“What specific role does writing play in your emotional health?”

That’s the question posed by Rachel Herron on the podcast the Writer’s Well on last week’s show (sorry, I don’t always listen to podcasts when they’re published, but, rather, when I’ve got the time). I think it’s an amazing question and so appropriate because May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

As someone who suffers from depression (rather than Depression, which my child has—the difference being that she was officially diagnosed with “major depressive disorder” and I haven’t), I feel that writing plays a significant role in my mental health.

I know that when I’m feeling down or stressed (another problem which has affected me mentally and physically) my go-to coping mechanism is writing.

Some people read to escape from the world, I write.

Writing helps me forget all about whatever it is that’s bothering me. Writing gives me complete control. In my writing world, I am god; I decide what happens, what people say, and what they do. The world that I create is fun and light and beautiful. Even when bad things happen, I know that some good will result from it. Even at the darkest, black moment of my story, I know that everything’s going to work out and everyone is going to end up happily ever after. Love will triumph. Goodness and kindness will rise above all else.

My world is my happy place. And I want it to be the happy place for my readers as well.

It almost doesn’t matter how much I write—although I get more satisfaction from writing more words—but just going into that world and living in it for a little while calms me and make me happier. When I’m in my world, when I’m writing, nothing is wrong. I feel good.

Does the feeling last, even after I stop writing?

For a little while—until my worries and stress catch up to me again. It all depends on just how stressed or sad I am. What’s going on around me in real life.

I’ve got a good friend who teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. She tells me that while coping mechanisms are good, I should really be in touch with what’s stressing me and work on reducing that. I completely agree with her and I’m working on being more mindful, but sometimes you just need to escape, you need to do something that will ease the immediate pain. Writing does that.

Writing, combined with exercise (either just going out for a walk with my dog or going whole-hog and getting myself to the gym), and time spent with my friends keeps me mentally balanced.

So what about you? Where does writing play a role in your mental health? And what do you do to keep yourself mentally healthy?