Mental health & writing

Photo by Mina-Marie Michell on

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and I thought I’d share how I cope/struggle with my own mental health and how it feeds into my writing.

I was a child who worried; I’m an adult who gets anxious and depressed. Talking to a friend the other day (also a writer) she said it’s those qualities of sensitivity and observation that lead to good writing but that also make us less resilient. I’ve been taking an antidepressant for over fifteen years; have tried CBT and talking therapies and the recommended strategies – exercise (regular yoga and loads of gardening, walking in nature and talking to friends and family) but sometimes the extreme states and emotions I can experience are so debilitating and exhausting I have to give in and lie down to try to relax. Then it’s simple things – listening to calming music, keeping warm and breathing.

For me, writing is a way of channeling these feelings. In the middle of a crisis, I can sometimes use the negative energy to write a scene that requires intensity, but on the whole Wordsworth’s ’emotion recollected in tranquility’ works best. For the last month I’ve taken a break from writing because I felt the negative thoughts and unmanageable feelings building up again. Partly because of the pandemic, partly because I’ve been working too hard on the latest novel and also because I no longer have the safety net of an agent. So I’ve done more of the things that lift my mood and make me happy. Community gardening is one of the best things I do: outside in all weathers, simple repetitive work, helping plants to grow and above all sharing time with other people working together as a team, laughing and feeling a sense of belonging.

But after a while it’s not enough. I need to write to feel a sense of purpose. I need to make something. I need to be creative. And it seems that only writing will do. So here is my first attempt back at the computer… Blogging is less emotionally draining than writing a novel. That can come later.

Wishing you peace and tranquility and thank you for reading.

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