As a teacher of Creative Writing I am always telling my learners that they need to use their life experience as a well to draw on for their writing. Some of the exercises I give them to do involve tapping into their memories and using their senses as a guide, including their remembered feelings.
I often tell them of my experiences of anxiety and depression...
I am aware that this can be highly emotional for some people, especially if the task involves remembering a certain age or time in life. I always encourage them to not waste their emotions and experiences and whenever they have a bad time or a difficult episode to record it. As an example I often tell them that I have had some ‘issues’ with anxiety and depression during the past few years after my father died at a coincidence of crises in my life and that to capture the feelings in a written record has been cathartic for me and potentially valuable in my writing.
It is amazing how many times people respond to my frankness by telling, sometimes in open class, about their own experiences. And even those who have not had such problems tend to join in with different kinds of experiences of their own. I am a very up-beat, positive character as a teacher and we have a lot of laughs and a great deal of fun and I am sure it comes as a surprise to many people that I have had mental health issues.
Sharing can be scary...
There are always those in the class, of course, who are unable to relate personally to these revelations but I have always found it a positive and helpful experience to be open in this way and have felt higher levels of association with my learners as a result.
Sharing personal experiences like this with a group of people that you don’t know too well can be a bit scary but when I do so I am reminded that I am far from alone in this, even though it can sometimes feel like it. We don’t usually dwell on our problems in the group, after all, it’s Creative Writing and not mutual self-help, but I am always pleased that I felt able to make one more step in dispelling the stigma attached to mental health issues and that others may now also feel able to do so too.