I’ve been writing in a journal since I was in middle school. In fact I’ve kept every single journal that I’ve ever owned, quietly tucked away in my closet holding my life in all of their pages. It makes sense to me why I started at that specific time because my middle school years were especially rough. I was bullied at school and outside of school in dance class which originally was my haven but soon became my nightmare. I had very little friends, if any, and found it difficult to be as outspoken as my peers were. I was a shy kid and quirky at that. I played video games, listened to Billie Holiday and read books about topics that were not cool according to pre-teen standards at the time (like Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings). My journal became my friend and my entries reflected that, often having the tone of a two-sided conversation. Of course my journal never responded to me but I often “felt” a response. I imagined that my journal was a person, more specifically a spirit. When I would go to school I believed that the spirit of my journal followed me and I would have mental conversations with it throughout the day. By the time I got home to write, my entry was really just a chance to vent or gossip. I could say all the shit that I wanted to say but was too scared to. My journal understood me and I was comforted by it. We developed an amazing relationship.
As I got older the bond that I had formed and the routine of writting through my pain in my journal became my saving grace. My entries in high school were easy and fun because that’s what high school was for me. However once I was in college life was no longer easy. I was dealing with the rapid decline and eventual passing of my grandmother, to finding out I was pregnant, to my boyfriend and father of the baby now growing inside me being killed in a car accident. And all of these events happened within one month of the beginning of my sophomore year at college. I had been mentally and emotinally stamped out by life’s turn of events. The only life preservers I had were my mom and my journal. My entries became long, dark and somber. There wasn’t so much a conversation now as it was a pleading and a desperation. I called out to the pages for answers that never came. I yelled in my entries with all caps line after line. I wrote some of my entires as if I were talking to my future self. By reaching out to the future I was ensuring that I would remain on this planet and not allow myself to slip away into the grim reapers embrace. Once I sought out professional help for my depression my therapist was pleased to know that I was journaling and encouraged me to keep it up.
Whether you suffer from a mental illness or just need a place to vent, a journal is an invaluable tool for self care. Two of the beautiful qualities about journaling is that there is no set way to journal and you don’t have to be an accomplished writer. Now while there are no requirements for journaling I do have some do’s and don’ts that I think are important to consider.
- Pick a format that speaks to you
- Actual journal with blank pages
- Word document on your computer
- Photo journal
- Voice journal
- Video journal
- Write or document your feelings as often as you can even if you feel as though you have nothing to say.
- Write the date and time of each of your entires
- Keep your journal in a special place that only you know
- Include art by coloring in your journal.
- Occasionally write in different ink colors. You can even use different colors for different moods.
- Set aside some quiet time so that you don’t get distracted.
- Don’t show anyone your journal. This is something for you and you alone.
- Don’t censor yourself in your entries.
- Don’t force something that is uncomfortable. If your better at drawing than writing words then do that!
- Don’t concern yourself with grammar, spelling or punctuation. Emotions run deeper than the English language so forget about being proper and just get the ideas and feelings out.
Additionally there are different types of journals that you can have.
- Daily journals
- Dream journals
- Journals about goals
- Gratitude journal
- Journals speaking to your inner child or your future self
All in all there are no limits to the ways in which you can express yourself. Journaling has saved my life many times and I owe so much to the pages that have provided me comfort and solace in some very dark times.