Over 20 years ago, when I was hospitalized for a breakdown, I was encouraged by the hospital staff to start journaling. They recognized that I wasn’t very good at talking about what was on my mind or buried deep within my unconscious, but they knew that, eventually, something would come out in my writing.
There were many days for which I wrote about mundane things: what I ate for breakfast or lunch, what groups I attended while in the hospital, or who came to visit me. This went on for quite some time, but I persevered. At the very least, I had a diary of my hospital stay and daily activities. Eventually, I would write about the profound sadness that I felt but didn’t seem to know why I felt it. I could be brutally honest in my writing because no one would read it except me. But getting to the truth took time.
In time, I was able to reassess my life through my writing. I remembered thoughts and experiences that had been buried or lost to time. I had forgotten that while my husband and I were on our honeymoon, I had wanted to get our marriage annulled. At that point, during my hospitalization, I had been married for 14 years and I had thought everything was great. My husband had a great job, we had two healthy kids and a nice home. I was a stay-at-home mom and living the middle-class dream. But I had forgotten that I had given up the things most precious to me when I met my husband. I used to go dancing every weekend with my friends. I had given up both dancing and my friends because my soon-to-be husband wasn’t interested in dancing or hanging around my friends. We got married 15 months after we started dating. At the time, it seemed like the next big adventure in my life. I had been an extrovert when I met my husband. By the time we had been married for two years, I had turned into an introvert. Life marched on and we had children, but something inside me was slowly dying without me realizing it. It wasn’t until my first hospitalization that I knew I needed to make major changes in my life—but I had no idea what they were.
I journaled faithfully through my depressions, mania, and hypomania. I had at last learned to write about anything and everything that came to my mind. Eventually, the truth would come out. And it finally did, with the help of the fantastic staff in the psych ward at my hospital. They helped me to understand that I needed to leave my marriage in order to try to find happiness. I did end my marriage. But my journaling continued. It was something I looked forward to every evening before falling asleep.
With the encouragement of two friends, I put my journal entries into book form. And a year later I self-published it (My Journey Back to Myself). Then, three years later, I published a better, updated version of my ups and downs dealing with bipolar disorder. Out of that came two more books: One about all the words starting with F that led to my stability (The F Book: The Seven F’s to Your Fantastic Future). The next book, Commons Sense in an Uncommon World, was a collection of quotations that gave me strength when I didn’t think I could go on for one more day.
Fast-forward to our digital age. Today I have four books for sale on Amazon—the three that I mentioned above and an adult fiction title I recently published under a pseudonym, Obsessed with a Redneck.
deserves at least 50% of the credit for my stability and my learning to manage
bipolar disorder. In part, this is because I would write about events and
feelings that were upsetting me, and then I could talk to my psychiatrist about
them at my next appointment and the information wouldn’t be lost.
If you are newly diagnosed with a mental health condition, or if you’re
looking for a new way to manage an existing one, I highly suggest that you use
journaling as a form of therapy. It
really can change your life!
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