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How Literature Helps Me Find Solace From Feelings of Depression

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“I have good reason to be content, for thank God I can read and perhaps understand Shakespeare to his depths.”  — John Keats

In school, English literature used to be my best friend. Even though I befriended it late in my teenage years, it is the only one that has been a partner in life until now, and I am so sure it is not willing to give up on me. Charles Dickens, D. H. Lawrence and William Shakespeare have been a few of my favorite writers, and their writing has shaped a part of my mind that appreciates the invaluable love and inevitable struggle. Through ups and downs in my personal life, and through the challenges at work and with my capabilities, literature has stood firmly by my side.

I have yet to receive a label of mental illness, but whatever it is, it renders me helpless and dissolved in my own thoughts. I often question the purpose of my life, what I ought to look forward to and what to do with myself. And even a bigger worry — I keep looking for a reason to stay alive. Over time, I have started looking for these answers in literature. And I have often found responses that influence my ability to think better.

“We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” ― D. H. Lawrence, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”

I’ve found there is a state of being, which perhaps the doctors can give a better name to, where your heart feels cold and the mind goes dark. When love is reduced to just a word and happy thoughts and memories become a thing of the past —that state of being where I find comfort in tears. As a child I was taught weeping and crying are signs of being vulnerable. So while growing up, I put up a strong stance in front of the world. But today, when I feel the need, I cry as much as I want. It heals me, makes me feel better. And I believe it always does so.

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before — more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” — Charles Dickens, “Great Expectations”

In a depressed state of mind, some people find may refuge in music, others in television; some listen to spiritual discourses, and I know many who take to traveling. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it helps you come out of the dark dungeon of hopelessness. Words, lyrics, poetry, music and colors can soothe the mind and help in heartening a dull spirit.

I find solace in literature, and I am grateful to be able to unfurl the wisdom penned down some centuries ago. It may not answer all my questions, but it gives direction to my thoughts, it helps me control negativity within me, and it is definitely a distraction worthwhile.

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but — I hope — into a better shape.” — Charles Dickens, “Great Expectations”

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: January 9, 2017
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