Why Writing Is Helpful When You Have a Mental Illness

Once I used to write a lot — long letters to myself, or to others, that were never encased in an envelope, stamped or sent. Maybe they seemed pointless — letters are meant to be shared, sent to the addressee, received and read. But I wrote to let my feelings out, bleeding from me in words that I could never have said out aloud.

Those letters were hidden away, the pain and trauma within them would never be able to tolerate the exposure of someone else reading them. But as a child I had no voice. There was no one to talk to about the fears and experiences, the feelings and emotions that I lived with.

Children were to be seen and not heard, adults were to be believed first and foremost. I was not allowed to feel sad or angry, depressed or anxious. Writing gave me a voice; it gave me a place to open up with raw honesty and to let the thoughts have free rein somewhere other than within my head.

Until last year, I had been silent — keeping my feelings locked away inside me, not even privately putting them into words. I was fearful of opening up and letting feelings come tumbling out, scared of falling apart in the most spectacular of ways, and being unable to be put back together ever again.

Now I am writing again. But I don’t write and share these things to bring others down, to make them feel hurt or saddened by the depressive thoughts I have within me. I do not write for attention, or for others to assure me that what I feel is untrue. I do not need acceptance, although I hope for it; I simply need to be able to speak.

Writing gives me the chance to experience my often overwhelming emotions outside of my mind. Inside my head is a toxic place where there are frightening thoughts and feelings to process. Within its limited space the problems often seem bigger and more challenging than they are, they can take on personalities all of their own and become consuming in the confines of your mind. Written in words these thoughts and feelings can often lose much of their power, and like a wound exposed to the air, they start to heal.

Letting the words come out also gives me peace. It gives me a voice. I don’t want to be scared to say I am not doing fine, that things are hard or that life has been a struggle at times. I am struggling to heal from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and I daily cope with chronic pain. It is difficult, and that is OK. Writing gives me the ability to let the pain out, accept it and then let it go, eventually. It gives me the chance to speak, when I can’t talk.

I am no longer a child who was told to be quiet, who was not believed because her voice was too feeble to make people hear her. I need to acknowledge to myself that I have a voice too. It is quiet, but it is there and it has a lot to say. It was once silent, but not anymore.

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