Updated: Apr 17, 2020
I've always wanted to write a journal, but I'm a terrible writer and didn't always have time. I'd start a few journal entries, swearing I would stick to it. Life would get in the way, and my journal would collect dust. Then one day my world crumbled. Being diagnosed with cancer is a terrifying time. During the flurry of appointments, pathology reports, and treatment plans, it was my surgeon that first suggested I journal. I think at the time, I was more worried about getting an appointment book to keep track of my now chaotic life than to get a journal to write my thoughts in. When I had my first information overload appointment with my oncologist, he mentioned journaling as well. It was on the long drive back home that I decided I would give it another try. And I'm so glad I did.
Journaling can be a powerful therapeutic tool with many benefits. And there's science behind it! Psycologists and oncologists recommend therapy journaling as an expressive way to help cope with trauma. After a traumatic event, such as a cancer diagnosis, our minds try to process and understand whats happening to us. Therapeutic journaling is a self-care process of writing down our thoughts and feelings about our personal experiences. It helps us to get these thoughts out of our heads and onto paper. It can improve physical and psychological health such as cognitive function, "chemo brain". It is proven to reduce stress, anxiety, body tension, and help restore focus. Writing your thoughts on paper, and reading them back, can help prioritize problems, fears and concerns. Help you create order when your life feels like it's falling apart. Journaling can also lead to post-traumatic growth. Many people find discover "silver linings" and positive outcomes of cancer. Helps to find meaning after trauma, a sense of purpose. If you are keeping your journal to yourself, you can be open and honest about how you are feeling. Things you haven't been able discuss with others.
The first thing I did this time, was find a journal. I didn't want to just write in any book I had laying around the house. I wanted to find a book that felt special to me. Something I would want to write in. I was hoping to be spending a lot time with this book, so I needed to be drawn to it...as silly as that sounds. I started out with a goal of just writing for a few minutes a day. I would write about anything. I didn't, and still don't, worry about grammar and punctuation. I wasn't trying to win any literary awards. I just wanted to get the screaming thoughts about cancer out of my head. And it worked! After the fist week I realized how good I felt after writing. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. I felt like I at least had control of my feelings during a time which I had no control. The more I wrote, the more I looked forward to those moments. I started to set a time that I would write each day. For myself, it was during the quiet evenings, usually with wine and a burning candle.
I highly suggest therapeutic journaling for anyone who has experienced trauma. If this feels overwhelming, start small. Even writing a reason you feel gratitude each day is a great start. Find your own book, or use your computer. Create your special writing spot. Whether it be outside during a beautiful warm sunrise with a cup of tea, or a quiet room in the evening with candles and soft music, make sure it is a relaxed space you enjoy. Let the words flow....