Thursday, April 03, 2014

Paper Demons: How to Battle Depression

When you’re depressed, the first thing you should reach for is a pen and paper to write out as much depressive gunk as possible, but you may consider yourself lucky just for getting out of bed.

I know how difficult creative motivation can be when you’re stuck in a depressive episode.

Why is it that so many writers get depressed? Or maybe the question is, why do so many people who have depression turn to writing?

Writing is a self-healing method that the body, mind and soul recognize as beneficial. Writers are also driven to express because of their deep level of introspection. Of course, some depressed people might be too introspective—thinking about the world until they become overwhelmed by thoughts, unable to write them out and instead drowning in them.

Why not plan ahead for those unavoidable miserable times? Choose now that the next time you notice yourself feeling depressed, the first thing you will do is write. Convince yourself now that every time you feel depressed, you will write automatically. As a smoker reaches for a cigarette out of habit—you’ll reach for a pen. Without thinking.

That would be a pretty good promise to make, but could you keep it?

I’ll admit it, when I’m depressed, writing feels like the last thing I want to do. I feel like I have nothing important enough to say and even if I did, who would want to read about it? But when I’m feeling pretty centered, I know that I do have things to say even when I’m depressed. In fact, when I’m depressed I’m very in touch with my deeper emotions. The longer I put off expressing that dark frame of mind, the more likely that part of me will never get understood.

I’ve wasted too much writing time being depressed. I’m sure you have, too.

The knowledge that writing can help lift the blanket of depression is a powerful tool in itself. Although you may have times when you are so depressed that you can’t even remember the fact that writing out your depression can help, perhaps there will be that one time when you remember.

Pick up a pen and a piece of paper and scrawl out all the horrid feelings you have, instead of going over them in your head. Exorcise your demons onto paper where you can see them, then you can be more objective about your feelings, certainly more so than when they were part of your internal dialogue.

Once thoughts are out on paper you can choose what you want to do with them. You put yourself back in control. You may want to put your written feelings away for a while. Open a desk drawer, shove them in and tell them you don’t feel like seeing them anymore today. Then when you feel stronger, go back. Reopen that drawer and pull out your paper demons and look at them square in the face. Demons don’t like this because suddenly they are seen for what they really are—just thoughts.

Take a good look at your depressing thoughts. Feel them. Acknowledge them. Now you have the upper hand. You are in control and choosing when and how you’ll come across them. Next time your demons show up in your head you may not feel so bad. You’ll recognize them as words on paper.

So, remember to shake some ink onto a page and lessen your wandering mind, thoughts and depression. Keep your hand moving. Empty it out. And then you can let the thoughts go away. Just like that. Send each thought packing with your pen strokes, right out into the air and away from your body and mind. 

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