When I’m in a bad headspace or there is an ongoing situation that I cannot see my way through, I journal it.
It’s not pretty.
It’s not really even clear, because it only refers to what is in my head and it’s not meant to be read by anyone. Not even me, although I do, sometimes, go back and read them.
It’s meant to get words on paper and to allow my thoughts to be expressed and HELD IN PLACE in ways that my brain sometimes can’t do in the middle of crisis.
What kinds of crises?
- When my mother passed away.
- When I left my abusive ex.
- When my partner was going through something I couldn’t understand, and it was affecting our relationship.
And so on.
It’s rare. Maybe once every 3-4 years in my life. But when I need it, it always comes through.
With my mother’s passing, it took me about 5 months of journaling to work through the anger I felt towards her for not getting her cancer treated, because she didn’t want to burden me and others in her life with illness and bills.
When I split with my ex, it took me almost a full year to work through how I felt about the abuse AND to really take a close look at the parts I played. Turns out, I fought back in my own way, and also abused. NEVER saw that coming.
When my partner was going through something that deeply affected and even threatened our relationship, it took me two months of journaling to find a way to speak about it in healthy ways, and to find the space in my mind to accept that experience, even if I could not comprehend it.
How did journaling help?
For me, the key was to write in a stream of consciousness.
To not care about it being grammatically correct, or understandable, but to write feelings as they came to me, and to be able to see them captured on the page.
Here is an example, from sometime in 2019:
Journal: How Am I Feeling?
I hate when things are unresolved.
Of course I love him. Deeply.
Of course I want to spend my life with him.
But the him he’s taught me to expect. This him is different. Has not been acting like we are a team. Shuts me out instead of inviting me in.
I know he loves me. That’s not the issue.
The question I have is, “Does he love me enough to trust what we’ve been building, or will he revert to previous patterns?”
I don’t want to fight with him the rest of my life.
I want to make him feel like the luckiest man in the world, and I want him to make me feel the same.
Maybe this is a phase.
A lot of change and adjustment.
How long can I give this?
Most of my journals are similar to this. I start out with a question, usually ‘How am I feeling?’ and the date.
Then, I answer the question.
And wherever that takes me for as long as I have something to write.
This short entry probably took me 15 minutes. Because I had to capture the thoughts and make them actual words to get onto the screen (I used a note-taking system for them).
Each new line is a pause in thought. A step towards getting whatever I was needing to understand from my brain onto the screen in front of me.
And I did this every few days that I didn’t have a good solution or settlement in my mind.
I didn’t ever journal to look for answers beyond “how am I feeling?” because I don’t believe answers happen on command.
I just used the journaling to give me a better/clearer insight IN THAT MOMENT of what was going through me, and what questions I was asking myself.
I’ve shared this with others.
And several have said it made a HUGE difference in their mental and emotional processing.
Even those who had tried journaling before. Some specifically said once they focused on just putting feelings and thoughts down “without trying to tell a story,” or “making logical sense,” they were able to really capture what they needed to focus on.
To hear what their brain was telling them.
The situations they worked through included:
- COVID illness of a loved one
- Their own upcoming (fast) death
- Childbirth and fear of parenting
- Feeling unappreciated
They loved that it can be used in a number of situations, as needed, without a large commitment or investment.
And that they could do it in a journal, a notebook, on a computer, even on their phone (one did talk-to-text in a stream of consciousness) anywhere they were.
So, this is what I offer to you, if you are stuck.
Even if you think you may suck at it.
Even if you hate writing.
Even if you you have no idea what to write.
Even if you don’t have a journal and colored pens and stickers.
Just if you want to capture your thoughts and feelings and understand them more.
What are your thoughts?
Do you keep a regular journal? Why or why not?
Have you ever used journaling to help you work through a crisis? Did you do it like I do? Do you have another method that works for you to share?