Horror Writers Association

MHI: HORROR IS MY LIFE by Nicole Henning


Trigger Warning: This piece addresses mental health

The HWA is pleased to launch its Mental Health Initiative, a coordinated roll-out of events, resources, and activities intended to promote positive mental health, foster the concept of hope, and challenge the stigma of mental illness in the horror genre. The initiative, run by the organization’s Wellness Committee, launches in June, and includes the following blog posts from Of Horror and Hope, a downloadable anthology of poems, flash fiction, and personal reflections on mental health by HWA members.

Nicole Henning

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked “What’s with you and horror?” As I look around my house, which is covered in horror memorabilia, I can’t help but to smile. To me, horror is a cathartic experience in some of the deepest ways. Horror allows me to experience emotions I may be too scared to release on my own. It helps me work through my own trauma and mental illness by presenting emotions and scenarios in a safe way.

Writing horror is an exercise in emotional recognition and acceptance for me. Composing the stories helps me get the emotions out, I can pour them into my characters and live through them. While I was self-admitted to my local psychiatric ward, I found I engaged in a lot of fiction writing. The more I worked with the therapists and social workers the more the words flowed. My character’s exhibited the same mental illnesses I have and worked through them in ways I was learning there. The creation of these pieces helps me not feel as much shame over my mental state.

Every time I get into an anthology, or a publisher is interested in one of my pitches, I find myself feeling acceptance of my mental issues. Writing horror is an act of healing for me, and I hope that others will feel a connection to my work. I try to make realistic characters with mental illnesses and help them work in healthy ways to grow and learn. Horror has saved my life more than once and I don’t see that ever changing. The act of writing horror is a release of my hopes and fears, and sometimes as I work characters through their challenges, I think of new ways to help myself. It’s an amazing feeling.

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