In 2017, a tech-entrepreneur from the city of Surat, Ashish Bagrecha struggled with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts because of personal and professional problems. It was then when he started writing poems and "Dear Stranger" letters to vent out his feelings. He posted them on Instagram but had zero followers – he was a true stranger to everyone.
Within a year though his poems got viral and received millions of likes as people started relating and sharing them. Before he knew it, he had almost 400k followers and a lot of his followers even started their own dear stranger letters and poetry pages.
"It was all very unexpected. For years I have kept all of this inside me, letting it eat away at my soul; I really did believe that sharing these thoughts and feelings was not right, was not allowed even. How wrong I was!" Right now, it seems Ashish still cannot fathom that letting these words out not only helped heal him but also made him into one of India's most followed and popular Instagram poets.
Ashish is also a best-selling author of the self-help book, 'Dear Stranger I Know How You Feel' has sold over 75k copies. The book consists of thirty letters and poems that he dedicates to everyone who feels like they are alone with their pain; to everyone who thinks they are losing in a game of life and who feel lonely, lost, and misunderstood. He wants to say: "I am like you, I have been where you are, I am you". It might be weird saying it in the context of mental health problems, but his experience has made him into a credible writer. It is the reason why people find it so easy to see themselves in his writing, too.
There are a lot of reasons why poetry helped him take better care of his mental health. He says, "First of all, there is something immensely therapeutic about expressing yourself in writing. There is even research that shows that putting pen to paper can actually reduce the levels of your stress hormone, cortisol. I found it very soothing and would recommend it to anyone who is struggling with mental health issues; no matter if it is depression, panic attacks, or anxiety."
Secondly, it gave him a sense of achievement and helped him find a purpose in life. Writing became his passion and brought him a lot of joy, changing the quality of his days in ways he never expected:"It was as if someone lit up a little light somewhere in front of me, and it never disappeared after that. My darkness got a powerful enemy."