For many people, writing is therapy. Personally, I am not one of the people who makes it a practice to journal, and I regret not doing so. The two times I faced cancer, I experienced feelings I had never even imagined before hearing the news, “You have cancer”. The feelings from this statement forward began an extensive unfathomable journey involving emotions from one side of the spectrum to the other. I missed out by not journaling these feelings for many different reasons.
Journaling is a form of writing where you keep a regular record of your thoughts, experiences, and observations. For most of us, a journal is a private way of communicating with our inner selves. It is a diary, all-grown-up. It is a way to remember the journey – the good, bad, and the ugly. The journey encompassing the deepest feelings you may ever experience, and the lessons gained during a time generally causing introspective thoughts.
Many people over think journaling. They get caught up in silly thoughts like:
- “I don’t have time.”
- “I don’t want to ever remember this.”
- “I just want this to be over.”
- “I don’t want anyone to read what I write.”
- “How is this going to help me?”
Or, like myself, journaling made the cancer, situation, circumstances, and diagnosis too real for me…
I made the same excuses for not journaling but looking back, I regret not having something that genuinely represented my journey playing an enormous part of who I am today.
Cancer brings countless negative, devastating, and horrific aspects to people’s lives. It also serves as a culprit bringing insight, understanding, perceptiveness, and wisdom when we allow it. Journaling can act as a best friend during this time… the friend who is right there with you every step of the way and can recall just what happened when you have buried memories deep down in your soul.
It is easy to start keeping a journal, so do not use the excuses that might automatically pop into your head.
- Figure out where you are going to capture your thoughts. A beautifully designed notebook? A file on your computer? A simple pad of paper or stack of index cards?
- Find a place and time to write each day. Some people find that writing in the morning helps them prepare for the day ahead; others that writing after dinner helps them process their days.
- Write something every day, even if it is just a single sentence.
- Date each entry to help anchor the memory.
- Do not judge or edit what you write. It is for your eyes only.
- A “feelings list” can be your cheat sheet. This will allow you to read/see feelings you might not otherwise identify.
ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING GOES!
There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to journal. Your journal is whatever you want it to be. It can be a letter to yourself, a summary of your day, a record of your feelings, hopes, fears, and documentation.
Here are a few ideas to help you get going:
- Start with one word – your emotion for the day. Then describe why you feel that way.
- Jot down the main things that happened today. What did you do? Where did you go? Who did you see?
- Write down the things you are grateful for. Did you find any silver linings today?
- Write down when a doctor, nurse, spouse, neighbor, driver, stranger, or anyone makes you anger…. because they will.
- Own your good and bad feelings. The feelings you have never felt or wanted to feel. Blame others. Point fingers. Be envious. Be resentful. Just be yourself.
- Write down the things you are worried about. The things that scare the hell out of you. The things you may have never thought you would feel. You do not always have to be positive, and writing can help you work through the worry.
- Use color pencils or markers. Sometimes color helps us communicate when we can’t find the words.
- Record everything that might be on your mind in a stream of consciousness. No editing, just writing. This is not a log of what you need to do or accomplish.
- Draw a doodle or a picture that goes with your day.
- Scribble down a quote or verse you found meaningful.
- Make a list of the people who have been there for you.
- Make a list of the people who you would rather not see – can even write down why!
TAMING YOUR NIGHT DEMONS
My dad always told me, “Things always seem worse in the middle of the night.” He was right. Why is it that the darkness of the night can invite thoughts, worries, and fears to rear their ugly heads? The thoughts you cannot seem to get out of your mind. The thoughts you can deny or head off at the pass during the day. The thoughts that are hidden deep down in your mind during the day but intrude during the hours used for sleeping.
If you can not sleep, get up and start writing. Writing has a way of extracting the thoughts our of your head and onto paper. The same thoughts you can not explain or the problems you can not do anything about. Making a habit of getting up and writing the thought down forms a healthy routine. A routine telling yourself to “deal with it in the morning” or to recognize the thoughts were irrational or not worth the lack of sleep.
PAYOFFS OF JOURNALING
Research shows that writing for as little as 20 minutes a month for three months has long-lasting emotional and physical benefits. Journaling can help you get more rest and adjust to a diagnosis of cancer. It also gives you a way of truly seeing your progress as well as the accomplishments when you feel defeated or hopeless. Journaling also gives others hope when they may feel hopeless themselves. You can share your journey as a survivor of hardships many people will never have to face.
I highly recommend all my friends and patients journal while undergoing cancer. Family, friends, the patient… Do not make the same mistake I did.
It can and will be of great benefit to you and your loved ones, I promise.
Interested in more? I would love to virtually meet to you! Email or call anytime to schedule a virtual session. (817) 701-5438 | firstname.lastname@example.org
CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
Empowering individuals, families and communities to grow and heal through advanced approaches in Creative Arts Therapy, setting the standard for treatment, practice and training within the field.