Writing therapy for you can do about the same thing as talking to someone about a problem you are facing. Have you felt better after talking to someone about a challenge or issue? How did you feel afterward? You probably felt like a huge burden lift off your shoulders. The things that were bothering you were most likely clearer. Why? Because you saw it from a different perspective.
Yes, I’m talking about mental health again. The history of mental health in my family helped me understand me. I’m learning that I don’t have to allow it to consume my life. Over the years I worked in reception for a couple of different psychiatrists. I never would have imagined that I was learning about pieces of myself through the patients we saw and interacted with on a daily basis. I didn’t know that what I had been experiencing for the last twenty years was depression. This thing that I was struggling with become common knowledge to me until last year. It is so much easier to spot when I look back on my past.
For me, depression lingers long after my manic episodes pass. My daughter, Brooklyn loves to sing, “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” Call me silly or juvenile, but this is how I feel about the heavy rain cloud of depression. I’m sure there’s a great adult version out there, but I have yet to find it.
When in doubt, Write It Out.
The American Psychological Association says that writing therapy can strengthen your immune system as well as your mind. When you feel those thoughts of fear, doubt, worry, anxiety, or depression take over do yourself a favor and grab your notebook. Write out your struggles. It’s a no-judgment zone. I am the only judge of my entries. It’s comforting to know that I could take whatever I was going through and put it on paper. As an only child, I didn’t have a sibling to confide in and writing gave me the freedom to talk about the things that were going through my head at any time of day. There were no time constraints.
I have kept a journal since 1990 and have plenty of entries I’d like to burn, but I keep them. I hardly reread them, but when I do they help me see the darkness I was experiencing. On my days when depression isn’t an issue, it is easy to say, “What in the hell was I thinking?”
I can say that 90% of the time, I feel so much better. I’ve worked it all out of my mind and into something that I could see. The rewind and play loop I was stuck in vanishes and I can go about my day. My biggest struggle when I’m in that pit is grabbing the notebook, so keep it close.
Where to Start?
Anywhere in your thinking. Start at the top. When did you begin to feel the downward slide? The key is finding out the when and where. In my own life, I can establish pinpoints on when it began, so when it pops up again, I can do my best to stop myself from escalating the issue. Your reaction has everything to do with where your head will go. Try making it a daily practice. It’s a habit I’m working on reestablishing. I’ve been on a three-day writing streak. Now I only have 27 more days before I can make it an official habit. I’m all about establishing a habit when I can stick with it for 30 days straight.
If you can’t or don’t want to write there are plenty of other things to do to help clear your head. As with everything in your life from diet, exercise, or your writing habits, you have to find out what works for you. Trial and error my friends, but you’ll get there.
When I’m going through that terrible low mood I first turn to writing. If that doesn’t work I start out with meditation and follow it with yoga and then knitting. I would love to hear from you. What’s in your toolbox?