Not that I would ever discourage anyone from seeking help for any mental health issue, or suggest that writing can replace professional therapy or counselling. However, there is no doubt in my mind that writing regularly is good for your mental health, for a whole host of reasons.
As this series of posts about why I love writing so much is personal, I’ll just talk about why it works for me. When I was a kid, I was painfully shy and awkward. I preferred books to real people and once I was old enough to write my own stories, I preferred that too. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I was forever being told that I lived in my own little world.
Now, being shy is not so bad when you’re a little kid. People often expect little kids to be shy. You can’t get away with it so much when you’re a teenager, and even less so when you’re an adult. Shyness is often then mistaken for rudeness or arrogance. You’re expected, quite rightly, to get on with things, sort your own problems out and be able to deal with life and the world.
I don’t think I could have done this if it wasn’t for writing. It was there for me when I was small; enticing me to create my own little worlds full of friends I wished were real. And it was even more vital when I became a teenager. I wrote diaries from a young age and often poured my heart and soul into them as I went through my adolescence. At the end of every day, there was my diary, waiting for me to expel the bad feelings, the anger, the hurt, the confusion onto the page. And how much better I would always feel afterward. Writing was not only for my diary though. I was seriously addicted to writing in my teens. It was what I rushed home for. I never wanted to be torn away from it. It was pretty much all I cared about. I don’t think I would have coped very well with adolescence if I hadn’t had writing. It helped me so much. I was able to express my thoughts and feelings, reflect, observe, question and have time to absorb what was going on around me. I got so much genuine joy from writing that it helped me hold my head above water and just get through it.
The same thing applies now. I turn to writing when I feel fragile. I turn to writing when I feel afraid. I turn to writing when I feel angry, dismayed, lost or frustrated. Writing is there when I need someone to talk to, when I want to organise and reorganise my words until I’ve finally figured out what I want to say. Writing allows me head space, time to breathe, time to think and work out how I feel. I’d be in chaos if not for writing. It calms me down. Cheers me up. It excites me. I’d be lost without it.