Writing and Depression

Some reflections by Denise Collins on The Mighty

We were struck by this great post on The Mighty, (which is a fascinating site with lots of discussion groups to explore).  One of their discussion groups is about depression, and Denise Collins is a regular contributor there.  Recently, she posted this reflection on how writing helps her when she is depressed.

She coments that it doesn’t matter how you write, or whether it is carefully edited or not, the process of writing itself (whether with pen and paper or electronically) is what helps.  Keeping a journal, whether regularly or sporadically, blogging, or just scribbling down thoughts as they occur turns out to be helpful in several ways.  She has discovered that:

  • Writing helps her process what has happened and what is happening.  Since writing is more linear, it keeps the thoughts from going around and around in our heads.  Once you see it written down, you can observe and analyse instead of just emoting about events.
  • Writing helps her feel less isolated.  Even if I’m writing for myself, or if I’ll never meet the person who reads it, I feel like I’m in a dialogue and therefore not alone.
  • Writing things down helps her progress beyond them and not get stuck in the bad times.  Once something is in writing, it can be put in the past, and next steps can be considered and taken.  Writing about an event or emotion gives it boundaries and makes it finite – a part of life,  not life itself.

It doesn’t matter if it’s clearly written or just nebulous thoughts and feelings, and it doesn’t matter what you do with it, whether for posting online, sending someone a letter, saving it for yourself to read later, or just throw it away.  The writing itself – the just getting it all down uncensored is what’s therapeutic.  Later if you want to edit all or part of it to share somehow, that’s up to you – what you have written belongs to you and you can do whatever you want with it once it has served it’s purpose.

Collins’ thoughts about writing are in line with recommendations MoodSurfing has made in the past.  We have looked into the value of journaling, and we also recommend writing things down in several specific instances, such as an emergency plan, prescribed worry, and even morning routines, if necessary.

Writing creates an anchor that can help you stick to a plan, and that can help you make sense of what is going on around you.  It also can open up your view to opportunities and hopeful developments on the horizon.  I myself carry around a lot of electronic devices, and have even more at home that I use for many verbose purposes (!).  But I also usually carry around a pen and notebook in my purse, and I have a lot of important stuff kept on paper, where I don’t have to worry about the disc crashing.  Writing things down has many benefits!