Low mood, lethargy, panic attacks and generally feeling miserable, are not the ideal emotions to attempt expressive writing. Even so, once pen is put to paper, writing can be rewarding and therapeutic.
What I suggest in my book, from my own experience with depression and also with my one to ones, is to take a piece of paper and see what happens. You may start to doodle, draw stick figures, scribble, draw lines, write the same word over and over. It doesn’t matter, as long as there has been a connection to that place where the emotion is stored.
Depression can be a natural state to be in when the body and mind need to turn in to recoup. Prolonged low mood can become unhealthy, where negative thoughts and fears cause the sufferer to withdraw sometimes becoming destructive by inducing self harm or using alcohol and other substances to cope.
Techniques such as CBT Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a form of psychotherapy which is used to treat depression and anxiety may be beneficial. It works to solve current problems and change unhelpful thinking and behavior.
Mood diaries are kept where the sufferer is asked to note down what they have done that day, what happened etc to help them manage their behavior and thoughts. Journal writing can be used in this way too. It is not how much one writes but what is written. For example, if you wake up and feel depressed, taking your journal and writing exactly how you feel can free that inner turmoil in both mind and body.
Another technique to help with emotions involving fear and panic attacks are positive affirmations. These are sentences or words said or written in the present, for example,
‘I am safe, all is well in my world’
Once something is written down, whether it is a word expressing a feeling or an affirmation, a dialogue can be attempted. You can write questions, like ‘What is wrong with me today?’ You can answer back by saying it out loud, writing, drawing, it doesn’t matter how. What matters is that a shift in feeling happens.
Depression is a passive emotion, even if the mind is active, the body is lethargic. Creating some movement, even if it is on paper changes the mood. You may be surprised at how much rage or passion comes out…this is good, not that rage is good, but a shift where energy is behind it lifts the low mood.
Once the mood is lifted, even if it is to a state of anger, then you can really use your writing to heal. You can write unsent letters to those who you feel have hurt you. You can even attempt to set yourself a small goal, like going to another room, getting yourself in the shower, even going outside for a walk.
Be gentle with yourself, seek professional help if you feel that your depression is taking over your life. Writing can help but only if you feel ready. Do what you need to feel better. If you want to write, write. If you want to draw, draw. If you want to just doodle, doodle. What is important is that you try. It might be just what you need.