People have different methods of relieving their stress and handling the rough things that take place in their lives. Everyone has something they do that takes them away from reality for a bit or relaxes them. Some draw, some paint, some knit, some sew, some exercise, some do sports, some take pictures and so on. While going through mental illness, I was told by several therapists to find a relaxing hobby that to help me deal with the rough times. I was told, “When your mind is racing find a hobby, when your anxiety is high find something relaxing to do, when you’re depressed find something constructive to do, and so on.”
In my elementary and high school years I was bullied so much that I stopped talking and sunk into sadness. In high school I started writing stories. I created imaginary worlds and people I could control. I had them go through bad things, but gave them happy endings. These were the things I couldn’t do in my own life. I had no control over the mean things kids and teachers said to me or how bad I felt inside, but in my story I had full control. I decided what happened to my characters, I chose how my characters felt, I created the worlds they lived in, and I gave them happy endings. Writing became my escape from reality.
I wrote every chance I could. I hid in my room and wrote. I went to a camp with my coach and girls from my basketball team and while they went outside to do things, I sat alone and wrote. When I sat by myself on the bus I created stories in my head and once I got home I put them down on paper. During times my classmates were teasing me, I jotted down a story in my notebook. Writing became my world, my escape, and my therapy.
For a while my stories were pretty depressing, because I spilled out all my inner pain into them. I said on paper what I could not say to anyone in person. My mom told me I needed to make my stories happier, but I didn’t feel happy. Writing what I felt was my release. I didn’t tell my parents everything that was happening to me in school and within me. I kept my feelings pent up inside me and the only way I knew how to handle them was put them in writing.
Throughout school writing became my passion, my escape, and my therapy. I continued to use my writing to get through rough times in my adult years. When I was placed in a mental health hospital after a relapse and an abusive relationship, a friend gave me a journal. I carried my journal everywhere: to work, out to eat, to family events, and to church. I put all my feelings and thoughts in my journal. It became my lifeline. In time I stopped needing it so much and took it with me less and less. I still journal, but not as much.
It has taken years for me to deal with what happened to me in my school years. So I decided to write about it in a memoir. I started writing how badly I was treated in school and how I found love and acceptance at the family garage. Writing the memoir has taken me three years because I had to rehash and relive some awful times in my life. I had to feel those emotions I felt as a child and teen all over again. It was hard and at times I had to take breaks from my writing. I continued to work on my memoir despite how hard it was, because for the first time in many years, I was letting go of the past and releasing some feelings I had been harboring for years. It was therapeutic.
Writing is my therapy. Even writing these blog posts is my therapy. I’m not just helping people; I’m helping myself, and self-care is very important when you struggle with mental illness, breast cancer, or any kind of illness. Find something that helps you release your feelings, calm your nerves or deal with what’s happening to you. Find a talent, a hobby, or something that helps you deal with your illness. I have a friend who finds comfort in exercising and I have another friend who keeps herself busy with crafts. Find that niche that helps you and use it to your advantage.
My writing continues to improve and it’s helping people and me in many ways. My writing gets me through a lot and helps me dance within the light of recovery of not only mental illness, but also of breast cancer.