After one of my particularly insane sad/mad/bad moments over the holiday I decided to start keeping a journal of thoughts and emotions to the aim of finding the patterns in those overwhelming thoughts and curbing the self-destructive behaviours that go with them. I’m no therapist, and I’m not really sure how a therapist would recommend using such a thing, so I just started doing it my way and it has taught me heaps about myself and my psyche. It’s something I learned waaaaaay back after ADD diagnosis, and thought I should pick up again as a tool for me now.
Here’s what I’ve been doing:
First and foremost, I pay attention. You know those gnawing pains in the pit of your stomach that suggest anxiety might be creeping in? You know that flush to the face when you’re angered? You know that knot in your throat when you think you might be irrational, but whatever it is you’re feeling is SO real and unnameable it takes your breath away? You know when you can’t shut the voices off from putting you down and forcing you into a world of self-inflicted guilt? All of those things. All of those signs that my brain is about to get flooded with something I know will grow into a beast I can’t control. Every time something comes up, I write. I time and date the entries, I acknowledge the existence of the strife, name it, write about it, then forget it.
I give myself permission to do it. I write anything and everything. I write letters to the people the bad feelings are about. I write letters to myself. I write stream of consciousness drivel. I write lists. I write single words. I write three pages at a time. If it takes half an hour in the middle of my day to write 2 words, so what? It’s an investment. If it takes 30 seconds to spew complete venomous crap on paper, so what? It’s not hurting anybody.
When I say ‘every time’ I mean it. That journal goes everywhere with me. Sometimes I’m up at stupid o’clock in the morning writing in it because I tend to do a lot of processing in my dreams, which allows bad feelings to come in unnoticed and leads to anxiety and wakes me up. Sometimes I write at work. Sometimes in the middle of cooking dinner.
I try to find a peaceful time every day when I’m feeling alright to review the entries and look for the patterns. I look for the common triggers. I look for the common times, days of the week, etc…
I give myself permission to fail. I can’t always get to writing at all times. Things will come through unnoticed. I’m not always feeling free enough from inner turmoil to look at it all objectively every day. It’s hard stuff to look at. And that’s OK.
Once I get to reviewing, I start placing not only ownership, but also values on those things I feel. When it’s all written down in front of me it’s easy to see that they’re mine, all mine. No one can make me feel those bad things. They’re emotions. They’re there. Sure, many are triggered by external sources, but they’re all mine. Part of me. Some of them are useful. Some of them are there to guard me against what the world throws at me. Some live in those places of hurt so deep they’re rubbed raw and all it takes is a look to make them come out. Some are bigger than others. Some are so small they’re laughable. All me. I value them according to what they teach me.
After a time I’ve found myself writing about happier things. Noticing the flush to the face that happens when getting a sincere compliment. Noticing how differently I laugh when I’m around certain people or how much easier everything is when I have something to look forward to. I”ve begun to notice and write about and place value upon those things too. Because those things are also mine.
I think it works, because it helps put things into perspective. It also keeps me from ‘acting out’ (I do that, I admit it) and trying to force the world to make up for it all before I’ve had a chance to think about how my behaviours will impact my psyche in the long run. It makes me see that a lot of it is because of situations I choose to put myself in. It’s part of a way out of a cycle. It helps differentiate the stuff on the surface that can be dealt with and discarded from the deep hurt that’s still raw and really, actually challenging.