I run an online blog and support group called Well-Written; a writing group which encourages women to write for positive mental health. We share our ideas and creativity, and we listen to what we all have to say. It is aimed at being an empowering and nurturing space not just to write about mental health issues, but also to celebrate writing as having a positive impact on our sense of self. Here I explain why I feel this is important, and why I keep doing it.
Why am I doing this? Why am I putting so much of my energy into this? I could give up; maybe I should give up. It would be the easiest thing in the world to lie down and just stop. No-one is listening to me anyway.
I hear these thoughts in my head very regularly. In fact, they never really go away. Sometimes they are LOUD and they FILL MY WHOLE BODY. Sometime they are so quiet as to hardly exist. But they are always there.
I’ve always written for my mental health, from the very first time I began keeping a diary at the age of eleven. At that age I knew I was writing words that I wouldn’t be sharing with others. As I’ve grown older I realise that sharing those words not only helps me, but can help others as well. It can spark an understanding; a realisation that we are not alone in our feelings. If what I’ve written can help and inspire just one person – even if that person is myself – then I have achieved something powerful.
I started Well-Written because I needed a distraction after losing a friend to suicide. I make no secret of the fact that my initial intentions for Well-Written were first and foremost to make myself feel better. To reach out to other people. To stop myself thinking dark and frightening thoughts. I did the only thing I knew I could do which wasn’t self-destructive – I wrote about my feelings. I never intended to share them, that wasn’t the purpose at the time, but those words opened something up inside me. They made me realise that while I felt unable to talk about how I felt, I could write about it, and I could share those feelings. Anonymously if necessary.
Sharing your words is scary, especially if those words are about things which are deeply personal to you. You may doubt your voice, or feel nervous about speaking out. You may not want others to know that you are capable of such thoughts. This applies to all of your writing, not merely that which focuses on your emotions or mental health. The knowledge that once you send those words out into the world, there can be no taking them back.
I often remind myself that while I cannot control how my writing is received, I can control what I offer to the world. I can control everything I put on the page. I can speak my truth; honestly and with integrity, and I can be mindful of how I use my language. I can be honest without being hurtful. I can speak about what processes work for me without judging others.
I used to feel a deep unease at the idea of my family and close friends reading what I wrote. Now I understand that my writing often answers questions which those close to me had felt unable to ask. I was worried that I might damage my relationship with them in some way, not seeing that my keeping such thoughts from them only widened the boundaries between us.
Eventually, I realised that I don’t have to write to appease anybody. I write only for myself. I will be judged, both positively and unfairly, on absolutely everything I write. Once I understood that, I was able to let go of my inhibitions. I could write freely and openly about everything I wanted and needed to write about. I have sparked conversations, I have shared myself with others, and I have let go of the doubts that made me question: should I share this?
It’s not easy. I don’t think bravery or courage are quite the right words to describe it – although they are an important part of it. Instead, I believe it is more akin to peeling back another layer of yourself and finding a piece of your authentic self. Finding your voice and knowing it deserves to be heard. Having something to say, and not waiting for permission to say it. Writing your story as it needs to be written.
It’s easy to give up; it’s perhaps one of the hardest things in the world to keep fighting, especially when you are tired or demotivated. I want to tell you that we all often feel like that; but you do not have to fight alone. Well-Written is a village, a community, your own personal cheerleading squad. It is a safe space where you can be supported and nurtured. Where you can speak openly without judgement about the things that matter to you.
Why am I doing this? Because it’s important to me and, I believe, to others. Because too many people are too scared, or too uncertain, or simply haven’t found the right words yet to speak. I completely understand; I used to feel the same. I want to let you know that your voice might be quiet right now, but I am listening and I still hear you.
I hear you.