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How Writing Helped Me Overcome Depression

Posted: October 1, 2015

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Gayatri Aptekar writes about how  writing can help with depression and how it saved her from taking her life not once, but twice.

Few weeks ago, I uploaded this picture on Facebook.
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This picture was clicked 13 years ago when I was going through a rough phase of emotional outbursts. Few months after this picture was clicked I tried committing suicide, not once but twice, however I survived, but, I was still unable to focus on small tasks like brushing my teeth and combing my hair. I cried for hours not knowing what I was going through. My grades started slipping and I lost interest in most of the activities like reading, writing and even dancing.

Few years to this incident, I got married and after the birth of my daughter, the feelings of emptiness returned, this time with more intensity. I constantly felt insecure and with this accompanied anger and guilt. I blamed myself and people around me for everything that went wrong in my life. I felt my life was collapsing in front of me. I lost focus and struggled to meet official deadlines. I was often asked reasons for my underperformance and silly mistakes to which I didn’t have any answers.

Most days, I didn’t feel like getting out of my bed. People around me thought I was lazy and didn’t want to take responsibility, but it wasn’t that. I was merely functioning like a zombie. I weighed 53Kgs, with a pale face and no joy in those eyes of mine.

Most days, I didn’t feel like getting out of my bed. People around me thought I was lazy and didn’t want to take responsibility, but it wasn’t that. I was merely functioning like a zombie. I weighed 53Kgs, with a pale face and no joy in those eyes of mine.

On one of those low days, I visited the newly opened Crossword Book store. The feeling was a mix of joy and nostalgia. That visit took me back to my school days when I spent hours reading books and scribbling poetry. I picked up a handmade diary from the wooden shelf. I brought a Parker pen too. I sat on the couch in one corner of the bookstore and started writing. It was difficult than I thought. Words refused to flow. It was as if I forgot everything. I started crying and I remember an old lady came close to me and whispered into my ears. “Whatever you are going through right now is a phase and this too shall pass away.” She patted my back and left, giving me a ray of hope to hold on to.

Over the years I overcame the feelings of depression, loneliness, and guilt and started enjoying life, again. Many people ask me how I was able to do it.  I thought it would be best to share my journey of recovery on my blog. Maybe this post can be a ray of hope for someone who is battling with their emotions.

Before I begin, let me tell you that these techniques may or may not work for you, however, you may choose to try them and see the difference that these techniques bring into your life, gradually.

Today I will share with you how the act of writing helped me to gain control over myself and my thoughts.

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Writing down my thoughts

“I am depressed because I am not able to do anything successfully in my life. I am unlovable. I am unlucky. I am a loser. I am not successful, look at me; I am unable to take care of my family and my daughter. I am unable to perform in office. I get low ratings and make silly mistakes. Nothing is going right in my life. What is the purpose of my life? I am an unfit mother, wife and daughter.”

These were some of the thoughts that I wrote in my diary.

“I am depressed” this is most commonly used phrase by many people who are going through depression. However we need to understand that depressed is not something you are, it’s a state of mind that you are in. It’s a feeling or combination of many feelings like, loneliness, low self-esteem, and confidence, lack of courage, guilt or shame.

If you look at what I have written, you may notice that there is a ‘cause’ and ‘effect’. I am depressed because…..and there are series of thoughts that follow. Let’s study them carefully and question each one of them.

If you look at what I have written, you may notice that there is a ‘cause’ and ‘effect’. I am depressed because…..and there are series of thoughts that follow. Let’s study them carefully and question each one of them.

“I am unlovable.”

Question this belief.

How do you know you are unlovable? (To know something is true, there has to be evidence)

There is an inner voice which tells me I am unlovable.

“Whose voice is it?” (It maybe your voice or someone else’s voice)

It’s my mother’s voice.

“Is there something else your mother is telling?”

Yes, many things. Jaya you are useless, good for nothing. You cannot do anything in life. You are a loser. Nobody loves you. If only you had died before you were born, I would have been happy. You are unlucky and unlovable.

There it was, all those thoughts that I wrote in the diary weren’t mine, but they were installations that my mother had effected on me during my growing years. I started living my life under the shadows of her beliefs unconsciously and slowly lost control over myself and my life.

I noticed something very strange here; the tone of the voice that was telling this to me inside my mind was clear, harsh and loud. It continuously emphasised on the words, “You are unlucky and unlovable.”

The more I questioned these beliefs, I discovered that there was a pattern my brain followed to get to the feelings of depression.

“Okay your mom said that you are unlucky, but can you think of moments when you were lucky or people around you told you that you are lucky?”

Yes, when I won the elocution competition and handwriting competition in school days. When I studied Geography and went to the examination hall to discover it was Science paper, but I scored, 85/100. I had long thick hair and my girlfriends always said I was lucky. When I cleared my interview in first attempt, my friends said I was lucky. My husband’s colleagues said that he was a lucky man to get a wife like me.

“Has someone ever told you that they loved you?”

Yes, my step-mom, my best friend Prema, my sister, husband and my daughter. They all love me unconditionally.

I noticed something strange here; the tone of the voice was low, unclear, as if many people were speaking at the same time. I also noticed there was no emphasis on any words or phrases.

Now what if I added more clarity to the voices and made them loud and clear just as my mother’s voice, will my beliefs change? I decided to give it a try.

I took the voices of my friends, well-wishers, teachers, mentors and even random strangers and made each of them clear and loud and I made them emphasise on the words, “You are lucky, you are awesome, you are beautiful, we love you.”

I took the voices of my friends, well-wishers, teachers, mentors and even random strangers and made each of them clear and loud and I made them emphasise on the words, “You are lucky, you are awesome, you are beautiful, we love you.”

I tried doing it many times, consistently and quickly and as I continued to do that I observed there was a shift in my feelings. The suffocation in my chest vanished slowly and I was breathing more fully and with every breath I took, I felt more energetic and recharged.

I observed something strange again, as these voices became clearer and loud and emphasised on the words, “awesome, beautiful, lucky.” My mother’s voice became feeble and it no longer bothered me.

I started feeling better and as I started feeling better I gained more control over myself and my thoughts.

My mom’s words had kept me chained to the belief that I can never be successful and that in turn made me under perform and that made me angry with myself and this anger gradually pushed me towards the feeling of depression.

It was an endless loop that kept growing and to stop this loop I had to understand what was happening specifically in my mind. Once I figured out ‘What exactly happened before I began to feel depressed? I was able to break that pattern, immediately.

If you are going through a rough phase in life, I urge you to write your thoughts. Once you’ve done that, question your thoughts. When we learn to doubt what we are taught to believe, there is a shift within us and this leads us to a more empowering and satisfying life.

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How has writing transformed your life? If like me, you too have overcome the feelings of loneliness, guilt or depression, I am eager to read how you managed to do it.

You can watch me speak on this subject here on YouTube.

Image via Shutterstock.

At the age of 11, I began journaling my thoughts. It began as an update

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