I was a strange, geeky child: mad about rockets, chemistry and always wanting to know more about the world around me. At age eight, with the (toy) microscope I received as a birthday gift, I deduced that feathers were ‘bird leaves’ and that bees were created by tulips, and nobody could tell me otherwise.
I fancied myself as a female Dexter and wanted the famous laboratory to go with it (my brother could be DeeDee). This natural curiosity pervaded my teenage years and led me to completing an undergraduate Masters in Physics, progressing to a doctoral programme scholarship in medical device engineering.
However, in 2015, I was a year into a PhD that made me feel isolated and like a fraud compared to my cohorts. They seemed confident, were progressing, unaffected by minor issues. Around this time I was diagnosed with depression. I was ashamed and confused. I hid my struggle from my friends, pretending everything was ok until, in the winter of 2016, I cracked and was asked to leave the programme I’d been so enthusiastic about. Looking back, I became more distant, disconnected, barely able to peel myself from the couch to get a drink, sleeping for 14 hours at a time but still exhausted.
The loneliness I felt at this point scared me. I’m a people person. I love to talk, to create, to play music and horse around. It was easier to stay home but being imprisoned by my own brain was frustrating. I needed an outlet. That outlet was creative writing. I was introduced to a creative writing group, ‘Write to Recovery’, each week discussing a different theme. At the beginning of my recovery, I was super sceptical about mindfulness, talking therapies and all that ‘hippie stuff’.
Over the weeks, seeing the amount of people within the group that felt how I did surprised me. Here, we were not isolated. We shared our experience, our thoughts, in a raw, honest way. We were all equal. Within those four walls, we could share advice and experience. We no longer would be silent and lonely. Creative writing gave us back our voices. I now use mine to let other people know they aren’t alone – even if you feel like you are. I take part in helping lead this writing group now, and I still reap the benefits of being able to pour my heart out in little ten-minute shots.
Outside of this group, if I’m feeling crappy, I’ll get a pack of custard creams, a giant mug of tea and settle down in front of Always Sunny re-runs and write. It doesn’t need to be pretty, well written, or edited – raw emotions never are. What’s important is that it comes from you and helps you begin make sense of what goes on inside your head.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve become more involved in mental health recovery, with the aim of helping people reconnect when they feel lonely. I am always so grateful to those who share their stories. If I can even help one person by sharing mine, then I’ll be happy. There are many ways to begin protecting your mental health and recovering; for me, writing is just one of them.
If you are concerned for your mental health or require support you can visit or call Breathing Space, and The Samaritans (tel. 116 123), whose helplines are open 24/7.
Additionally, if you’d like to try Write to Recovery, you can make an anonymous profile via this link, and begin your writing.