after being exposed to an abusive relationship. “I feel so free and it hurts,” they say of the first time recording these feelings in their diary.

It was never about writing for the internet. And yet, Zhu’s mental health posts have become what people tag multiple friends under, commenting with things like “This!!!” or repost on their own account. (Britney Spears reposted one of Zhu’s works on highlighting and reallocating assets in 2020, earning her the nickname “Comrade Britney”. Zhu has found a way to lift the curtain on the feelings and phenomena we experience, but hasn’t found a way to make it clear to ourselves – let alone the world – and use their handwriting as a metaphor. mirror and a door: reflect these parts back to us and invite us to join to process them together.

Author of the weekly newsletter “Write, To Heal,” Zhu has her first book, “Don’t Be Afraid to Love,” coming out on August 23. They told Image about writing as a method. healing, global pain management, and boundless love.

Julia James: Your work is almost like a resource guide for handling stuff that I’ve been through, sometimes without even realizing it. I would see one of your posts about loneliness, and I would say, “Oh, wait. Damned. Don’t call me out like that again.”

Mimi Zhu: It really means a lot to me to be read and resonate with people. It feels very light, especially since the practice isn’t always the easiest. In my writing practice, which I do on a daily basis, not always publicly, I think what I’ve come to realize is that – especially in the area of ​​work that I do that involves mental health, healing and Generational trauma – a lot. t was just like, “Everything’s going to be okay.” A lot of the health articles I’ve seen, especially by corporations, are adapting that language. Like, “Oh, look at the bright side. Everything is getting better.” And while I appreciate those sentiments and intentions, for me it’s my job to go beyond honesty. Honesty isn’t always pretty and pleasant, and honesty isn’t always pleasant. Practicing on my own is difficult because it forces me to be honest with myself at all times. Katherine likes what you said about me calling you out: I’m calling myself out – my loneliness, my jealousy, my insecurities, all that. I write about them because I’m not here to say, “Oh, I’m a good person.” I’m not trying to prove it. I’m trying to be “I’m a complicated person with complicated emotions, because I live in a very complicated place with a really messy and violent history and society”. It is inevitable that we have our shadows and when they read my work, I hope that people will not feel ashamed of those shadows, and even open up to explore them. with me.

Mimi Zhu in the water at the beach.

Mimi Zhu’s mental health entries became instantly popular on Instagram.

(Justin J. Wee / For The Times)

JJ: Right. How do you view writing as a cure-all?

MZ: I think writing as a practice is like communicating with your own spirit. And I love being able to do that. But what’s even more amazing is that I’m communicating with other people’s souls at the same time, without even intending or realizing it. How many times have people approached me and said, “How did you know I made it through this week?” And I said, “I don’t know you’ve been through that.” But it says a lot beyond me. I am not a fortune teller. I really don’t know what’s going on in people’s lives all the time. But what I do know is that we’re connected in ways that we’re still trying to understand, and we’re affected by systems in similar ways, and we’re influenced by capitalism in different ways. similar way.

JJ: Where does the desire to write things down – to write to heal – come from?

MZ: I was in a really miserable and abusive relationship. I feel that I am too preoccupied and in my head like a bubble. I thought it was a very introspective experience to hold back the trauma but there was no language for it, and constantly thought that something was wrong with me. One night, I was in my room, alone, and I began to write freely in this diary. I felt so free and in great pain, but in the end I felt like I was in my body after such a long time. And so from that point on, I realized that this is what I needed to survive. I’m writing to mend it because I can’t find any other way.

JJ: How do you handle your grief around global events?

MZ: The grief inside of us is twisted at this point [these events are] sometimes not surprising, which is even violent to think about. We were just like, “Again?” The fact that we even say it is ridiculous, and I think a lot of us are twisted in that grief and it erupts in so many unexpected and harmful ways within us. I hope that everyone has a chance to check in with themselves and say, “Am I okay? How do I feel about this? How can I take a break from social media and take care of myself? ” I’ve always firmly believed that when we take care of ourselves, we take care of others. And for me, self-care, the most profound practice is to write and just be, “I’m fine. right?” All these complicated, twisted sensations, to put them on a page so they don’t feel too big or overwhelming.

"I think of writing as a practice like communicating with your own spirit," Mimi Zhu said.

Mimi Zhu says, “I think writing as a practice is like communicating with your own spirit.

(Justin J. Wee / For The Times)

JJ: How can others begin to use writing as a means of healing or recovery?

MZ: I always encourage people to write freelance first. Don’t think of writing as something rigidly structured, but as a free and liberating practice. As we approach deep honesty with ourselves, the last thing I want to care about is my punctuation or whether this makes grammatical sense. What I care about is talking to myself in a way that I understand. And I think to bring people closer to me, I always encourage them to do that. Anytime an artist can access that deeper truth, they create better work, work that is authentic and true to them. Author processes trauma, grief through writing on Instagram

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