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The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received From a Teacher About Depression

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Writing has always been an outlet for me, especially since struggling with depression and anxiety. As they began to steal my voice verbally, I started to rediscover my voice on paper. I couldn’t say what I wanted, but I learned I could write it. Journal after journal, I poured my mind onto paper. In high school, I started using my English classes to navigate what I was feeling. I was real and vulnerable and raw with my writing. I know life is short, and there just isn’t enough time to be fake instead of just being honest. So, honest I was. When it came time to apply for colleges, I made a risky decision to write about my depression.

I was thankful enough to have incredible English teachers in high school who supported me far past academics. They knew me so well and worked with me to find my voice through writing. In the process, I remember being given the best piece of writing advice anyone has ever told me. It has stuck with me even years later. I was struggling coming up with an ending for my college essay. I wanted to show colleges I was doing great now (which for the record, I wasn’t). I think I maybe even wanted to convince myself of that.

My teacher told me, “The ending feels rushed. You don’t have to wrap everything up in a nice bow. It’s OK to leave the ending messy and open.”

That hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt fake trying to wrap everything up so quickly in a few sentences. But, I felt like it needed to be wrapped. I couldn’t leave it all on the table. I could take depression out and say that I was sick of mental illness being swept under the rug. But even when I took it out from the rug and exposed it for all it was, I always felt the need to sweep it right back under when I was done. This was my permission slip to let it sit there as it was. This was someone finally saying that I didn’t have to have it all figured out right now. This allowed me to be real. And as someone who values vulnerability so much, I needed that.

In a lot of my writing, especially for this site, I do try to end my articles with a silver lining. I think there can be a benefit and a power in that. But I also know that sometimes you just can’t see a silver lining, and that’s OK. And sometimes, knowing that you aren’t the only one that can’t see one right now, is what you need. So if you need permission to let your heart out today and just be honest with where you are, this is your permission. If you’re not ready to fix things right now, if you can’t even think about therapy or next steps, that’s OK. You are allowed to be. You are allowed to hurt. You don’t need to tidy everything up and wrap it up nice and neat with a bow. It’s OK to be. It’s OK to hurt. It’s OK.

Photo credit: George Doyle/Getty Images

Originally published: August 20, 2019
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