In 2015, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Like many who suffer from mental illness, the diagnosis was at once a shock and a relief. At least I finally knew what the hell was wrong with me.
See, up until that point, most of my life had been a series of unchecked, impulsive decisions. Many of those decisions were also compulsive—I made them over and over, even though I knew they would hurt me. In desperate attempts to understand my “broken” mind, I engaged in dangerous pastimes. Drugs, sex, alcohol, overspending. The list goes on.
I fought with self hate, attempted suicide, and lingering depression, caught in a hazy world in which time moved irregularly. I lost friends. I made enemies.
The diagnosis—that little piece of paper—was confirmation that I was messed up. That I was chemically abnormal. That I was a high-functioning-but-dangerous member of a society that didn’t care to understand me. But, most importantly, it was a catalyst.
For years I’d dreamt of being a writer. I’d always excelled at it in school. The stories I wrote in my spare time—few and far between as they were—were always applauded by my friends and family. “You’re so talented,” they’d say. “I can’t wait to read more!” Of course, I’d never finish projects. I’d scrap things halfway through or forget about them entirely.
(What I didn’t realize at the time: bipolar sufferers are usually perfect fits as novelists, poets, and writers. In fact, many mental disorders are symptoms of hyper-intelligence and creativity. Check out this cool article on the topic.)
When that diagnosis came ‘round, I’d already lost most of my friends. I’d already alienated myself from the people at work and distanced myself from my family. Left alone to my own devices, locked in a dark room for most of the day, I turned to the only thing I thought I had left: writing.
I’m so glad I did.
What poured from me during those first few months was no great masterpiece. The book I completed then isn’t on any shelves. (In fact, sadly, it’s in a computer I no longer own.) But it teemed with characters that reflected issues I faced. It brimmed with a setting as lonely as damning as the one in which I found myself. And as I followed the heroic actions of Rowan, my empathic soldier protagonist, I realized that my words were healing me.
Writing is different for everyone. Everyone does it for different reasons. One thing that’s universal, though: writing is a self-healing hack. Whether it’s on the pages of a diary, in short poems, or in epic novel length, writing has always proven to be a hyper-helpful treatment to depressive symptoms and wayward thoughts. Clinicians regularly prescribe it to patients as a means of relieving internal pressure.
My bipolar disorder didn’t magically cure itself. Just as Rowan was forced to accept that his empathy was a gift and not a curse, so too did I realize that my mind was unique and advantageous. Sure, there were things about it that were cumbersome and uncomfortable, but those things made me me.
I still make wild decisions. I still zip through the mania-depression spectrum. But, I’m better able to manage my symptoms. I inject my worries and my desires into characters that I can admire—characters that other people enjoy. Characters I can root for. And in doing so, I can face those issues as if they were actual people, and learn to admire them for who and what they are.
Writing has saved my life (on more than one occasion), and I’m so glad I’m able to bring it to you all.
If you are suffering through deeply personal and injuring issues of your own: firstly, seek help. Guidance from trained professionals isn’t always easy or necessarily effective, but getting the clinical information behind your issues (if any health problems exist) is wonderfully beneficial to your healing. Secondly, write. Write it all. Burn the words later if you must. Give those feelings their due course instead of shoving them down or ignoring them or trying to drown them. Many times, my issues and worries have been glad to be allowed to breathe, happy to dissipate later on. (Kind of like how sometimes you feel better after you vent to a friend.)
Thirdly, I am always here for you. If you can find no other person willing to listen to you, you can always come to me. I’m no expert, clinician, or professional counselor. All I can offer is an ear, a shoulder, and encouragement. Sometimes, though, that is all we need.
Good luck, my friends! I hope the advice has been helpful, and I hope to read some of your awesome writing someday!
SPECIAL NOTE: Reblog this for friends/family that are not writers but could use this advice. Help them, and raise awareness on writing as a tool for healing!
I love you all!
Ronin lives a happy and healthy life these days. He travels the United States with his loving girlfriend and trusted van, Rhino. He has learned to effectively manage his symptoms, and works to raise awareness of mental health through writing. You can follow him on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and WordPress. Subscribe to his YouTube channel for neat videos every Friday!
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