Student Voices: How Writing Can Help Navigate Depression

By Evelyn Gutierrez, Current Student, UCSB

When I was 18, I was officially diagnosed with depression. With my depression came instant mood changes, feelings of hopelessness, and guilt from being told constantly that I could not be depressed because of all the great things I have compared to others in the world. I had to learn how to validate my own feelings when those around me wouldn’t.

Evelyn's chihuahaOver the last five years I’ve tried many things to cope with my depression, such as meditating and exercising whenever I started feeling distressed. I consider myself somewhat of a perfectionist, so meditating wasn’t successful for me because I kept stressing over not being able to keep focus on it for over 30 seconds. And exercising didn’t help me either because one of the causes of my depression was my weight/figure, so whenever I didn’t immediately see results I would stress even more, which led to exercising even more, and, well, you can imagine the unhealthy cycle here.

My cute little chihuahua Princess can tell when I’m feeling pretty upset, or when I’m just not my usual, upbeat self. Unfortunately, when I started university, I couldn’t bring her with me. So there came another search for something to help with my depression. And it came pretty easily, because I was already doing it and loved it.

Writing has been my new go-to method of coping with my depression. Whether it be on paper, in my notes app on my phone, or on my computer, taking some time out of every day to write has really helped me. I usually start by writing how I feel about my day, starting its description with one of the four following categories: I’m ecstatic, It went pretty well, it was eh, or I need my bed now! Once I do that, I write as much as I can about it and explain to myself why I felt its category was right for that day.

I carry a notebook around with me always in case I really need to stop and just write out some things about how I’m doing mentally or even great things that happen to me that I’d like to remember. On days where I’m feeling even worse than needing my bed, I look back at my writing. Sometimes after looking at it all, I write down things that I’m grateful about, what I miss about being back home, and what I’ve accomplished despite having depression for the past five years. And on days where I can’t bring myself to write even a letter down, just looking through all my writing helps. It reminds me that even though my days feel like a rollercoaster, and there are many ups and downs that come out of nowhere, there are many more ups and great days than bad.

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