Article published by Fabian Bolin in Covid Action Net, covering why storytelling is so beneficial for our mental health.
Just like many other people who have received a cancer diagnosis, I did not see the disease coming. There was no sense that something was wrong, no clear warning signs. Before I was diagnosed with cancer I was living in London. I had been working there for two years as an investment banker, before I decided to change my career completely to try and become an actor. I was on the cusp of moving to America to work on two feature films, and then suddenly I wasn’t. I’d been rushed to hospital, and two days later, my doctors told me that I had leukemia. Cancer was never – is never – part of anyone’s plan and yet here I was, being told I needed 900 days of chemotherapy.
The power of storytelling
I am sharing this story because, unlike many other people who are living through the current global pandemic, I have experience in dealing with unexpected turns. Knowing what it is like to feel helpless when something out of your control derails all of your plans. I have lived through the stretches of isolation and loneliness that cancer can often bring with it and I successfully came through the other side – and I did this through harnessing the power of storytelling. Shortly after my diagnosis, I made it my new mission to share my experience with the world through writing about it online through my blog, ‘Fabian Bolin’s War on Cancer’. The blog became my savior throughout the treatment; it gave me a place for me to vent all the frustration and darkness I was feeling and, perhaps most importantly, a place where I could feel less alone as I was able to interact with others who were responding to my posts. Feeling this immense connection with others, with people who, if I had not been diagnosed with cancer would have been strangers, brought me an enormous amount of comfort. It’s also important to recognise that this works both ways: every time we share our journey or story, we are reaching out a hand of support to others who might be experiencing something similar.
Dealing with isolation
Right now, many people will be dealing with isolation and may find themselves feeling disconnected from friends and family. When I was going through this myself, I found the best coping mechanism for me was writing about it. Whilst I don’t expect that everyone will be suited to writing a blog, I think that everyone can benefit from writing for themselves, or even just a few select friends, in order to collect their thoughts and feelings. When you’re isolated and not getting up to much, it’s important to focus on writing about what you’ve felt and thought of, rather than what you’ve been up to. I think this is something everyone should do, as it’s an effective way of processing emotions and even combatting minor depression.
The War On Cancer app
At War On Cancer, we want to help people to build connections with others, by sharing what they’re going through. This is because we believe that writing and sharing stories allows people to process their mental challenges in real time, to normalise the situation around themselves, and can have a profound and positive impact on a person’s mental health. I truly believe that, during my years of going through cancer, it was the act of writing and sharing my story that saved my mental health. Moreover, I believe that in this moment, as we collectively brave the global pandemic, that writing has the power to help others who are struggling with their emotions. I hope to inspire people to harness that power, so that they can tap into the therapeutic benefits of writing – sharing their stories to boost the mental health of both themselves and others.
Link to full article here
Download the War On Cancer app and connect with co-founder and leukaemia survivor Fabian in the app