Why Write about Mental Illness So Much?
Why do I write about mental illness so much? It’s an unsettling, unnerving and uncomfortable topic. We’re talking about people who have problems with their brains here. We’re talking about problems that don’t have any outwardly visible physical symptoms here.
Most importantly, we’re talking about people we all know here.
The National Institute of Mental Health reported that in 2013, an estimated 43.8 million U.S. adults suffered from some kind of mental illness. This represents nearly one in five adults in the country.
In a 2008 survey, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed that just over half of the adults in the country with a serious mental illness received treatment for that illness.
This is a widespread issue and people who suffer are not necessarily getting the treatment they need. So why do I write about mental illness so much?
First of all, I write for myself. Writing is part of my recovery process and it has therapeutic value for me as well. I have suffered from severe mental illness on and off for the past two decades. I share my experiences because I believe they hold value. My experiences can offer insight into depression and anxiety for those who have never suffered from these diseases. And finally, I write about mental illness to be a voice for all those people who suffer.
I started writing about my mental illness a couple of years ago. Just for myself, I was writing to document the pain and frustration I was feeling. This writing was descriptive, vulgar and very emotional. It was a release for me. It was a way for me to exorcise some of what I was feeling and trap it on paper so I could look at it again the future. Writing was a release.
I wrote that way on and off for a few years to blow off some steam. Occasionally, I would post some of what I had written on Facebook. Sometimes it was to get a reaction, sometimes it was because I felt like no one understood. Sometimes it was to see if anyone cared. Looking back, it was always a cry for help.
My depression and anxiety got really bad. I was suicidal and getting worse. Finally, I became too scared of myself and fearing I would harm myself, I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital. And while I was there, my writing moved to the next level. I was journaling. Some of it was about how I felt, but some of it was also about what I was seeing around me, what I was learning about and what I thought of it all.
I remember writing about my own pre-conceived notions of other patients based on just what I observed of them. I remember being completely wrong about them. I remember that changing my perspective on mental illness.
As my week in the hospital moved along, I noticed myself becoming more of a leader in group therapy sessions, congratulating and encouraging my fellow patients for sharing their stories, for looking at themselves in the mirror, for being brave.
I kept journaling throughout my week there, and after my release, I would periodically read my journal and reflect upon my experience in the hospital. I felt like I took a lot away from my time there and that there was a lot of useful information in my journal.
Around that same time, my wife told me that a blog we followed, Daily Zen, was looking for new writers. I thought about my journal and felt like it included information that would be helpful to other people. Daily Zen published the excerpts from my journal and it received a great deal of reaction from the site’s readers. I also shared it with my friends on Facebook, from whom I also received a lot of feedback.
The feedback I received encouraged me. People who didn’t understand about mental illness thanked me for opening their eyes to what I suffered from. More importantly to me, people who did suffer from mental illness reached out to me, thanking me for having the courage to share my story. I learned that there was much to be gained for everyone by talking about depression and anxiety.
So I kept writing for Daily Zen. And I’ve found the initial reaction to my first post continues to be true. There are many people out there that are uneducated about mental illness and there is a large amount of stigma that surrounds it. There are many people out there who suffer from mental illness in silence and in need of help. My experiences with depression and anxiety are important and not uncommon.
So this is why I write about mental illness continually. It helps me. It helps others. It keeps a conversation alive – a conversation that needs so badly to take place in the light of day. So many, like I once did, suffer quietly and alone. So many need help. And so many others just don’t understand.
I write to be a voice in this conversation about mental illness, and I hope that many of you will join me.
Author Bio – Jason has suffered from depression and anxiety for over twenty years. He can be contacted on his Facebook.