“Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts. It’s always there, though.” — Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot
Last summer, when I had my worst episode of depression, was the moment I realized that I needed to be active in managing my disease. I always thought depression was something that would eventually go away forever — a distant memory in the past of my now exuberant life.
Boy, was I wrong.
Jeffrey Eugenides describes depression perfectly; a bruise that’s always there. When it hurts, try not to make it worse by touching the bruise. Instead, care for it and hopefully, one day, notice the signs of when the bruise is getting worse.
For whatever reason — be it chemical, genetics, or a shitty hand dealt — depression doesn’t seem to be the type of disease that goes away. Different life events and physical changes can cause it to manifest in its full-blown form.
Out of necessity, I now have an arsenal of tools that help me keep my depression at bay. Moving my body in the form of weight-lifting or yoga makes me physically thrive and get out of my head. My self-care routine has gone from non-existent to sweet treats and skin-care products.
Most recently, I added writing as a tool.
Journaling is a great way to write out how you feel in an attempt to escape your mind. The kind of writing I’m talking about though is the kind I do here on Medium.
I don’t write out my stream-of-consciousness feelings; I write about subjects to help people change the way they do things and dive deep into personal narratives.
So how is it that writing in this way helps me stave off my depression?
As Sylvia Plath said, “Is there no way out the mind?”
Yes, yes there is. It’s writing.
I Recall Some of the Happiest Times in My Life
The personal anecdotes I write about in my articles are usually ones with great feeling behind them. Though sometimes sad, most of the time they were either happy or amusing memories.
As a writer, I get to stop what I’m doing and remember those times but with a purpose. I reflect deeply about how I felt during the given situation so I can correctly convey the feelings in my writing.
I guess it could be easy to slip into a longing state, rather than nostalgia. Maybe it’s because I write when I am not in the depths of my depression that I can remember these memories in a fond way, rather than comparing to the present.
I see my life is an ever-changing journey anyways. Remembering what I’ve been through is like reading a familiar book. On top of that, I get to write it all down.
Saying Yes to More, If Only For the Story
“We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it.”
— Tenessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore
Tenessee Williams describes depression at its worst. While I agree that a feeling of being paralyzed is characteristic of this disease, I do think there is a way out: it’s to open the window.
I love to write — I genuinely do. Because of that, I look for stories in every interaction I have. Because of that, I seek to have more interactions.
I read a book by Margot Leitman called Long Story Short. It’s a fantastic book that I originally bought thinking it was a book about writing stories — alas, it was about telling stories aloud. Nonetheless, the lessons taught in the book are easily applied to writing.
In the first chapter, Leitman suggests “Living life for the story.” Essentially, this means saying yes to more.
I know what you might be thinking — “If someone is depressed, why would they say yes to doing more?”
Well, this is about keeping my depression at bay. So, I’m not saying that I would be gung-ho about venturing off to a new, eclectic museum opening downtown.
Lately, though, I’ve been doing activities a bit outside of my comfort zone. The result? I’ve been able to gather up some interesting story ideas and meet new people. Both pretty conducive for keeping me in an inspired state.
Yes, the house may feel like it’s getting warm — maybe a fire is starting. It’s our choice to open the window and find more.
Getting my Stories Out There, Finally
I don’t use writing as therapy — I pay my actual therapist for that. I try not to be the kind of writer that is bashing people, complaining, or has a negative tone to her articles.
For that reason, I choose to stick to a more inspiring outlook. Well, that’s what I hope I’m doing on here.
However, it’s cathartic to talk about my past in a way that is simply stating the facts what I’ve been through in my past. For many years, I hid my eating disorder past and struggle with depression like they were a secret that brought me shame. When I finally started writing about them, the proverbial weight lifted.
I find value in sharing your stories so other people can relate. If that just so happens to be a bit relieving for the writer as well, then I guess it’s a win-win.
Writing has been life-changing, but only because I love to write and have been through some nasty times. Will this tool work for everyone? Probably not. But I can tell you that it worked splendidly for me.