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Mental Health in Communal Living: How Writing Helped Me Cope

Are you someone who finds solace and strength in your connections with others? Do you believe in the power of sharing a space with like-minded individuals and forming bonds that can withstand life’s challenges? If so, you’re not alone. A Lot of People Live in This House, a novel that intertwined themes of communal living, friendship, and finding one's place in the world, has been my saving grace during times of emotional turmoil and uncertainty.

large living room with plenty of seating - AI generated

Living in Communal Spaces

Living in a bustling co-living space, surrounded by individuals from various walks of life, often leads to a whirlwind of emotions – from joy and camaraderie to loneliness and introspection. During the pandemic, I found myself grappling with my mental health in the midst of this vibrant community. As someone who thrives on human connection but also values personal space, striking a balance became a daily struggle.

It was during this period of vulnerability that I returned to writing for the first time in three years. As the world raged with uncertainty, I coped by pouring my thoughts and feelings onto the pages of my novel, A Lot of People Live in This House. Writing became my therapy. The characters I created, many an amalgamation of the people I'd come to know and love over my years in the community, guided me through moments of chaos and clarity.

Finding Solace in Fiction

The narrative of my novel mirrored the essence of communal living – the idea that amidst the chaos of shared spaces, one can find unexpected connections that feel like family. What made it more relatable was having a main character who was very uninterested in living with others but grew to like it over time. Writing about friendships that blossom in unlikely circumstances helped me appreciate the bonds I had formed in my own communal setting. After all, while many people were struggling with loneliness, I had thirteen people to keep me company. Each chapter I wrote wound up being a step towards understanding the intricacies of human relationships and the power they hold in shaping our well-being.

As I delved deeper into the lives of my characters – especially the main character, Rachel – I discovered parallels between their journeys and my own. In spite of herself, Rachel does find a sense of belonging, much like I did many years before. Through the twists and turns of the plot, I found solace in the idea that, much like my characters, I, too, was part of a larger narrative that celebrated everyone's ability to engage in community.

Writing as Therapy

The therapeutic nature of writing cannot be understated. For me, it was a form of self-expression that transcended the boundaries of spoken language. In the silent conversations between my characters and myself, I found an outlet for emotions that often eluded me in real-life interactions. These were characters that were complicated and not always their best selves around others. Some of the feedback I get about Rachel is that folks don't like her until the very end because, well, she's unpleasant to be around. But there are so many valid reasons why she's acting that way! In spite of her standoffish nature, her community still showed up for her.

In times of distress, sitting down with my laptop/notebook and immersing myself in the world of my novel became a ritual of self-care. The act of creating something out of nothing, of breathing life into fictional beings, filled me with a sense of purpose and direction. Sometimes, I think those Mondays I dedicated to writing the novel were the only thing that got me through the first year of the pandemic. Through writing this book, I discovered that there were things inside of me that still needed to be healed and that I could do that work myself.

Embracing the Journey

It's been a year since the publication of A Lot of People Live in This House, and I can't help but reflect on the transformative impact this novel has had on my mental well-being. It has been a companion during lonely nights, a confidant during moments of doubt, and a beacon of hope in the darkest of times. Through the lens of my characters, I learned to embrace vulnerability, celebrate resilience, and cherish the beauty of human connection.

So, if you find yourself navigating the complexities of communal living, grappling with your own mental health, or simply seeking a story that mirrors the intricacies of found family, I urge you to pick up a copy of my novel. Let the words guide you through moments of self-discovery, companionship, and, above all, the unwavering belief that in the house of life, we are never truly alone.

person writing on paper with a pen.

In the symphony of shared experiences, we find harmony. In the tapestry of human connections, we find solace. A Lot of People Live in This House is not just a novel; it's a journey of the heart, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and a gentle reminder that amidst the chaos of life, we can always find peace in the company of others.

So, here's to communal living, to the friendships that shape us, and to the stories that heal us. Here's to finding our place in this vast house we call life.



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