Monday, March 14, 2005

Journal or not to Journal that is the question

I’m sure that at one time or another every one of us has been told to journal. “What is so important about journaling?” you may ask. “I’ve already had to live with it going over and over in my head, why would I want to write it down?”
You’ve answered your own question. A lot of us have found that keeping a journal is a way of stopping the cycle of a memory or an “old tape” going round and round in your head giving itself more and more importance through pure repetition is by writing it down. Sometimes just the act of writing it down gives us a sense of relief of having documented the “event” thus eliminating the need to continuously relive it. It also is a way of looking at things from a bit more of an objective view. I have written things in a fit of misery that at the time seemed to me a very relevant and impending problem. I then went back to the entry, not even a full 24 hours later to see that I had 1) over-reacted to the situation. 2) The situation was not as charged with emotion as I had previously seen it. 3) I was over-reacting due to some old tape from my childhood playing itself back in my head in response to a stimulus triggered by the situation. Other wise I was freaking out over nothing. It was also a way of getting out of my system angry letters that I needed to write but would not be in my best interest to send, or couldn’t send if I wanted to. One of the ways I was able to confront my primary abuser that had died when I was 12 was through my journal. Like with any illness it is a great way of spotting patterns of deterioration in your symptoms. When I was getting back an old memory that was coming back in bits and pieces, I found journaling helped me fill in the pieces much faster and more accurately than relying only on my memory. You can also track cycles of moods that correspond to hormonal cycles, anniversary dates, or trigger events that cause certain behaviors of self-destruction. Types of journals vary as much as the people that keep them. You decide what type of journal works best for you. Some use poetry, art, dream journals, daily journals, crises journals, or even journals for the rage and anger letters. For some these journals will remain personal and private mementos for the rest of their lives and they will leave instructions in their wills what is to be done with them upon their death. For others, they will eventually get to a point in their healing that they are ready to let go of these memories, anger, etc. and may use a ritual such as burning or shredding them in a way that allows them to let go of the journals contents.
Often when I’ve suggested journaling to people they tell me “I wouldn’t know what to write. I can’t write….etc.”, there is no end to different excuses why they can’t do it. I just smile at them and say if all you can write for the first few days, weeks, or even months is “I can’t think of anything to write down here,” and go from that do it but at least give it a month or two before giving up on it. Journaling is the best way I know of communicating with that “inner you” whether it be the inner child or just your sub-conscious. Journaling can be a great outlet for anyone no matter what his or her mental stability or state may be. I truly believe, however, that those of us who are still troubled by our past that journaling is one of the most healing tools we can use. For those of us with MPD/DID I believe that journaling is a must. It is the one private place that we,( the personalities), can all talk to one another clearly without the presence of another human being to react to. Without having to worry about that other person reacting to you or judging you, I’ve found I’ve had the most pure form of communication between my alters (personalities), during journaling sessions.
If you have noticed, I keep harping on the word personal and private journal. Do not even attempt to journal if you have no expectation of privacy. I’ve suggested inexpensive locked safe boxes which you are the only one with a key, or a really great hiding place. I was very lucky that I had a good expectation of privacy and my family knew to leave my journals alone or there would be an extremely high price to pay, (they weren’t sure what that price was going to be but they never seemed to want to find out). Later on, I kept them in a locked safe box with a key. Your journals are sacred and only you can decide if you want someone to read a part of them or if you never want anyone to read them ever. It’s a good feeling to finally have control over at least one thing in our life.