So many times over the years, Iíve had people ask me whatís wrong, and all I could say is, ďI donít know.Ē Sometimes itís difficult to pinpoint what is causing our anxiety and depression. All we know is that we feel terrible, which is why keeping a journal is such a valuable tool. Writing in a journal can help you answer the question, ďWhatís wrong?Ē
When we experience traumatic and/or painful events, we donít always know how to cope with them. Things like abuse and rejection can stay with us for decades, or in some cases a lifetime, causing depression and anxiety to manifest many years after the events initially occur. In cases such as those, we might not be able to determine what is causing the depression, but writing about your feelings can help you get to the root of the problem.
Iím not sure how old I was when I began to write about my feelings. It seems that when I think of my childhood, I remember either being outside playing or being inside listening to music with a pen in my hand. I was always writing about this or thatÖwhatever was affecting my moods at the time. As I got older, my writing turned more toward poetry and song lyrics. I donít think I ever wrote a happy song or poem, though. It was when I was hurting that writing was so cathartic.
There have been many times in my life when I was diligent about keeping a daily journal, writing about my feelings and whatever was going on with guys, friends, family, etc. Especially when my life was in turmoil, which was quite often, I would write for hours. Afterward, I would go back and read my latest entry. It was extremely helpful to read what I had written over days, weeks, and even months before. There were so many times when doing that helped me clarify what was going on in my life, as well as what was causing me so much pain.
Writing about your feelings is much like seeing a therapist. Itís amazing, how often Iíve thought I knew how I felt about something or someone, but was shocked to see what I had written, or hear what was coming out of my mouth! Sometimes we try to make ourselves think we feel something that we donít, or think we donít feel something that we feel. Our feelings might be uncomfortable for us, so we try to deny them, but that doesnít change them. The only way to cope with the feelings is to identify them.
Okay, so youíre thinking that youíre not a writer. Not everyone is. But this is not for publication. Itís for your eyes only. No one is going to give you a grade or a critique. Donít be afraid. Just give it a try and see what happens. You might surprise yourself. You never know what you can do unless you give it a try, right?
If you need a little help getting started, you could write something like, ďToday was good. I got a lot of things accomplished, but still something is bothering me. I have a hard time dealing withÖĒ Not anything in particular. If you just begin to put words on the paper (or in the computer), they will usually just keep coming. Before you know it, you could figure out whatís bothering you, and then you can get on the road to recovery.
Keeping a journal is especially helpful when trying to make sense of dreams and what seem to be random thoughts. Sometimes they arenít so random. Your subconscious might be gradually reminding you of repressed memories with which you need to learn to cope. If you are having disturbing dreams, keep a notebook and pen by your bed so you can write down anything you remember when you wake.
If you are still unable to determine the cause of your anxiety and depression after a few months of keeping a journal, or if your journaling has revealed issues with which you are not able to cope, I suggest that you make an appointment with a licensed therapist. There is no shame in reaching out to a professional counselor for an unbiased opinion and help in learning to deal with things that are haunting you. But first, give the journal a try. Pick up that pen and let the healing begin!