For months I’ve been struggling with how to write about what I’ve learned about healing from depression and anxiety.
I have a deep desire to write about it. I’ve done so much healing this year. I’ve learned a ton about what triggers my emotional suffering and how to deal with it, and my mental health is far better than it was a year and a half ago. I love the idea of sharing what I’ve learned and I strongly believe that sharing lived experience is a critical part of the mental health discussion. That’s why I started this blog.
It’s not that I can’t explain it. I’m just not sure I can write about it in a way that would be of any use to anyone else.
Writing about mental health healing so often comes off as preachy. Personal stories about how people dealt with their depression sound really great when you’re feeling okay, but I don’t know anyone who actually has depression or anxiety who finds those things helpful.
They might make you feel like you’re not alone. But for folks who are in the depths of depression, hearing other people’s suggestions about healing often feels like pressure to heal, and pressure usually makes things worse.
I know because I’ve felt this pressure before.
Frequently, the things we are “supposed” to do for our mental health are out of reach just when we need them the most. As one person said to me recently, “my doctor will say, ‘it would be great if you could get more excercise’. Well, you’re right, it would be great if I could get more exercise. But [because of depression], I can’t get my physical body out of bed…showering becomes an athletic feat.”1
I don’t know if it’s possible to talk about my own healing without making my readers feel like I’m trying to sell them on something that may not work for them.
When I’m depressed, reading stories of healing never feels hopeful. In that context they have often made me feel worse, because it’s hard think I could ever achieve what these other people achieved.
I don’t want people who are going through despair to read my story and feel even more depressed because they can’t find healing too.
Maybe it’s possible that there is a way to write about my healing without it coming accross as preachy. Even if that’s the case, is there a point? I haven’t found a good answer to this question.
Here’s why. My healing has happened because of a number of factors: quitting my job, travelling, going on a silent retreat, living in a monastery for five weeks, going hiking, new friends, old friends, and cutting back my hours at work. Most of all, sitting with my feelings for long periods of time when there was no pressure on me to be doing anything else.
Some of the things that I have tried that did not contribute in a major way to my healing: doctors, therapy, antidepresssants, and journaling.
The reality is, I achieved my healing because I had the opportunity to take time for myself. And I’m beginning to suspect that’s the difference between people who are able to deal with their shit and those who are not able to: I was lucky enough to have the time and the money to try a bunch of different things.
That required resources that not everybody has.
So much has been written about healing already. But healing also looks different for every depressed person. None of what has been written about healing is useful to anyone who doesn’t have the opportunity to take the time to figure out what kind of healing they, as an individual, need. I had to take the time to try a bunch of different things before I found what I needed.
Until we build a society where everybody has the resources to exlore many different pathways to healing, I hardly see the point of writing about my own. The people I know who are struggling the most don’t need any more ideas of what to try. They need resources. Money. Time. Safety. Freedom.
My writing can’t give that to them.
1 This quote comes from an interview that I conducted for an upcoming project. More info to come.