When I sit down to start writing I don’t always know what I’m going to write about. Sometimes the words just flow, while other times I feel stuck, like pulling my feet from drying cement. But I’ve learned that even the process of being stuck  is important. 

As I started the process of writing Out and Back, I experienced the ‘flow state’ of writing, where ideas and storytelling came easy. On other days, actually quite a few days, writing felt forced and I had no idea what to put down on paper. 

Photo Credit: Sami Suri

Both experiences were important for me. On the days when writing didn’t come as easily, I was able to take space to think, to create and form new ideas in my mind. On these days, getting outside, running, riding or hiking would stimulate my creativity. These days created space, the spark for ideas to grow into a flame. I would bring my phone with me on these outings and record voice memos to myself as my creativity grew and my mind wandered with stories and my feet through the forest.  

Writing, for me, is cathartic. Not only is it a way to remember and reflect upon circumstances, but it’s a way to actively process emotion. One of the main reasons I wrote Out and Back? To process my recovery, my journey, to reflect upon the ups and downs of my recovery and try to decipher what I learned throughout it all. In all honesty, I was hoping to have a big epiphany, to have a concise and well-digested lesson that I could wrap up neatly with a bow and present it to the world–to myself. But one of the greatest gifts I discovered while writing my story is that there is no grand take away. 

I couldn’t summarize what happened, succinctly and neatly. It was more about the process of writing and what that brought me. I experienced the power of storytelling. The point wasn’t to painstakingly recount my journey, rather, the point was to share a story that can invite others to relate to it, and insert their own experiences into, so we can learn together.

I didn’t realize how important it was for me to write my stories down on paper until I started doing it. I think the written word has power. It’s a lasting conversation. A private one, at first, held within our own thoughts, and secured neatly within the confines of a piece of paper. Our stories can stay safely tucked within those pages, becoming a relic, a representation of our own unique experience, but if they are shared, these relics become refuge. They become a hand, reaching out to connect us and our own experiences to those of others. Because suffering, well that’s a universal experience, one that every human shares. 

Photo Credit: Jose Miguel Munoze

One of the most powerful realizations I experienced throughout my recovery and writing about it, was this concept of shared suffering. Now, that might sound cynical or depressing, but, in fact, it’s liberating. 

Through suffering and setbacks, we learn so much about ourselves, and by writing them down, they become real–tangible. Our experiences then manifest into an invitation for others to experience and relate to their own suffering as they read. This empathy creates a shared connection.

While writing my book, I didn’t focus on choosing the exact, perfect story or storyline, instead I chose to focus on honesty, to tell my story as raw and unfettered as possible—to show vulnerability and allow room for others to see their own experiences through mine. As I continued to write, I felt momentum, as if I was creating a space for a community, hidden between the words and lines on the pages.

So as you read my story, I hope those spaces find you, and can comfort you and show you, you’re not alone in struggle–past, present or future. Let my words and stories be an invitation for you to explore your own experiences and find that strength to overcome them. 

Out and Back is available now! You can order online now or visit your local bookstore.

2 Comments

  • Emily Brown says:

    This is a long comment, which isn’t exactly kosher for commenting, but I want to share it anyways. Thank you for Out and Back, which I finished reading yesterday. I wanted to write you a thank you note and share pieces of your story that spoke to me, but then I saw this post, and I was even more motivated to relate to writing as a point of healing. Your note about writing being more of a processing mechanism than some grand takeaway reminds me of a quote from Wild by Cheryl Strayed: “It was all unknown to me then…everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That it was enough to trust that what I’d done was true…To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was…That it was everything. It was my life…so very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.” I have this written on a sticky note to remind myself of why I should keep writing my story of mental health recovery, even if I don’t know the full story just yet. And now, sitting next to that sticky note on my desk is a quote from your book, from the last page: “Never give up on something you love, something that’s part of you, even when the journey is full of tears and obstacles. Keep holding on to it. Belief has the power to challenge the impossible.” Thank you for writing this and for sharing your story. I admire your bravery not only in writing it all down but also in letting others in to see and learn.

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