How Writing Helps Me Understand My Mental Health

September 9, 2019 Laura A. Barton

As a form of expression, writing can help us understand our experiences with mental health. Many mental health advocates talk about journaling specifically as a tool for mental health recovery. But, journaling isn't the only form of writing beneficial to mental health.

Different Forms of Writing Can Help Unravel Mental Health

Even I often think of journaling about mental health as the thing that kicked off my understanding of what was going on with my mental health. I was always fascinated with diaries as a child, but I really began journaling in my second year of university when my mental health took a serious nosedive as I struggled with depression, anxiety, and excoriation disorder. I was skipping class, I stopped caring about everything, and I started planning to end my life. ("Understanding and Helping the Suicidal Person") In an act of desperation, I picked up a notebook and started writing, trying to sort out the chaos that was in my mind.

But, if I think about it, journaling isn't the only writing that helped me better understand my mental health. Apart from journaling, I was an avid writer of poems, songs, and stories as a way to express myself. Even my fictional writing is a reflection of my mental health struggles to some degree.

No matter whether it's journaling or fiction-based, the act of writing forces my thoughts to slow down. I saw a post on Facebook that read, "People with anxiety don't have a train of thought. We have seven trains on four tracks that narrowly avoid each other when paths cross and all the conductors are screaming."

I don't know where this post originated, but it's a perfect depiction of the chaos I mentioned before.

Writing Led Me to Better Understand My Mental Health, Which Helps Me Fight Stigma

Because writing helped me slow and quiet the thought chaos caused by my mental health, it led me to better understand what I was experiencing. I began to see myself as someone dealing with mental illnesses, not just a messed up person. This lifted a giant weight off my shoulders. This allowed me to look stigma in the face because I could see that what it was telling me—what it tells all of us—is a lie.

Stigma says people with mental illnesses are freaks. I know now I have illnesses. Stigma says people with mental health struggles bring it upon themselves. I understand there are many factors contributing to mental illness, none of which are my fault. Stigma says we should be ashamed of these illnesses. I see now there is no reason to be ashamed of being sick ("Mental Illness Myths and the Damage They Cause").

Whether it's writing, visual arts, music, dance, or something else, there are plenty of tools at our disposal, and they can be used in conjunction with traditional therapy and treatment options. It can be difficult to sort through your struggles when the chaos is loud in your head. Don't be afraid to explore the options to quiet those thoughts and gain a better understanding of your mental health to recognize the difference between stigma's lies and the truth about mental health and mental illnesses. Trust me when I say these are great steps to take on the road of recovery.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2019, September 9). How Writing Helps Me Understand My Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 29 from

Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from Ontario, Canada. Find her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.

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