How Writing Saved My Life

I don't know where to start other then by saying that writing saved my life, and I wanted to share that with you.

I came from a rough childhood. I faced abuse, neglect and exposure to crime and drugs. My father was a chronic hoarder, drug dealer and paranoid schizophrenic. I ended up moving out of home at fifteen, surviving off handouts and charity.

My mental health has been tumultuous. Depression, anxiety and PTSD have been common factors in my life, significantly impacting me throughout my late teen and adult years. Self harm and suicide attempts have been common place.

Initially I sought the help of a psychiatrist, however the only intervention that he gave to me was in the form of antidepressants. These saved my life, I was no longer at risk, but I was left feeling dull. It didn't give me a reason to live.

From there I was referred to a few different psychologists. I didn't have much luck, until I found one that specialized in dissociative identity disorder. I don't have multiple personalities, but I do tend to check in and out of reality, and struggle significantly with focus, in addition my episodic memory (memory of my past) is atrocious.

I finally had a breakthrough when she suggested I try to express myself artistically. I hated painting and sculpture, finding my lack of ability frustrating. However when I wrote about my past, I was able to express myself fully.

To my surprise, my memory was returning (along with some new memories), and most importantly, I began to feel better. So I decided to write about everything that happened. After two long years I had finally finished. It quite literally felt like a weight that I didn't know existed was lifted from my shoulders. I was free.

Now I am six weeks away from the birth of my first child, a boy. I am terrified of replicating my father's lifestyle and passing on to my son the issues of my past. Thankfully, my writing serves as a guide to what a parent can do to a child. Ironically, given my condition, I actually forget what I have written until I reread it. It is almost like I am rediscovering my own past from myself and learning lessons of parenting in the process.

Sharing my story with other people has been an amazing experience. Not because it helps them to better understand my past, but rather because it has enabled them to start sharing their lives with me.

From reading my story, they found a safe person to share their story with. I found that a lot of seemingly happy and regular people have been struggling with repressed memories and trauma of their own. Through my writing, I have put into words what many people cannot or will not say. But seeing my example has inspired them to open up and talk. I am so happy that I am able to facilitate that healing, and would like to help as many people as possible.

I want my example to help inspire others towards recovery, healing and growth. There is too much hidden suffering in this world, too many needless suicides and too much stigma around mental illness. 

Read more about my book here. I have also written about my experiences with antidepressants here and suicide here.

Stay safe,
Zachary Phillips

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