Why Writing About Mental Illness Is Still Important Even While Getting Better

Mental illness affects people of all ages, races and socioeconomic classes. But more importantly, because of its stigmatization and lack of acceptance, too many continue to suffer. People like you don’t see it and don’t know anyone whose life has been adversely affected by mental illness. That is why it is critical to report the facts about mental illness so that people with mental illness can obtain the proper diagnosis, receive the proper treatment, and start living healthier lives.

A very important part of my practice is writing about my “mental illness.” I’ve been doing this since the second grade. Writing about my depression and anxiety made it go away. When I look back through that time, I find myself having to write about the anxiety many times a day, because that’s how I got better.  The more I try, the worse it gets, and the depression returns. Even though I’m working to get better, writing is still something I can do for myself that doesn’t make me look bad or feel like a failure.

When I look back through that time with depression, I see how much better things were. And in the process, when my writing gets bad, it does something for me that therapy or medication simply don’t: it gives me the knowledge and compassion that I don’t have when I’m not writing. It reminds me that what I’m feeling, and what was going through my head that day, is real . . . because it was.

I’m in the process of writing about depression as well.  I don’t know how many years it’ll be before I do it, but it’s a priority for me.  It’s easier to deal with than anxiety, and a lot of my anxiety problems are because I don’t feel “me” enough when it comes to getting out of bed or thinking and writing.  Writing helps.

It is difficult for me to do this work now when I’m not depressed, because it takes all the power away . . . and that is my major motivation.  You don’t get depressed when you’re writing about getting better.  You do the actual illness when you know you’re getting better.

That’s why writing about depression is a very dangerous thing.  Not just because people may think that you’re getting something that “makes you feel better” without actually addressing the roots of your depression.  Not just because there are probably going to be plenty of naysayers willing to jump on a “sink or swim” attitude.  But, most important, because it forces you to think and deal with the real thing: mental illness (or at least, the stigma and lack of acceptance associated with it).

Even if you’re not in the midst of a mental illness, this work will help you understand and talk about it.  This work will also help others.  I know one of your biggest fears is that you won’t be accepted for the great blogger or thinker you are, that you’re no good because of your mental illness.  I can assure you that it’s those fears that will not only kill you when it comes to people’s thoughts and feelings, but also you, the writer.