Why do I Write About Mental Illness?

Writing LettersDepression is creeping up on me again.

This is more than a case of the Mondays, more than just a blue day. This is the apathy, the slowness of thought and movement, the lies that replay themselves in my head over and over. This is the black dog of depression slowly sinking its teeth into my flesh.

It’s a hard, bad day.

Amid the suicidal ideation and the dark lies that steal my self-worth, I find a small spark. I am not consumed with the heavy, wet blanket of depression yet. I still retain some strength, some life, some fire. So I fight. I don’t give in and give up. At least, I try not to. I put what effort I can into beating back the dark fog of depression that threatens to eat me alive.

I fight by writing. I fight by spilling these words, by forming these sentences, by shaping these paragraphs. I fight with what talents and abilities I have in my fingertips. I write as an act of defiance, an act of hope, a declaration that depression won’t win. Writing is my guerilla warfare against the mental illness that stalks this head and heart.

That is part of why I write so honestly and openly about mental illness. It is one of my rebellious acts against the tyranny of depression. But that’s not the only reason I write about mental illness.

I also write be a “me too” for other people. Mental illness is isolating, cornering you in your own mind and cutting you off from the outside world. Hearing that someone else is in the same places, seeing someone else on the journey created a comradery that fights against the isolation. Relating to one another is a powerful thing. I’m someone who needs to see there are others out there who know what it is to go through mental illness. So I write to connect with them as well as reaching out a hand so they know they aren’t alone.

So I write to fight for myself and I write to relate to others. I also write because there is so much stigma and shame surrounding mental illness. This is another way that writing is a fighting move. Speaking up and out about mental illness fights against the misconceptions that lurk in society. It normalizes the reality of mental illness. It battles the shame I feel for having a broken brain, for having my disorders. Speaking up says I will not become a silent sufferer. Speaking up says this is a real medical issue not some fantasy or spiritual failure. Speaking up is fighting directly against shame because it means I have looked stigma in the face and said, “you will not win!”

I write to defy shame.

In doing so, I hope that people without mental illness will learn compassion and care through understanding. I can’t write other’s journeys with mental illness, but I can share mine and hope it gives you a glimmer into the lives of others who deal with mental illness.

To fight, to relate, to defy, to give understanding. These are the reasons I write so openly about mental illness. It’s more than I write about it because I suffer. I write with purpose and reason. At least, I’m trying to. It’s hard being this open sometimes. It’s hard living in front of the internet, especially when one of my most vulnerable places is what I’m inviting everyone to see, poke, prod, and experience with me. It’s frightening. What if I’m rejected? What if I write utter shit? What if I am shamed for my weakness? These are the questions, the fears, the uncertainties I have to face and conquer every time I sit down to write about this life with mental illness.

It’s also heartbreaking to hear others stories. Don’t get me wrong, I find it precious when people open up to me in comments, privet messages, and email. I value their words, their wounds. I treasure their stories. But they also break my heart. I know how hard it is at times for me with my disorders. Then I hear the stories and me too from others and it wrecks me. This is something that people all around us are experiencing, journeying, living, and sometimes I’m the first person they have opened up to about their experience. Sometimes I can feel the weight of their tragic stories. Sometimes, I have nothing to say but can only listen, only be a presence for them so they know they aren’t alone. Sometimes all I can do is offer my hand and say “me too.”

As hard as it is to write about mental illness, I won’t stop. This needs to be talked about in public, in front of everyone with eyes to see and ears to hear. I can share my small stories, my experiences, my thoughts and add a drop to the bucket. If enough of us add out drops together, it will create a raging river that will wash away the shame, misconceptions, and stigma surrounding mental illness. I’ll keep adding my drops in an effort to normalize mental illness and see it accepted as the physical, medical condition it is. If it’s normalized, then that is one less reason people have to not seek treatment. Normalization of mental illness will save lives.

This is why I write about mental illness.

  • harrisco

    Aaron: Thank you for your bravery and defiance. I know this beast you are fighting. It is a beast, but it does not always win. Fight on. Beat the beast with massive doses of self-compassion. Grace surrounds you, my friend, now and always. Lean into it.

  • Leanne Popkes Sype

    Bravo for squeezing out great truth and power on a black dog day. You are blessing many.

  • Sarah Simmons

    I so get this. I’m grateful for your fight and courage. It really does make a difference, even when you carry the heartbreaking weight of others’ pain. And I’m so sorry depression’s making its ugly way back in. I know that anguish. Be kind to yourself and take good care.

    • “Be kind to yourself” is something I need to learn. Thanks Sarah.

  • samcarter44

    I agree, and that is why I write about depression too. I had to go back on meds and felt guilty I couldn’t manage on my own. People in my life told me meds were a good thing, and they could see I was feeling better. Keep it up!

    • Thanks. You keep it up too. We need all the voices we can get.

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