The Healing Power of Writing Through Depression
Depression is a lonely state. I become consumed by a force that takes away all self-control — mentally, physically, and emotionally. It taunts and lies, saps me of all energy, and wreaks havoc on my emotions. It plagues me with feelings of guilt, shame, and self-loathing. It promises I’m not good enough. It tells me the only way out is to die.
Until fairly recently this has been my life. I did not become my condition because I had no diagnosis for decades; I thought it was all in my head. I was perpetually sad and had suicidal thoughts regularly. I told myself, if only I were strong enough, if only I tried harder, if only I could will away these feelings, then I would be good enough.
I always kept a journal, but I avoided writing the truth of my struggles, lest someone read it. They’d know the “true” me: an ungrateful, selfish, self-absorbed fraud of a person. It was lonely and exhausting containing these thoughts in a box in the corner of my mind, stuffing down feelings and thoughts, attempting to shut it daily or even hourly. I would fight this alone so no one would know.
The box overflowed. The pain and fear overtook me and led to a suicide attempt. I felt I had lost the fight. After my suicide attempt, I cautiously began to write more honestly.
Through the many and continuing years of therapy, writing has become an outlet. Therapy was overwhelming, confusing and, at times, painful. Jumbled thoughts slithered through the folds of my brain, awakening painful memories and truths I had hidden for so long. I compared my mind to a fine chain necklace, tangled and twisted into a ball. Writing became an avenue to untangle the snarled mess.
As years went by, my journal became the expression of my truth. It became “proof” of my diagnosis. It chronicled the twists and turns of therapy. I actually imagined someone reading it, finally understanding my turmoil was real and not all in my head.
Sometimes people are intimidated by writing in a journal. They might feel they have nothing to say. They might feel they do not have anything worth saying. They may not have the energy to pick up the pen. I felt all these things in my life. But sometimes, asking ourselves the simplest question can get us going: What am I feeling today?
Some of my journal entries are short words in response to that question. Sometimes my page is filled with expletives to reflect my feelings. Sometimes I can’t stop writing until I am exhausted, and my hand aches. The point is there is no wrong way to express what you feel and what you’re going through.
Following a second suicide attempt, I searched the internet for support from other attempt survivors. I found projects that gave people a forum to tell their stories. In that time I found The Mighty. Article after article I read words I could have written. Reading these stories inspired me to share my story, too. With the help of my journals I pieced together my story and was ready to share.
As I shared my story in articles and a blog, I received an outpouring of love, support and encouragement that buoys me as I persevere through recovery. Speaking my truth is not always pleasant, but I can finally express the secrets of my depression that I hid for decades. There is healing in telling our stories.
And so I write for others, so they may keep fighting through the darkest moments of their journeys. I write for people who don’t understand the ugly truth of depression. I write for myself to express what I’ve lived through and what I’ve survived.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo by juhide