Why I Write Storied Mind

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Writing Storied Mind is one of the most important things I do to stay well, but it’s not easy. I struggle with writing and I thrive on it. I need to write and I long to get away from it.

I discover what I’m all about by writing, and I get lost and confused in the jumble of words. Writing has been the best therapy for depression, and it has been a trigger for depression.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

While talking recently with a therapist about getting mired in trying to finish my ebooks, I realized that I needed to describe here what happens when I write. It says a lot about awareness and the action I take to live well.

Here’s a list of the ways in which writing helps. They are also the reasons why I write this blog. I’ve put them down in no special order as quickly as I could in order to silence my double-thinking censor (more on that voice below).

  • I confront the fear of probing inside my life where things get ugly, and walk with words right into it. The words help me get around the paralysis that fear brings and let the feeling run its course.

  • I write to deal with resistance to completing anything. I’ve often given in to the belief that I’m too incomplete inside to get anything done. Writing calls me back.

  • My mind on depression is a master of distraction and delay. There’s a purpose in writing that keeps my focus when I wander off. It trains my will to stay with the task.

  • Writing sharpens my skill at observing what I do, feel and think, and it helps me to pick out the shadows depression adds to everything.

  • It develops my awareness of the people in my life and helps me see them as they are instead of as projections of my fear or insecurity.

  • Writing strengthens my ability to choose where I focus my attention.

  • I often pour out a confused jumble of ideas that stop my brain. Writing forces me to pull out the one clear thing that needs to be said.

  • Writing is my way to discover new things. It’s about learning, not just verbalizing what I’ve already thought.

  • It’s creative in the sense of putting things together in unexpected ways. It surprises me.

  • Publishing my writing on this blog connects me with people through a dialogue of healing stories.

  • Writing keeps me engaged with depression and makes it a familiar but no longer debilitating companion. Some people stop blogging because they worry that thinking about it will worsen their condition. The opposite is true for me.

  • Writing is energizing and revitalizing. It opens my mind while depression tries to narrow it.

  • Writing helps me step around the mental traps depression sets. It brings out the difference between describing what happens and judging it. If I’m lost in my depressed mind, I’ve got a mental ruler that measures everything against a standard I can never meet. As soon as I start writing, I can see the process in action. I can pull away the wrong, the bad, the worthless, the blaming tags tied onto every thought. Or I can vent in writing for a while and then cut them all out when I start describing and discovering instead of judging.

  • It brings me face to face with the double-thinking censor I mentioned before – the one who is always over my shoulder saying things like, “Oh, no, you can’t say that. No, you’re all wrong here. …” The voice is cleverly manipulative and knows my weak spots, but after a while its words lose their effect because they’re repeated over and over until they’re just sound.

  • Writing brings me closer to the metaphors that shape the way I think about things. I have to link everything that’s hard to understand or live with to with some other dimension of life that is simpler and less confusing. Everyone has to do that to make sense out of the world. If I think of getting well as a fight or a war or a wrestling match with depression, then the outcomes are win, lose or stalemate. If I say getting well is a journey, I’m going to get to a destination or I’m going to get lost. If I think of depression as a test of faith or of character, then I’m going to succeed at that test or fail. Writing helps me see the limits of the comparisons as I put them into sentences and describe what I plan to do in those terms. It reminds me that I have more freedom of action and thought than the metaphors suggest.

The rewards and miseries of writing come from the same sources. Writing this blog keeps depression and everything that goes with it at the center of my attention for part of each day so that it will no longer be the center of my life.

Does writing help you deal with depression? Do you have an equivalent of writing that does the same thing?

22 Responses to “Why I Write Storied Mind”

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  1. Susan says:

    John,

    Much of what you wrote resonates strongly with me. I write fiction generally, but turn to journaling and poetry when I need to wrestle with my demons, especially the mood symptoms and the supremely negative self-talk. I am intrigued and impressed by your use of blogging specifically because of its immediacy in connecting with others, amidst a condition that pushes you to isolate. Keep up the blogging, you have valuable insights to share!

    Susan

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Susan –

      Thanks – I’m glad this makes sense in your experience too. I’m still amazed at the way my deep block about writing anything with real feeling disappeared when I started blogging. I can now get back to other forms of writing, as I continue to work on depression through blogging.

      John

  2. Donna-1 says:

    Writing has been and is now, my salvation. It is as if some instinct tells me that I am my best therapist — one in whom I must learn to trust, with whom I must be totally honest, one who will set aside time to hear everything I have to say. My words on paper (I write my journals longhand) then speak to me. They tell me whether I am being facetious, overblown, too critical of myself and others; they tell me whenI have hit upon truth and those “eureka” moments when I am suddenly aware of a great discovery. They help me with my relationship with myself and future relationships with others — future, because relationships are always evolving or devolving. It almost seems as if I would be disconnected from life without writing.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Donna –

      Thank you for that powerful statement about the healing value of writing. A sign you’re feeling better these days??

      All my best —

      John

  3. Teresa says:

    Writing is an execellent way for me to slow my racing mind down. It’s a place to organize my thoughts. It is a place to vent. It’s something I have complete control over. I don’t have control over many things, but what I think is something that only I know about. I keep a running notebook of trials, depression, and life’s difficulties large and small. I feel like if I store this negativity in a note book it keeps it from being stored in my heart. I have it if I need to recall it for some reason. But it does not have to live inside of me. I can let my feeling and thoughts go without fear of being judged, mocked, and made fun of. The things I write about are my feelings and do not belong to anyone except me. No one has to accept them or like them. There mine. Nothing else is mine around here. I feel like I’m loseing my mind somedays but I’m not. Writing seems to be the way I cope so I don’t lose my mind due to the control and fear of some one else. I also hope it never comes down to it but What I write may some day be needed to prove what has happened to me emotionally and mentally or to prevent things from happening to me or my children. I feel peace knowing that my thoughts are safe in a note book or can only be shared by me at my disgression. I’m glad I know I’m not the only one who writes. Maybe I’m not so weird after all.
    Teresa

  4. Hi John

    My writing / blogging about depression does exactly the same things for me as it does you
    I find myself more relaxed after writing
    Noch Noch

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Noch Noch –

      I am nothing if not completely inconsistent. I’m working now on writing through “resistance” in a state of total anxiety and panic.

  5. WillSpirit says:

    Thanks for so comprehensively capturing the reasons for writing. Online journaling about mental health topics seems to come naturally to me, and I agree with all of your reasons for doing it. I especially resonate with this statement: “Writing brings me closer to the metaphors that shape the way I think about things.” Examining one’s metaphors and hidden rules about life is vital to any true personal development. More than anything else, writing has highlighted my habitual ways of judging life events. By seeing my reflexive analyses revealed in my writing, I am able to change those that don’t serve me. I also agree totally with that love-hate feeling you describe: needing to write but sometimes wanting to avoid the whole endeavor. I guess by challenging us to really look at our delusions, writing confronts us with painful perspectives on ourselves and our needs. So it’s natural that it feels so uncomfortable at times. But I won’t be giving up anytime soon, and I’m glad you won’t be either.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Will –

      Thank you for these – as always – helpful insights. They are also remarkably timely since I’ve been thinking about two more posts, one on the metaphor-making instinct and the other on how I deal with resistance to writing. I believe the “hidden rules” you mention come from a deep place where our individuality crosses with social rules and basic human needs. The metaphors we use, the qualities of the human voice, the habits of daily living, all come from these sources in unconscious ways. Writing is my tool for learning about them. It brings together the tactile, visual and thinking dimensions in ways that create an energy of discovery.

      John

  6. Galen says:

    John,

    Another good post. I write a fair amount in the course of a day but I write about depression specifically in the form of emails to friends. I have tried journaling in past but for whatever reason I seem to need to write to other people. Aside from several of the reasons you mentioned, I write about depression as one way to push against isolation and isolationism. As with others, I assume, depression wants to pull me into a hole. Although this may feel safer at the moment than venturing out, it is not a good long-term strategy and it reinforces my feeling that there is something dreadfully and contagiously wrong with me. Over the years what I say and especially what I write has gotten less guarded and more open and I find that this helps me with my self-acceptance. Episodes of depression trigger self-condemnation, which is not conducive to getting better.

    Galen

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Galen –

      Reaching out to people through writing, or in any way you can, is a good way to get out of the hole depression wants to put you in. We can only do what we can do at this moment, and I think every active step is important. Becoming more open in what you write is a big one, especially if it helps with self-acceptance. Just keep going!

      John

  7. Judy says:

    John, thanks for sharing this – you just reminded me of why I need to write more! I do discover more truth about what I really think and feel when I get it out in written form. I find, too, that I’m less judgmental of myself when I kind of put myself in the role of “storyteller” and yes, the use of metaphors is so helpful and gives me a few “aha” moments. The sharing of stories certainly does help in feeling connected to others who understand. Sometimes when I write something about my depression, I sort of cringe when I actually send it out, as if waiting for a slap on my hands for “daring” to tell the truth about myself. But my truth is also a lot of other people’s truth and I’ve yet to get blasted for sharing it! What I love about your blog is that it’s what I would call shameless – even though I understand that you may still experience that – but you’re not so ego-centered that you can’t examine even the less-than-wonderful thoughts and feelings that you discover. I have a lot of respect for your honesty.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Thank you, Judy –

      I know what you mean by cringing when you send something out, but I’m so glad the feeling doesn’t stop you. It is a daring thing to do, but getting one-up on shame is a great advance. People can only learn from what you offer, if they’re open to it. Sometimes the need to try to connect with another person trumps the embarrassment or shame you might feel. So I guess shame and shamelessness can co-exist. Of course, you don’t know what I’m not writing about!

      John

  8. Wendy Love says:

    Wow, you have a lot of good reasons to write!
    Yes, writing helps my depression too, not necessarily writing about depression, just writing about anything at all! It gives me something to do and an outlet for my overactive mind.
    Keep up the writing John, you have a gift for it!

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Thanks, Wendy – for your kind words. I think you’re right – it is the act of writing that is so helpful – and the subject can vary from person to person. Here’s to your “overactive” mind and all the good things it brings into the world!

      John

  9. Daniel says:

    I use writing to express what I am saying, in print. When I have nothing to say, I do something else useful.

  10. Jan Hart says:

    Boy, this one really hit home for me.
    I find now that I write when I’m depressed and my writing depresses me but I must keep doing it to deal with depression… Does that sound completely nuts? I think many of us who are seeing and feeling what is going on now in this world – all the wars, austerity pushes, environmental disasters cannot help but feel depressed. Then it is how to deal with it. For me, I write. Beautiful post that helped me sort through my own tangled mind. Thank you so much, John!

  11. John Folk-Williams says:

    Hi, Jan –

    If depression does anything, it tangles up our minds – either that or mires us in dead certainties, very dead ones. Writing is an activator with lots of brain movement even before I have any idea what I might be trying to write about. Just try to keep going with it. My best to you!

    John

  12. Daniel says:

    Speaking of “tangled up” minds, John, here’s a good example. It’s from a recent posting of yours. It’s a single sentence and it’s illustrative.

    “I am always having to fight the temptation to take the approval or rejection of the audience I’m facing as a sign of what I am worth as a human being.”

    ..Firstly, what is meant by ‘always’? Is it a genuine always–like a numerical count, a 100-percent reading–or what the writer and psychologist John Gray refers to as being not so much an actual numeric assessment but rather (along with its companion NEVER) a marker of emotional intensity. You never take out the garbage, you always leave the toilet seat up, etc.

    Do you really mean always, without a single exception?

    ‘Having’ speaks of a compulsion, ‘fighting’ speaks of a confrontation, and now on top of that a ‘temptation’. We have contraction, uniformity, limitation, compulsion, confrontation, and temptation–all besetting the writer–and we haven’t even reached the halfway point of the sentence! This is alot to labor under.

    Then we come to “take”. Finally thank God a simple verb. That’s clear, to take, as in grasp, ingest… as opposed to ‘leave’.

    What is taken? Some feedback-response. And what is done with this feedback? Some act of valuation.

    The final part of the sentence shows some good clear thinking. Yes, indeed that response is a clear metric of your worth, in the marketplace, even if just a marketplace of ideas.

    THAT marketplace, one of pleasing audiences, requires pleasing them. Displeasure they can get at home. The reason they become ‘audient’, go forth and become an ‘audience’ to hear the Word as dished out by presenter, is to be pleased. To be indifferent to that feedback is deranged.

    If you are certain about your message, then acceptance or rejection is valuable feedback on your delivery system or your methodology. One relishes acceptance or rejection the way they relish a good voltmeter. Ah, accurate feedback info! If not certain about your message then why on earth be in front of an audience?

    Thinking about one’s self-worth is foolish. Total waste of time. One’s soul, as it is arcing thru time and doing deeds, cares little about a single fickle moment of feedback. To do so is plain silly, a minor short-to-ground in the bioprocessor. But, over time, such feedback SHOULD guide one as to whether they may or may not be in the wrong marketplace.

    In which case there can rejoicing in knowing one will soon be migrating to something more appropriate.

    We need to just jump in cybernetically, grab the mind like the runaway horse it is, and tame it.

  13. Donna-1 says:

    Daniel, can you condense what you are saying here so I can understand? I’m inviting you to grab my mind and tame it to walk the path you have laid out, if only for a moment. I sense that I don’t agree with your assessment of John’s statement but…frankly, I’m confused. What is your reason for writing this if you are not seeking acceptance of your own ideas?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Writing is a way of reclaiming my mind from depression, but there is a darker side to it called resistance. I won’t call it writer’s block because the same thing stands in the way of any purposeful activity or major life commitment, including the process of recovering from depression. […]

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