How Journal Writing has Saved Me

Journaling has saved my sanity, and maybe even my life, over the years.

During my life, I have experienced a lot of trauma and ongoing stress. I am an optimistic and cheerful person who is also able to be vulnerable and get support as needed. I am a terrible actor and those in my world know when I’m upset. My face, and tears, give me away.

I process my emotions through words - either talking with trusted friends or by writing in my journal (or both).

I got my first journal when I was at the start of high school. We were made to write in a diary in our homeroom each morning. I wasn’t resistant to the idea, even at that age, though I did fear that someone would read it, especially one of my privacy-invading brothers. I was scared that they would find it and tease me mercilessly, so I would hide it under my mattress.

I still have that very first diary that I covered in peach and white check contact. It was a simple exercise book. Nothing fancy. I recorded my teenage angst and crushes in it, as well as my immense sadness at times. Since then, I have amassed a suitcase full of my thoughts, reflections, and ideas. I would be horrified if anyone read them, but I haven’t found the impetus to destroy them.

When I was assaulted on campus in my final year of university, I went to the counseling service and was told that I should not be taking up a counseling spot because I presented in a cheerful way. They couldn’t see beyond my smile and see that I was really hurting. Though I wanted help, I wasn’t given it, which was terrible. So I once again turned to my journal and putting pen to paper, wrote down every detail and emotion. This was my way of dealing with what happened and finding some sort of peace so that I could move beyond the experience.

A couple of years ago, I went through a PTSD-inducing experience, that I processed through journal writing. I wrote down everything that I was feeling. I expressed my anger, resentment, and blame in all it’s ugliness. The crippling grief and the re-triggering of my childhood feelings of not being lovable. Eventually I came to a place of calm, where I could look at the blessings and learnings from the experience. It was hard work and required me to be fully honest with myself about how I was feeling. I needed to express my rage on paper before I could get to a calm place.

I will be honest, even now when I talk about what happened, I sometimes get a little teary as there is still some residual emotion attached to the experience. However, I have forgiven the person involved and we have a very positive relationship. I believe that if I hadn’t done my own work, through journaling, we would not be able to have the quality relationship we have now.

I recently went through a harrowing experiencing supporting a friend through a mental breakdown. I spent eight hours feeling like a hostage while being abondoned by the person’s psychologist and crying in the street to the paramedics that I wasn’t equipped to handle the situation. I debriefed verbally about the experience, but I couldn’t process it fully until I had written about the day. I wrote about six thousand words - it was a very long day - which helped me realize and release the trauma from that experience.

While I have kept a journal for more than 35 years, I recently experienced intentional journaling for transformation and it changed my life. I had already created and published some journals, but I hadn’t realized how beneficial guided journaling could be for others. I had often thought of my journaling as something that helped me, but I hadn’t put it into the wider context of transformation.

Since my teenage years, I have read numerous self-help books and attended so many workshops and classes, almost obsessively trying to improve myself. I found that all that reading about transformation wasn’t the same as experiencing it. I’m sure you have also read some amazing books and then not managed to implement much of the wisdom presented.

My mission now is to create guided journals that take people on a transformational journey through reflection and introspection. I have ideas around things that I have personally experienced - parenting a child with anxiety, separation and divorce, dating after divorce, co-parenting, aging, and much more. These guided transformational journals are places for self-compassion and kindness, safety, and personal reflection.

Do you journal? How has it helped you?

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