“Writing has been a sturdy ladder out of a deep pit.” ~ Alice Walker.
The low hum of laughter surrounds me. I’m standing in my friend’s living room where a group of us are gathered to celebrate Christmas and the year’s achievements.
But my smile is forced and my words sound like echoes through my head. I’m overcome with emotion and it’s not for how great the year has been. The year has been hard.
When the evening ends and I’m on my way out the door, I feel her touch on my shoulder. She tells me I’ve been quiet, asks what’s wrong.
I don’t want to tell her how every day I feel so overwhelmed with emotion I can’t even carry out the smallest of tasks. Brushing my hair, making a meal, writing in my journal. It all feels like too much.
But I do. I tell her because hiding gets me nowhere. Hiding keeps me in darkness.
And this is the place I have been to often in my life – the dark corners of the world where love and life have no meaning. It’s as though I’m fighting for breath as wave after wave keeps crashing over me.
To be there alone is too hard.
And the last thing I feel like doing in that place is writing. I feel defeated. And fearful that writing about my depression will fuel my depression. I’d rather not face the shame and judgment I put on myself, so I don’t write at all.
But there have been times when I’ve forced myself to write. Because I know that in writing I will re-connect with myself. That’s one of the hardest things about depression; it disconnects you from who you really are.
Forcing myself to write has sometimes been the one thing that has saved me. Though at first it has seemed like an insurmountable task, once in that world where my pen meets paper, I am able to find release.
It may begin with a single word, or even the phrase “I don’t want to write.”
But on good days I may be able to describe how I’m feeling and what will help me make it through the day.
Other times I’ll try to write about anything, except the way I feel because it’s too hard to think about. And when my words are dry, I’ll simply make a list. Joy, gratitude, blessings, values, beautiful things.
All of this writing is for me alone. Writing for others in this space is too much. And it’s certainly not good writing, the kind I’d be proud to publish. But it is my heart on the page and there’s something so much more powerful in that kind of writing. These words aren’t trying to be something more than what they need or want to be.
There has been much evidence published in recent years about the healing benefits of writing. For me writing isn’t the whole answer, but it is a doorway into a place where I see glimpses of myself again. And that’s the anchor I need; it’s the anchor from which healing from this illness looks like a possibility, rather than a hopeless prayer.
If writing is the last thing you feel like doing right now I invite you to get comfortable in your favourite armchair with a notebook or journal and allow yourself to write something.
You don’t have to be a writer to benefit from this—it’s all about connecting with your true self and your needs. If nothing comes at first, go easy on yourself. Wait. Write one word, write a list. Allow yourself to be in the process.
Let me know how it goes and if writing when you’re feeling defeated is something that has helped you in the past.
Photograph by Dina Stoddard of Klutch Photography