During my walk with my puppy Roxie one morning, I listened to one of my favorite podcasters Sarah Werner who talked about writing as a form of healing and self-care. She said that “…channeling your story or your pain or your trauma or your joy through a fictional character or in a fictional story can be very healing…” And something very important suddenly occurred to me. Every time I talk about overcoming depression, I talk about how my daily exercise routine was instrumental in helping to keep it under control. Recently, I came to the conclusion that a combination of talk therapy, meditation, positive daily affirmations and exercise all helped me battle my constant struggle with depression. However, it never occurred to me that writing has also played a central role.
Back in 2005, I started writing a novel called The Box, a story about a high powered magazine executive who has trouble sustaining relationships due to family trauma and chronic depression. My purpose for writing this novel was to make people aware that depression is a debilitating illness and not something one can easily overcome. I put it on the back burner for years when I became a teacher and I have recently picked it up again in order to finish it and finally get it published. In an effort to be truly authentic, every time I suffered a significant episode of depression, I would write down exactly how it felt while I was going through it. That way, I could find the appropriate words to explicitly describe the dark emotional state that a depressive person might go through. I needed to accurately capture the experience for my future readers who may have been fortunate enough to never endure such an ordeal on a consistent basis.
In doing so, it is my belief that I had unleashed the dark monster that had me trapped in my own despair. I no longer had to hold on to the thing that caused me to hate myself and my life. I unknowingly released that thing that caused me to suffer in silence for so long. I told my story in the form of fiction through my main character, a woman who inadvertently became a symbol for me—a symbol of freedom and liberation. And even though the ugly monster peeks its head through the pages of my novel every once in a while to try to torment me, I am able to go back to my affirmations and positive self-talk to kick it back down. And this is something that has become the norm for me; however, I have only recently become aware of it.
Without even intending it, my writing became a part of my healing journey. I unleashed the depression into a manuscript and since then, I have used my daily routines to help manage it. There are people who use journals to make sense of their thoughts and experiences. There are those who use poetry as their form of therapy. Some use their creative drawings or paintings or other types of creative work to unleash their own monsters. If you are someone who needs an outlet, take note of what it is that you are good at doing. Consider what makes you go to your happy place—the thing that will help you unleash your depression monster and keep it at bay. Perhaps that can be the start of your healing journey.