Writing about my struggles with mental health really helps me. It puts parts of my life in context and helps me come to terms with elements of the past. It is proving to be a kind of ongoing self-therapy to keep my anxiety in check. And is something that I feel has always been there for me. Now I hope that it is helping others as well.
Sorry for getting all meta here; writing about mental health. But I felt it was about time I spoke about it. It somehow seems appropriate, now that I have been contributing to this magazine for quite a while. I have always enjoyed writing. It has certainly been a bit of a passion of mine for many years now.
However apart from a couple of things, a short-lived blog and a couple of articles for a travel website, it has always been a personal pursuit. I did not put a lot out there in the public realm. I suppose this has always been down to the fear that, I would be exposed as not very good at it or somehow exposed as some kind of literally fraud? Therefore I’ve always kept it very much to myself. That is of course until now!
Where it all started
This could be explained by when I first started. And in light of my current endeavours, this can be seen as a bit of coincidence. I really started writing, as a teenager as a way of making sense of or coping with the anxiety I suffering from. I was never into writing at school or into writing stories or anything like that.
So it truly did develop as a result of my mental health issues. At that time I couldn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through. Therefore I put down my feelings on paper. Or scribbled notes after a panic attack. I would let Frustrations or fears run out over page after page.
Not knowing what was happening to me I used writing as a way of trying to make sense of it. It is interesting now to look back and see how I charted my anxiety’s progress. Its growing power is easier to make out in my writing. As is seeing it take control and then my desperate realisation that I needed to get help.
Once it started it did not stop
I continued to write when I finally asked for help. It was now such a habit that I just continued. I still wrote about my mental health. Writing about the recovery process and adjusting to essentially a new life.
However it was now out in the open, I knew what it was. Hence the need to write about it for and by myself diminished. This allowed me to write about other things. I started to write for pleasure rather than out of a need or desperation.
A return to writing about mental health
Over the years I wrote about my mental health less and less. As I brought my anxiety under control I just didn’t feel the need. I was living a full and active life and was quite open to talking to anyone about the struggles I have been through. Fast forward to now.
Two big things are going on, I am living abroad and we are all in the midst of the covid crisis. The combination of these two things sees my anxiety creeping back. I can see and I can feel it. Of course, I continue to speak about how I am feeling but to stay on top of things I feel like a need something more. Therefore I start writing about my own mental health again.
A new perspective on something so familiar
There is something else there too; something that was not there before. I was aware that countless other people were struggling. Struggling as I did before and experiencing a mental health issue for the first time. I came to the realisation that now not only could I help myself but potentially other people as well.
At this point in my life with nothing really to hide there is no difference between keeping the writing personal or public. Of course, I had no idea if other people would actually find it helpful or not. Though I really hope they do!
Where to share?
Now all I needed was some way of sharing what I had written. I considered a blog but the last time I tried that I found all the set-up and technical and promotional stuff far too much of a hassle. So that was out. I did publish a few things on LinkedIn, though well-received in many cases I wondered if it was the best platform?
It was through Instagram that I came across the Mental Magazine, I had been following the account for a while and when the chance came up to contribute, I jumped at it. It ticked all the boxes in terms of audience, platform and promotion. I have not looked back since. And I have no doubt that it has been such a positive and mutually beneficial venture.
Onward and upwards
For me writing about mental health has given me so much. It gave me a start, it gave me hope and self-compassion. Now it gives me the confidence to share my writing publicly, secure in the knowledge maybe just maybe I am an ok writer. And ultimately that I am able to give something back by helping others.