Hands writing on notebook

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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business man looking through a window

How Redefining 'Success' Helped Me Through Depression

Six years ago I went from being a highly functioning, productive and rewarded employee in a large corporate office to someone who couldn’t get out of bed. This happened literally overnight; I fell off the cliff after years of knowing I was stressed and unhappy but thinking that was merely the price one paid for “success” in the modern world.

Initially this was terrifying – there was no rational explanation for why I should feel like this when I had so much going for me. I rapidly slid from a general malaise of chronic tiredness, negativity and repeated illnesses, to no longer being able to perform the simplest functions like taking my children to school or standing in a queue at the shops. I was beyond exhausted and wanted nothing more than to dissolve into the oblivion of sleep. And never wake up. Yet even when I managed a few hours, it was tortured and left me more depleted and despairing of my situation and the obvious erosion of all I had worked for. I lost over 20 pounds in a month, lost interest in everything, became anxious and hypersensitive to noise and light, could no longer experience any positive emotions and even failed to feel love for my wife and children. I started to realize why some people contemplated suicide.

I was fortunate enough to find a combination of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy and small lifestyle changes that started to slowly lift the veil of darkness. Combined with the unwavering, unconditional support and love of my wife, family and friends I grew stronger one day at a time.

The experience was so profound, so visceral, and so terrifying that I vowed I would do what was necessary to never go back to that darkest of places. Managing my depression is not the same as embarking on some fad diet to shed a few pounds; for me it has meant a lifestyle change I stick to. It is a lifestyle not characterized by deprivation but rather by a new appreciation of the richness, beauty, energy and power of everyday things and experiences.

“Success” no longer means acquiring more “stuff” or pursuing a specific goal (like I was taught at school, university, in my job…), but rather about the quality and content of my daily experiences. I have found a sense of meaning and purpose in life and that drives and guides what I do.

I choose to share my story for a simple reason: burnout and depression do not have to be a suffocating and dehumanizing experience from which there is no escape; many people are struggling and much is being learned every day – there are many people who can help you find a path to recovery, to a new way of living. You may just have to dig a little deeper and want to take that first step. Just as there are many routes to depression, there are many paths out – and it has been a splendid journey.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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girl Starting a new school year

What Will College Be Like With Depression?

My eyes open and I take in the darkness of my bedroom. The incessant beeping of my alarm clock has done its trick again. The body aches aren’t as bad this morning, and I wonder if I can get through the day with minimal pain. I push the covers off my arms. The cold air causes goosebumps to surface. My movements wake up the tiny animals scattered throughout my bed. They creep up to see me. I give them each kisses and a quick ear massage. They always seem to make me a few minutes late.

My morning routine has become a simple one so I can stay in bed as long as possible. I make my way out to my car. Lately the February mornings have caused frost and dew to accumulate on my windshield. While I wait for it to clear, I sit and think about what my day will be like.

The drive to school is different every day, but I always end up thinking about the same things.

I often find myself worrying things will turn out like they did in high school. You know that phrase, “History repeats itself”? I think it can ring true in certain situations, but in my case I don’t want it to be true. I don’t want to be the same person I was a few years ago. I want to be the girl who has learned coping skills through years of therapy. I want to be the girl who achieves great success in the future. I don’t want to be hindered by my past. I want to be the new and improved me. On the days when my depression creeps back in I wonder if I have changed at all. I think…

Will I fail?

Will I meet anyone who will be OK with my past?

Will people judge me?

I don’t want to end up back where I once was…

I had to finish my last semester of high school online. I couldn’t face going to my high school every day anymore. I couldn’t take the way my peers looked and acted around me. Not all illnesses are ones you can see on the outside. The stares I received from the faculty made me feel like I repulsed them. I have a mental illness, not bad BO.

College is different than anything I’ve experienced before. When I walked through the doors my first day I felt tremendously alone. In high school, they hold your hand every step of the way. If you are one step off where they want you to be it is corrected right away. In college, it’s on me. That’s a pretty scary thing to come to terms with.

I have never felt as alone as I did in high school. Those horrid feelings resurfaced again when I started college a few weeks ago. Needless to say, I don’t want to feel powerless like that again. I have realized people in college are not nearly as quick to judge as those I have encountered in the past. People generally seem to accept me as I am here, which is so different from where I was two years ago. It makes me want to come to school and be around my peers, whereas in high school I begged my mom every day to let me stay home. I was scared of being judged so much that I would cry myself to sleep and fake being sick so I could get one more day of peace, which, in reality wasn’t peaceful because I was worried about the next day. It was a continual tug of war I couldn’t handle anymore.

I’ve asked myself many times what has changed. Sure, the scenery has. If you put a person who hasn’t changed in a new place they may go back to their old ways. A new city does not magically change everything, a new person does. I have gone from seeing no beauty whatsoever in this world to seeing beauty in every small thing I encounter.

So, here I am lying in bed again this morning. I go through the motions every day, even on the hard ones because the stigma attached to mental health is not a good one and I need to change it. On the days where I struggle to get out of bed I think about the possibility of helping others who have been in the dark place I once experienced.

The frost was especially strong today. It took a little longer to clear than normal, but it did. Some days I have to work harder than normal and scrape it off with an ice scraper. Other days the defrost does the charm. Today, I am in “ice scrape” mode; things are just a little harder than normal. Some days I am in “defrost” mode. On my good days, there is no frost and I don’t need any mode at all.

While I was waiting for the frost to clear this morning, a realization hit me: history will not repeat for me. I have changed. I am different.

History will not repeat for me.

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Woman on a swing. Text reads: 21 things people with depression don't want to admit to their friends

21 Things People With Depression Don't Admit to Their Friends

A tragic contradiction of living with depression is while the darkness can make you push people away – it’s also when we need our friends the most. So how do we communicate this? How do we tell our friends what we need when in the thick of it, we might not even know?

To start a conversation about what people with depression need from their friends, we asked people living with depression in our mental health community to share one thing they don’t admit to their friends. Because our friends really do want to support us — and sharing the hard stuff can be a great first step in teaching them how.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I hurt, every day. And that when I back out of plans or don’t respond to you. It’s not because I want to. It’s because covering up the hurt and sadness I feel every day and painting on a smile is exhausting and takes up all of my energy — so I isolate myself because it’s so much easier… but I would never tell you that!”

2. “I need them. I hate admitting I need help or I need someone, but if it’s one thing I need to survive my depressive episodes, then it’s my friends. Even if we sit in the same room on our phones, their presence is better than nothing.”

3. “I will always have bad days, so please don’t be disappointed when I succumb to the darkness after so many good days. Just support me the way you did at the start and don’t grow impatient with me.”

4. “Every time I pretend to be strong enough and help, everybody else pick up their pieces, and some of my own crack harder and deeper. But I can’t let anyone else help me. Cause I don’t want to be a burden.”

5. “Some days I can’t leave my bed, can’t shower, can’t change my clothes and brush my hair. I’m not gross. I’m not lazy. But I don’t want to be embarrassed because I physically can’t do things that seem so simple and mundane to many people.”

6. “I spend hours in bed daily, unable to force myself to get up and shower. Conquering the day or going to work always seems like getting ready for war.”

7. “My depression makes me feel like I ruin friendships. My friends say they’re there for me, but when I reach out, I feel like I’m being burdensome. Also, I don’t need you to try and ‘fix’ me, but I just need you to sit there in the darkness with me and maybe hold a flashlight or candle until I can hold it myself.”

8. “I need you. I push you away, but it’s not my intention. I may say things I don’t mean. I may seem like I don’t care, but I do. But you need to know, all you can do is hug and try to support me. You can’t cure my depression. I don’t need it. I just need someone to hold my hand and help me get through it. I don’t say it enough, but thank you. And don’t feel guilty, cause you can’t always make it better. Just being there for me shows a lot.”

9. “When I cancel plans, there is no ‘doctor’s appointment’ or ‘poorly baby’ or ‘other plans I forgot about.’ I just can’t face going outside and having to function.”

10. “I wish I was strong enough to admit the real brutality of it so I didn’t have to deal with it alone.”

11. “If I randomly text you, I need you. Even if it’s been months. I seclude myself, but once I initiate something please, please be there for me.”

12. “I don’t want to admit how comfortable I have gotten into it. It is tough trying to crawl out of it as I sit alone, wishing I hadn’t pushed everyone away long ago. It’s easier said than done to reach out and contact you again, as I secretly hope you’d say hi. I don’t want to bother you, I think you’re busy, so I carry on alone, waiting for the next moment of distraction.”

13. “I’m hurting. I feel trapped inside myself and have felt this way for over 10 years. Your words of encouragement, positivity, and advice are all well-intentioned; but just because I shoot down your advice and positivity, doesn’t mean I’m resisting your help. It just means I’ve either tried it already, heard it already, or it just won’t work from prior knowledge.”

14. “I actually do wish I could take you up on your, ‘I’m always here for you if you want to talk’ offers! But I don’t. Because I value your friendship, and I don’t want my depression to enter into it and ruin things. Been there; done that.”

15. “They have saved my life more than they know, and I don’t feel worthy of their love. Or that I can ever repay them. I feel forever in their debt. I’m afraid to share how bad depression and suicidal thoughts are, so I hide it.”

16. “I will always have those dark and twisted thoughts that put me in the hospital and residential treatment. I’m just too afraid to talk about them because I can’t handle losing another friend because of my depression.”

17. “I love and miss them, but sometimes just can’t do things. I can’t put on a happy face and pretend everything is OK when the demons in my head are telling me I’m worthless and nobody cares about me.”

18. “I lie a lot. I’ll never tell them how I actually feel because there are times that when I do show my true feelings it overwhelms them and I’m the one that needs to reassure them . I’ve been dealing with this myself for years so I just want them to live their lives and know I’m OK even if I’m not.”

19. “Almost every time when they have asked me, ‘Are you OK?’ and I’ve answered, ‘Just tired,’ I haven’t been just tired, I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted.”

20. “I sometimes have suicidal thoughts. I don’t share that information because I’m not actually suicidal (I never have been, death actually scares me) and I fear people will judge me for it.”

21. “Every time they make a joke about depression or even question if I’m being honest or ‘faking it,’ I can’t help but distance myself further. I don’t want my depression to be my defining ‘trait,’ but I need people I care about to acknowledge and respect such a big part of my life.”

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.

21 Things People With Depression Don't Admit to Their Friends

Hidden Depression

A short film that explains what it’s like to have hidden depression.

I May Not Understand Depression, but My Dad Does

I’m not a psychologist.

I’ll repeat. I am not a psychologist. I took five psychology courses during undergrad: intro, social, abnormal, personality and developmental. Almost enough for a minor, but not enough to change my amateur status. I passed — for the most part — with middling grades in all of the courses except for one (I aced developmental, which I can only attribute to my girlfriend’s insistence I’m still mentally 13-years-old).

I don’t understand depression.

I’m part of the group who haven’t found themselves on the short end of a diagnosis. I don’t – perhaps can’t – understand the struggle of those in the remaining fraction of the populace, because my brain allows me to experience the world “typically” according to the American Psychiatric Association. I can sympathize with their struggle, but that’s all I can do. I can’t live in their world and I can’t will myself into depression any more than they can will themselves out of it.

My father understands depression.

My dad’s understanding of depression was forced upon him. Throughout his teenage years and his adult life, my father experienced the constant specter of depressive thoughts without ever asking Siri about sadness or Googling feelings of worthlessness. He knows what it’s like to sit silently and stare at an opposing wall, wanting only to hear nothing, see nothing, feel nothing.

The amplified feeling of hopelessness after a missed promotion. The despair felt after losing a family member. The experience of being unwanted at the end of a failed marriage. He knows these emotions because he lived these emotions.

I may understand the courage it took for him to seek out professional help. I may understand the helplessness he must have felt as we, his sons, constantly came to him for the same advice, the same warmth we had come to expect when his mind wasn’t telling him he was worthless. But I’m not my father and I’m not depressed. I have no idea what his struggle meant to him or how he clawed his way back to stability or how he relives those memories when they creep back into the quiet corners of his day.

When I got a call from him before football practice on a clear September day in 2006, right before I exchanged my sneakers for cleats, I didn’t have the therapeutic “know-how” to respond appropriately to his matter-of-fact presentation of the reasons he was getting a divorce. I couldn’t bring him closure with words and I wasn’t going to find a cognitive technique to remove the negativity from his inner monologue. If you had asked me about the DSM, I would have told you I didn’t really use drugs.

I didn’t have a plan. What I had was a car, an unsettled teenage brain and a perfect excuse to not participate in conditioning drills. So I swapped back to sneakers, told my coach there was an emergency and tried to drive home in a panic to figure out what was happening to the family I thought would weather the storm.

I don’t always make the right decision.

The next time I saw my father, he was standing next to my bed at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania after I had fallen asleep behind the wheel and gotten myself into a head-on wreck. By some divine providence, everyone walked away from it uninjured. He was the man I had known all my life. He wasn’t any less a victim of depression, nor was he any less getting a divorce. He was my father and I knew that would never change. I would always be his son. We were bonded by something larger than a few misplaced chemicals or broken receptors.

We didn’t talk about depression or divorce that night. We didn’t talk about the wreck, either. We went to Chick-fil-A and talked about how they had figured out the exact blend of three or four ingredients that comprised a perfect chicken sandwich. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated a milkshake as much as the one he bought for me while I was still wearing my CHOP wristband and IV-induced Band-Aid.

I don’t need to make the right decision every time.

Like most, I still argue with my dad sometimes. He’s eternally risk-averse and gets upset when I let my car rack up an extra 3,000 miles beyond the point where I should have gotten an oil change (Dad, if you’re reading this, I scheduled it for tomorrow, just like the last three times I told you I scheduled it for tomorrow).

But when he was at his lowest points, it didn’t matter I occasionally spent weekends in college drinking Lionshead out of a week-old keg and playing Borderlands with my roommates instead of figuring out how to write a basic proxy server in an archaic programming language. What mattered was I called and told him I could talk whenever he was up to it. What mattered was I made enough time in my day to remember that, while he was fighting a battle on his own, my dad was more than his depression and he had a support network to remind him in case he ever forgot.

My dad doesn’t see his therapist anymore and he no longer fills a prescription for antidepressants. It’s fairly clear he’s doing better now by all outside measures. I never figured out how he beat it – nor do I think I’ll ever figure out how he beat it – but I can tell he’s not fighting just to be normal anymore.

I still don’t really understand depression.

If my life depended on it, I couldn’t treat someone’s depression on my own any more than I could perform facial reconstruction surgery or operate a garbage truck. I’d just take a mess and make it even worse. I’m trying to educate myself on symptom recognition, negative patterns of thinking and proven techniques to help counsel those in need of immediate assistance. Even still, I don’t have the training and am only now finding the resources such as NAMI, Challenge the Storm and The Mighty to help me acquire the tools to help people like my father, to help people in need.

After all, I’m not a psychologist.

I’m someone’s son and someone’s support.

And maybe that’s all I need to be.

Originally published on and submitted on behalf of Challenge the Storm.

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