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Writing About Mental Illness When You Have It
We have all heard the stories of how writers like Poe and others were plagued by mental illness during their time and how misunderstood they were. How about today? I myself suffer from Bipolar and BPD and I write but does that make me a better writer or not? I would like to think that somewhere my work will someday be appreciated for what it was and not what I suffered from. I would like to write a book about mental illness and how after 12 years of suffering my pain came to an end and I found the help I needed and how wonderful life is now. I think we underestimate what we are capable of because of what we are dealing with.
Where to begin such a story? I would like to think if I ever wrote my story, I would start at my beginning. Not the one where I was born but where I was reborn. Try to write your story from the best vantage point and work your way to the core of your story. I would like to start my story at the point where I discovered my illness and how devastated I was at the outcome of it all. That is a major turning point and so should every story have a turning point. Think about how a turning point is where your character really begins to grow. I remember that day so vividly that it tore into my skin and there was little room for emotion. Make people feel how you felt.
I would like to mention names and, for legal reasons, we usually don’t but we can use places and dates like October 3rd, 2010 when my diagnosis came in. That gives your reader an idea of the timeline and when your story is happening. I can talk about my feelings by putting in words like 'devastated' and 'numb' and you would still understand. Feelings are universal. Everyone has felt pain, and loss and that feeling of losing control. Many of us have felt at some point that we no longer know who we are, or that we have lost ourselves. It takes a huge person to admit that they have lost it, lost themselves in the chaos.
I cannot think about my life now without the pain, because it is in our darkest days that we find the light.
I think about how those years are shaping me, carving me, and making me who I am today, making me a better writer. Now like Poe, I write about what is going on in my heart, even if it is under the floorboards. When telling your story, be as authentic as possible and be yourself; be brutally honest and painfully accurate. Sometimes it’s better to tell the story like that, raw and real and uncensored. There is a fine line between epic and too much; you can usually tell right away when too much is too much. So tell your story your way.
Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Anelynde Smit