How writing kept my younger self sane and alive

Anxiety. Depression. Panic attacks. These are the symptoms of a world that moves too fast. Everything is spinning out of control and we are caught, whether we like it or not, in this spiral. We are always running short of time, short of breath, short of money, short of moments to tend to ourselves. Therefore, we want quick fixes: the best and fastest pill to help you sleep or to help you lose weight or to quickly put an end to that panic attack because “Hey y’all! There’s a meeting starting in 12 minutes and I just don’t have the time to deal with my demons now!”

What if we slowed down for a bit?

Just imagine: if you took 20-30 minutes every day to take care of yourself, to understand what you need, to focus your entire attention on yourself, how would it be?

Disconnect with the outside, reconnect with the inside.

There are so many ways to make yourself feel better, lighter and find some peace of mind. You can try meditating, do yoga, have some tea and sit in silence or listen to some soothing music. For me, the best way to keep my demons at bay is writing.

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I began journalling at a very young age, probably because I had no one to talk to. My parents weren’t the understanding kind; they didn’t fall into the smart category, either. My mother was self-absorbed, my father an alcoholic. The kids in my neighborhood avoided me most of the time because their parents didn’t want anything to do with my family. Luckily, I was mostly raised by my grandma, my father’s mother, the most kind and beautiful human being I’ve ever known. But because I preferred her more, my mother forbid me to see her at times.

I can’t remember what made me start a journal. Maybe having so many thoughts and feelings bottling up inside me? I was not allowed to cry or to talk back because they would either hit me or yell at me. Nobody told me about it; it just came by itself: I took an unfinished notebook I used at school and began pouring down my misery. And because I didn’t want my parents to find it, I always hid it in different places, I wrote using some kind of codes, people’s names were changed, my parents had special nicknames and so on. The pages were filled with drops of tears, some lines were indecipherable.

Sometimes I would dramatize, to the point that I began to fictionalize my life. Writing released me of that build up and upon re-reading those pages I started to introspect and it gave me a clearer view of what was happening around me. This way I understood that my mother was extremely tired, she was suffering because of my father’s behavior and addiction and she was unable to cope with it. My father was miserable too; he was suffering from depression, just like his father before him, and he found his refuge in alcohol.

I found my refuge on a piece of paper.

Later on, I learned that I could use writing in many ways: documenting my life, analyzing my thoughts, highlighting the ups and downs of the day, listing the most important events that happened over a period of time, planning for the future. Of course, the most important aspect was its therapeutic effects.

In time, I developed particular preferences regarding stationery: what pens to use, what kind of notebooks, what type of paper, cover art, page layout, even what kind of handwriting.

Writing became not only a part of me, it became me, my very essence. It helped me grow up, it helped me understand myself and the things that were happening to me, it helped me forgive and forget, it helped me dream and preserve my sanity.

What’s your refuge? In the darkest times, how did you manage to keep yourself alive?

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