When I first started writing about my experience with mental illness, the world of mental health in media felt quiet. Of course, there were people writing about mental health issues — but there was nothing I could quite relate to.
Writing has always been therapeutic for me. I treat it like a diary. In some instances, this is great — it allows me to write authentically and realistically. In other cases, it’s not so great, because it means that I’m vulnerable. Not just to other people but to myself. Sometimes I can be sat in a dark room just typing away, not really knowing what I’m writing, until suddenly I’m finished and I read through nothing but words of distress and upset.
Writing about your mental health can be a scary thing to do. It can be scary for you; reading back words you didn’t even know existed in your heads. Words that show your sadness and your desperation. Words that leave you feeling lonely.
It’s even scarier to share these thoughts with the world. But in many cases, it feels necessary. Because writing about your mental health means opening up to the world and showing that it’s okay to have feelings. It’s okay to have thoughts. It’s okay to be vulnerable.
I do write about other things, of course. I love to write about relationships and about chronic health conditions and features of unusual but wonderful things (like the time I asked a bunch of men about their sex lives for an anonymous article). But mental health has always been my niche. It is what is most comfortable for me, because what I’m writing is the truth. And sometimes, telling the truth is the easiest thing to do. When it comes to writing.
Talking about my feelings in person is hard. I struggle to get the words out of my mouth without a horrible lump in my throat choking me up as I try my hardest not to cry. I struggle to sit down and say how I’m feeling without bursting into a snotty, teary, red-faced mess. I guess I worry about what I’m saying. Whether my feelings are too personal, too intense, too much. But writing, unedited, unfiltered, feels safe.
I don’t just write about mental health to get my feelings and thoughts out. I write for everyone else who is too scared to open up. I write to spread awareness of mental health issues and how they can affect every aspect of your life. I write for those who feel like they don’t have a voice. I write for those who feel like they have to hide their pain.
It’s important to talk about mental illness, but I understand that not everyone wants to, or feels they can. And that’s okay. It’s okay to process your symptoms and your pain in your own way. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Whatever you do to get through is valid.
But I want to write about mental health because I want my words to be out there in years to come, with someone coming across them when they feel like they’re alone, up searching the internet late at night because they can’t sleep. I want my words to be a comfort to those who need it; for those who feel like they don’t have anyone to talk to; for those who need someone to relate to.
And so, I write about mental health for a variety of reasons. For myself, for other people, and because it’s important in today’s world where, despite it being 2021, mental health issues are still deeply stigmatised.
But by continuing the conversation in whatever way we can, we can work to change this.