Does your depression have a story? When we’re depressed, it can feel like we are stuck in mud. We may think we feel nothing. Yet, unable to move, all the anger, sadness, and frustration that lay beneath our depression are still there with us, with nowhere to go… unless we write them down.
You don’t have to have aspirations to be the next great novelist. Or maybe you do. But all of us have a story, and connecting with it and letting out the feelings it evokes can actually help us heal from old wounds, beat depression and make us more resilient to face the future.
Pouring out the pain.
The numbness of depression is not a happy state, but we may be using it as a barrier against deep emotional or even physical pain. You can’t hurt me in my cocoon, we might think. If no one can see me, in the dark, wrapped in my blanket, I am out of reach. I am safe.
The mere act of taking a pen and paper when we are hiding away may seem like too much to handle. But if we can start it, or even doodle, words will eventually come. With paper as your confidant, you can pour out whatever anguish you want to, releasing stress, cracking the cocoon, and opening up your soul.
Finding the gem in a memory.
Have you ever seen the excitement on the faces of archaeologists when they find some tiny ancient shard after digging for weeks in the dirt? Well when we write about some moment in our memory we may experience the same kind of joy.
As children we noticed the smallest things around us, things that as adults we hardly see. By writing about some moment in our own distant past, we can unearth and re-experience the smell of cookies baking, or the fun of finding a lady bug in the grass.
If the memory is a painful one, writing helps us understand what we learned, or remember that there were people who loved us just beyond our line of vision. Writing about a memory releases us from gripping it so tightly, and may allow us to forgive those who hurt us, or to forgive ourselves.
Our stories matter.
In her excellent e-book, Soul Writing, writer and teacher Claire J. De Boer encourages us to believe in the value of our own stories, and how important it is to write them down. When we suffer from depression, it is easy to believe there is nothing about our lives that matters. But writing down our stories, De Boer explains, opens us up to see the worth of every experience, and even how we can share them to help others as well.
Set your inner critic aside.
Writing can be difficult if you are dealing with deep emotions. But there is no need to make it more so by worrying if you are doing it right. When you are writing from your soul there is no right or wrong. This writing is just for you. If you decide someday to share it, you can edit it then. For now, just get the words down and let the feelings flow.
The truth is in there.
Sometimes expressing yourself is easier if you know who you are talking to. So you might want to try writing letters to someone who is gone from your life, sharing things you meant to say. Or you might invent characters you know will listen without judging, and pour your heart out to them.
When I was younger I used this imaginary reader idea, with unexpected results. The character, my wiser self, began to write back. It was just a device, of course, but it showed me that at least part of myself already had the answers I needed, if I would just take my own advice. There is wisdom inside all of us, if we’ll listen.
Do what works best for you.
You can write your own story as a journal, as a collection of memories, or rework them into fiction. The method does not matter. You can even write out angry feelings, burn them, and imagine releasing your bitterness as the ashes float away.
What matters is that you and your story are important, and the more you believe that, the less depression you will feel.
To read Claire J. De Boer’s free e-book, and learn more about the healing power of writing your own story, visit www.thegiftofwriting.com.
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