The Sound of Written Words

Have you ever wondered what the sound of hundreds, no thousands of blogs on depression and mental health is like? I was looking over these sites at one of the blog-rating communities the other day and was struck by the differing tones of so many voices. They were sampled in clipped excerpts and thumbnail images which I could quickly scan in page after endless page. Although they differed in many ways, all were calling out in a chorus of pain.

Some recounted the daily accumulation of misery, some seized on signs of hope that they had at last turned a corner because of the latest medication or alternative treatment, some campaigned for the cure that had worked for them or shouted out against the treatments that had nearly killed them. So much hurt, so much determination flipped before my eyes in deceptive ease.

I thought of the opening scene of the movie, Contact– based on Carl Sagan’s book. It begins with swift camera sweeps across ordinary life, people gossiping into phones, radios crackling the news, families arguing, couples pouring out earnest wordstreams while passing in the street.

Then the camera starts to pull away from eye level, to ascending aerial views in which the voices and broadcast sounds begin to merge into an indistinguishable mix. Finally, as the view orbits us into space and gives us a look at the entire globe, we hear all those voices as one signal broadcast into the universe.

I thought of the thousands of blogs of anguish and the surging efforts to find relief projecting their own part of that signal from the soul-depths of millions whose lives are represented in these communities of written, muted screams. Is that a sound of purgatory, hell close behind, the promise of paradise off in a spiritual vastness we are trying to reach with this sharp chorus? Or is it a sound of hope, a hard-edged song of all trying to exorcise the most powerful demons they will ever know?

It was overwhelming but also in a strange way comforting to be one whisper in that huge, surging flow of sound.

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16 Responses to “The Sound of Written Words”

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  1. Immi says:

    It’s comforting to be part of a larger whole of some kind. Even if it is a part of the song of depression.

  2. Stephany says:

    Yes, it’s like we are a choir of angst at times, yet all on the path to something better for ourselves, our spirit and souls. I think it’s an amazing connection we all have, and I consider many people I have never met my friend, and have been supported in my angst by them. (John included) I’ve had readers rejoice with me, cry with me–and that in my opinion is something really amazing. The human spirit connecting via a medium like this.

    Thank you John, for your writings and for your support and rejoicing with me on my blog. Oh, and yes, it’s about hope!

  3. John D says:

    Sarah – I’m glad you found us and hope you’ll return. Thank you for your nice compliment – I’m also delighted to get to know your blog.


  4. sarah says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  5. John D says:

    Trustlight – Thank you – that’s an interesting idea about a kind of art therapy. In fact, my wife has been an art therapist, and I’ve learned how effective that can be. I look forward to visiting your site.


  6. trustlight says:

    Your overview of the blogs about the depression was the real healing from the depresion by your personal example of the manner of talking. I would say that was some kind of art therapy. You are welcomed to visit us. Dealing with the depression is so to say our daily bread.

  7. says:


    Your eloquent post got to the heart of how prevalent depression is. So many people don’t realize it–so many people feel isolated in their suffering. I know I did when I was at the height of my worst depression.

    I think it would surprise so many people if they were to learn that more people missed work due to depression last year than *all* other physical illnesses combined.

    It’s nice to be back, reading your blog. I have been on vacation for the past two weeks, which was so good for me. I feel refreshed and renewed!

    Take care, John–


  8. John D says:

    Stephany – I’m so glad you had that experience. It’s hard to convey how silence in nature “sounds,” how rich a presence it is. There’s another post I’d like to do about learning to distinguish each sound and its source in a natural environment. I find that also important as a way of reaching an energizing peacefulness and inner quiet.

    Dano – Thanks for your kind words – but talk about eloquence! This comment is so beautifully written. I’m putting together a book from this blog, and I’ll probably ask for your permission to use the last two paragraphs as a quote. That perfectly captures what this community has meant to me.

    John D

  9. As always, an eloquent and provocative post, John.

    As a visual artist, I believe I paint to express my myself. Take photos to record images that touch me, speak to me. Last year, leaving hospital after a three month stay, doped up out of my mind on 600mg of Thorazine, I couldn’t do either.

    This year I have been able to start reaching out again. I paint, take photos and have added my small voice to the world of blogs.

    Sometimes it seems masturbatory, incestuous, insular ans self-serving. But that is rarely, when I’m tired or down.

    Most of the time, this small community is an amazing resource. Writing takes the sting out of the isolation of mental illness. Others become part of your life, with their own expressions, ideas, hope and support.

    The voices, words, images of this world are varied, individual and unique. But they share a common bond. They are lifted, written and shown to the world that we exist, we suffer, we celebrate, that we are human.

  10. Stephany says:

    Thank you John, you’ve been such an inspiration to me, your eloquent writings and your absolute beauty that comes through when you describe scenes and especially your dreams.

    Recently, I went on a walk in the mountains. I got out of the car, and as I started to walk, I stopped my friend and said, “Shh, stop. Do you hear that?!” We stopped walking. I stood there hearing the silence. Then I remembered your story you wrote here–it brought your feelings and story to life; the sound of complete silence is breath taking. When you wrote about it here (you’ll have to point out the post)I wanted to know what that felt like. Now I understand.

    Lots of love


  11. JohnD says:

    Clinically Clueless – I’m so glad you could relate to this. True enough, getting to the better side seems a long way off, but everyone is trying so hard – it’s a constant inspiration to keep going.

    Chunks of Reality – Hope is right – at times there isn’t much else, but even having hope is a great sign.

    Stephany – Thank you – it’s been so amazing to follow you through all the ups and downs. You are a big reason I started blogging and stay with it. Much love!

    Desiree – Thank you for those kind words. Depression may not be the brightest spot in anyone’s reading, but writing about it and spending time with so many other blogs has taught me a lot about healing. My best to you.

  12. JohnD says:

    Thank you all for these comments. I should add that another motive to write this short post came from reading Andrew Sullivan’s eloquent essay in the Atlantic this month: Why I Blog. His form of blogging is part of the very different world of public affairs journalism, but no matter. His brilliant writing is heartfelt praise of this medium.

  13. Désirée says:

    What a great way to describe it. Although depression is not the most happy subject I love reading your texts.

  14. Yes, as always, beautifully written.

    I think it’s definitely hope. Though at times it seems like hopelessness it is because of hope that we continue to blog about it.

  15. I love the way you wrote it. It was like I went on your journey with you. I would feel the same and often do. It is getting to that comforting side the doesn’t always happen. Beautifully written.